By Ken Braun March 16, 2013
The Legislature should reconsider a bill that would make police accountable for raids they conduct.
Thomas Torres, age 54, was the target of a Connecticut State Police SWAT raid shortly before Christmas two years ago. The Spanish-speaking, subsidized housing resident of New Haven was living in a building infested with drug dealers and prostitutes. He kept his door closed unless given a damn good reason to do otherwise.
He didn’t have the drugs the police were looking for and told them so, repeatedly, despite the language barrier, after the raiding party knocked down his door. What followed was the trashing of his apartment and a physical altercation between the unarmed middle-aged man on disability and several officers that somehow managed to leave Torres with a badly bruised face and broken arm. No drugs were found. Torres wasn’t charged with any offense – not even assaulting an officer or attempting to flee – but the cops did helpfully get an ambulance for him.
By one estimate, cited by the Cato Institute, American citizens have their homes and private property invaded 40,000 times per year by their government’s use of para-military police raids. There are obviously cases where SWAT teams are sent after clearly dangerous and violent criminals that need to spend many years in a cage.
But these home invasions are too often used against non-violent drug offenders, sometimes in situations – such as the Torres matter – where there isn’t even a clear crime being committed. Most alarmingly, they can also happen when bad information and mistakes send cops to the wrong doors.
When there’s 109 military assaults on Americans each day, mistakes happen. An elderly couple in Brooklyn recently suffered through 50 visits from police when a computer glitch in the NYPD’s database repeatedly dispatched cops to their home looking for various evildoers.
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It wouldn’t be a police state if they were accountable…