The Death of a Utah Police Officer During a Drug Raid Makes a Few Cops Consider Changing Raid Tactics

Six police officers were shot by Matthew David Stewart on January 4, one of them died. Officer Jared Francom was laid to rest today with thousands of mourners in attendance.

Police are being pretty button-lipped about some of the basic questions about the case, though there have been strange reports in the last few fays that Stewart had a "possible bomb" in his house.

CNN reported:

"There was a device that was fashioned in a way that concerned those who found it that there were materials that could have been used as a bomb," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith told reporters.

But over at the Agitator, Radley Balko is skeptical. It's certainly possible that Stewart had something strange rigged up, but Balko notes an ATF spokesman who said to The Salt Lake City Tribune“to characterize it as a bomb or device is not accurate at this time.” [Balko's italics] It seems entirely likely that this was something involving fertilizer, perhaps involved with Stewart's grow operation. A supposed photo of a bearded Stewart in a suicide-vest was "a Halloween costume," according to his father.

It's a weird, terrible story. But even if Stewart turns out to be a bomb-building nutter after all, that was notwhat this raid was about; cops saw their armed invasion of Stewart's home as another opportunity for the "Narcotics Strike Force team" to go in and do its thing. 

However, this extremely unnecessary tragedy is getting a few cops to consider rethinking the terrible tactics which lead to their brother-in-arms being shot.

According to USA Today:

"It's time to change our thinking," says Pat McCarthy, who advises police agencies across the country. "Cops are exposing themselves to increasing danger many times over, and it's just not necessary."

Harvey Hedden, executive director of the International Law Enforcement Trainers and Educators Association, said the group is urging its 4,000 members to "look at everything" in an effort to avoid potentially dangerous complacency on the streets.

"Police work can be 99% boredom and 1% panic," Hedden said. "Routine can be the most dangerous of all. We need to go back to the basics."

Federal and local officials have been troubled for the past two years by the number of firearms-related fatalities. Gun-related fatalities last year were up 15% from 2010. So far in 2012, four officers have been killed by gunfire — one more than at the same time in 2011....

Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson said that the incident and the officers' actions remained under investigation and that the activities of the strike force are "on hold" because about half of the unit was involved in the shooting.

McCarthy said the deadly confrontation underscores a need for police to rethink their tactics.

"The days of knocking down doors in drug cases should be over. Given what's going on now, you have to consider other options," McCarthy said.

He said law enforcement officials should focus more on attempting to lure suspects out into the open or simply "wait them out."

Libertarians, or Agitator aficionados might draw a different lesson from the shooting beyond drug raids endanger cops, but certainly going "back to basics" and not treating every drug user or even dealer as a potential Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold would be a great step in preventing this kind of waste of life. 

Radley Balko in 2011 on the over-hyped "war on cops." Reason on the militarization of police. 

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  • ||

    That's great it's only not working when cops get shot.

    Citizens, meh.

  • ||

    This.

    In the past, cops getting shot during stupid overly confrontational raids like this has simply led to them making things even more militarized. So I wouldn't count on this leading to a kinder, gentler, saner SWAT regime.

  • Coeus||

    Yup. It will probably lead to increased use of flash-bangs and teargas.

  • cynical||

    Drone strikes, fucker. It's the war on drugs.

  • juris imprudent||

    And wars have collateral damage. Sure we do our best to minimize it but you can't eliminate it. Not if you want to have a war anyway. And we must have a war on drugs!

  • There is no "we"||

    Don't hold your breath.

    Selling all that "Officer G.I. Joe" gear is a big-money industry.

    We now have a "Paramilitary Industrial Complex" to go along with our "Prison-Industrial Complex" and our "Military-Industrial Complex."

  • econ 101||

    "The days of knocking down doors in drug cases should be over..."

    For anybody with an ounce of common sense, those days should never have started.

  • shamalamadingdong||

    Wait a minute. Those aren't cops in that picture, those are soldiers.

  • Paul ||

    I've got a long theory about how it got that way, and an even linger theory about how to make it not that way . Hint: it's going to take a generation to change it.

  • Paul ||

    Ot: I'm stunned, amy goodman's show, news of the world (?) Are saying hella good things about ron paul... 91.3 in seattle. On now.

  • Paul ||

    Democracy now. Not news of the world.

  • Paul ||

    Holy shit. Lefty pundit on the show just described obama's last two years as "majestic disappointment"

  • bruno||

    Pat McCarthy is a former Chicago policeman and his opinion carries some weight with cops. As a former LE officer, I agree with these sentiments.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    So far in 2012, four officers have been killed by gunfire — one more than at the same time in 2011....

    Ugh. Damned lies, and statistics. Considering we're only 11 days in, that's about as meaningless as it gets. But it gets the implication they want across.

  • ||

    Not to mention the "killed by gunfire" stat often includes suicides and off duty hunting accidents to goose the numbers.

  • LarryA||

    There were also several cops-killed-by-cops situations. I suspect that this story might be one of them.

    A bunch of people in house firing auto weapons, and some of them are going to catch bullets. Even a 9mm out of a handgun will easily go through interior walls. A 5.56mm from a rifle won't even stop in the first body.

    Yeah, I'm aware they wear vests. That doesn't protect everything.

  • ||

    Six police officers were shot by Matthew David Stewart on January 4, one of them died.

    Do we even know this?

    Have they released the ballistics report yet?

  • ||

    WTF? That was I, P Brooks, not pusillanimous nonentity.

    Just got this hand me down mac. Is Safari completely fucked?

  • ||

    That's weird. On the mac, I cannot see my commenterer name; on my regular linux laptop, it's there.

  • .||

    And it's there on my Windows PC, too.

  • ||

    Apparently if you try to block scripts that happens.

    Thanks to the marvels of anarchic web design here at Reason, the commenter names are produced on the fly by a script (if you look at the page source, they're actually backwards before being input to the script) rather than being written directly into the HTML. It's like a little taste of Somalia right in your web browser.

  • Paul ||

    Net neutrality would solve this.

  • Spoonman.||

    Once a thread gets above about 60 comments I can't see anybody's name with a link in it at my work computer.

  • reason readin female||

    P Brooks: I also have a hand me down mac., but I see your regular name on each comment.

    And yes, Safari is completely fucked.

  • ||

    I predict the cops will "change their thinking" in exactly the opposite of the right way. They will hit harder, faster, and use even more excessive force (quite likely by driving a tank through the wall of the house). After all, in their opinion, the only lives that matter are the cops' own.

    This is not what we hired police to do. They have forfeited any legitimacy and are now an occupying army, at war with our country.

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