Militarization of Police

Failing His Way to Higher Office

Bumbling Prince George's County, Maryland Sheriff Michael Jackson wants a promotion.

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Last month, a jury in Prince George's County, Maryland awarded Kimberly Jones $260,000 in a civil rights suit. In 2006, sheriff's deputies from the county had forced their way into Jones' home, blasted her with pepper spray, beat her with batons, punched her in the face, then arrested her for assaulting a police officer. Though the charge resulted in Jones being fired from her job at a shelter for homeless children, it was later dropped. Reason? The cops had the wrong house.

In the ensuing civil case, the jury determined that the deputies were well within the protocols of the Prince George's County Sheriff's Department. It was the department's guidelines that the jury found unconstitutional.

Now the man who has overseen and implemented that policy for the last seven years, Prince George's County Sheriff Michael Jackson, wants a promotion to political office. He's running to become the chief executive for Prince George's County.

Police misconduct in Prince George's County has made national headlines for 25 years. The Washington Post reported back in 2006 that from 2000 to 2006 the county of about 800,000 residents paid out $16.3 million in police misconduct settlements and lawsuit awards. Jackson, who took office in 2002, can't be blamed for a legacy that extends back to the 1980s and also includes the troubled history of the county's separate police department. But Jackson hasn't done much to diminish the bad reputation, either.

A year after the wrong-door assault on Jones, Jackson's deputies conducted another botched raid, this time on Accokeek couple Pam and Frank Myers. The two were home watching TV when the deputies came into their home and held them at gunpoint. The police were looking for a man wanted on drugs and weapons charges. They had the wrong house. The correct house was clearly marked, two doors down. During the raid, one of the deputies went out into the Myers' backyard, despite warnings from the couple that their five-year-old boxer Pearl was outside. The raid team shot Pearl dead. According to the Myers', the deputies left without even an apology.

Jackson's department is also facing a lawsuit stemming from a May 2007 warrantless raid on the home of Upper Marlboro resident Amber James. They were looking for James' sister, who didn't live at the house. According to the lawsuit, the deputies told James they'd be back the next day, and when they returned, they'd kill her dog.

In 2008, Jackson's department made international news when deputies raided the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo. The police had intercepted a package of marijuana addressed to Calvo's home. When Calvo's mother-in-law brought the package into the house, Sheriff Jackson's SWAT team pounced, sending heavily-armed agents into Calvo's home, where they shot and killed his two black labs, then detained Calvo and his mother in law in handcuffs for several hours. Calvo and his family were later cleared of any wrongdoing. The package was part of a drug distribution scheme that included accomplices working for shipping companies.

As noted above, the mistaken raid on Calvo's home wasn't an isolated mistake. It was also completely avoidable. Jackson's deputies didn't bother contacting the local Berwyn Heights police chief, who would have notified them that they were about to raid the town's mayor—who, by the way, wasn't a drug dealer. They also failed to consult other police agencies in the area, who could have informed them of an ongoing investigation into a drug distribution scheme in which drug dealers' accomplices working for shipping companies intercepted drug packages before they were delivered to addresses picked at random.

In his dogged efforts to determine the extent to which these sorts of tactics are used, Mayor Calvo has since found that aggressive SWAT raids are the preferred method of serving warrants in Prince George's County, not a tactic of last resort. The killing of dogs in the course of these raids is nearly an unspoken policy. As Calvo wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed, "In the words of Prince George's County Sheriff Michael Jackson, whose deputies carried out the [raid on Calvo's home], 'the guys did what they were supposed to do'—acknowledging, almost as an afterthought, that terrorizing innocent citizens in Prince George's is standard fare." (Jackson's office did not return calls requesting an interview for this article.)

In the days after the raid, Prince George's police first claimed to have a no-knock search warrant, then acknowledged that they didn't, but claimed—falsely—that Maryland has no law requiring such a warrant (the state legislature passed a no-knock law in 2005). Incredibly, Jackson's deputies and his department weren't even aware of their own state's laws governing the service of search warrants.

Months later, Jackson's department released a report claiming that Calvo's dogs "engaged" the raiding officers, therefore justifying the shootings. But according to Calvo, the report is inconsistent with the layout of Calvo's home, and misstates the positions of the dogs' bodies. Calvo has asked Jackson to release the details of report, including photos of the slain dogs, but Jackson has refused.

When Jackson's department then released a more thorough review of the entire raid almost a year later, investigators found, unsurprisingly, that their fellow deputies did nothing wrong. At an accompanying press conference, Jackson was downright callous. He commended his deputies, stating that "My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities." In deflecting blame from his own department Jackson added, "I'm sorry for the loss of [the Calvos'] family pets. But this is the unfortunate result of the scourge of drugs in our community… In the sense that we kept these drugs from reaching our streets, this operation was a success."

Of course, the drugs were kept from "reaching the streets" the moment the package was intercepted by police at the shipping warehouse. Everything after that—the overly aggressive tactics, the failure to notify local authorities, the slaying of two harmless family pets, the failure to conduct the slightest bit of investigation into who might live at the residence, and the sending of a heavily armed police squad into an innocent family's home—was the result of bad decisions and bad policy. Instead of admitting to those mistakes, Jackson has taken the position that everything was done correctly and that because of the "scourge of drugs," the terrifying result—as a matter of policy—was perfectly acceptable.

Recently, conservative commentator Armstrong Williams hosted a fundraiser for Jackson's budding political career at Armstrong's home on Capitol Hill. Williams told The Washington Times he supports Jackson because, "I truly believe in [Jackson's] cause. We are gun-toting, God-fearing folks, and we believe in law enforcement and support law enforcement."

It's good to know that Jackson supports the Second Amendment, but Jackson's belief in the aggressive service of drug warrants for nonviolent offenders sounds like a recipe for disaster if inflicted on armed citizens. It certainly would have been for Calvo, who has said his first thought during the raid was that his home was being invaded by criminals. Calvo declined to comment on Jackson's political ambitions. But when I asked him last year what would have happened if he'd had a gun in his home for self-defense at the time of the raid, his answer was chilling. It was also probably correct.

"I'd be dead," he said.

Jackson now wants to bring his misguided sense of proportion, priorities, and accountabilty to higher office, where he'll be making policy on a wide range of issues for a large county just outside of Washington, D.C.

Here's hoping the Prince George's electorate shows better judgment.

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

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  1. The next obvious step is to get him his own TV show.

  2. Can we get someone to prescribe him some surgical tranquilizers?

  3. According to the lawsuit, the deputies told James they’d be back the next day, and when they returned, they’d kill her dog.

    WTF? “Scourge of drugs”, indeed.

  4. Won’t someone rid us of this meddlesome baboon?

  5. You know, he sounds like…..

    …a smooth criminal…

  6. There’s just plain dumb.
    There’s dumber than a fence post dumb.
    And then, there’s Drug Warrior Dumb?

    1. Is that dumber than Nancy Grace stupid??

  7. Yo, fuck Michael Jackson.

    God, that was a weird sentence to type.

  8. I will never stop until personal liability is attached. Everyone on the SWAT team that goes into the wrong house is personally liable for damages. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of asshole cops.

    1. “It will never stop”

      I won’t either, but that’s still a typo above.

      1. So, what you’re saying is…

        …you won’t stop ’till you get enough?

        1. Yes. I just can’t get enough. Just like a rainbow, you know you set me free.

          1. “My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities.”

            We know, Michael. That was the problem.

            1. It’s just “Human Nature” for him to be a totalitarian mindless thug suppository respository.

              Why, Why, Armstrong Williams?

              Tell ’em that it’s Prince George’s nature!

  9. fuck Michael Jackson.

    Before he fucks you?

  10. Everyone should call up Sheriff Michael Jackson and ask him if he has Prince George in a can.

  11. The sad thing is, this has been going on for so long. I remember reading an article in a 1998 Playboy that talked about the Prince George’s county PD being out of control.

    1. I grew up in PG county. It’s been going on since the charter was granted in 1696.

      In the county archives, there’s a record of the local constable shooting Lord Batimore’s dog with his musket, on a rumour he heard of untaxed tobacco growing on his farm….

  12. Everyone should call up Sheriff Michael Jackson and ask him if he has Prince George in a can.

    Why, so a bunch of peoples’ dogs can get shot?

    1. THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A DOG IN THAT CAN!

      1. “NED IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  13. Just like a rainbow, you know you set me free, said the Nobel Committee.

  14. THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A DOG IN THAT CAN!

    ALSO SOME DRUGS. IN THE CAN.

  15. In Libertopia, which drugs will come in a can? Other than my hydrocodone and cocaine soda and marijuana soda, that is.

    Would a tin be advisable for “loose” marijuana?

    1. Shake, not so much. But those camel tins work for nuggets.

    2. Wine will definitely come in a can. It”s liberating!

        1. It’s conducive to my violent hand gestures.

          1. You need and intervention.

  16. In Libertopia, which drugs will come in a can?

    Any of them that you want in a can. Market SUCCESS!

  17. In Libertopia, i will only buy canned drugs. That way i can recycle the cans, by using them for target practice with my AK.

  18. In Libertopia I will use Xeones’s AK for target practice with my RPG.

    1. In Libertopia I will use Cabeza de Vaca’s RPG for target practice with my ICBM.

  19. Williams told The Washington Times he supports Jackson because, “I truly believe in [Jackson’s] cause. We are gun-toting, God-fearing folks, and we believe in law enforcement and support law enforcement.”

    I wonder what would’ve happened to those who had their houses wrongly raided if they had been gun-toting.

    1. Hard to say. The cowards killed my dog and I know how I felt at that time when I heard their gun shots! Law suit coming to court soon!

  20. My drugs they come in a can
    they were put there by a man,
    in factory downtooooowwwwnnnn…

  21. The sad thing is, this has been going on for so long. I remember reading an article in a 1998 Playboy that talked about the Prince George’s county PD being out of control.

    It was out of control even back when the government was controlled by white folks (who were then in the majority).

  22. Sugarfree,
    Even if it is the right house they should be libel for damages. There is no reason for the wanton destruction and trashing of personal property that these cops do. There is no sense is sweeping books from shelves, emptying drawers then tossing the empty drawer on the pile of contents, breaking furniture, etc.

    1. Oh, I agree. But baby steps.

      1. Yeah, baby steps. Let’s stop by, maybe, not assaulting completely innocent people minding their own business. I know it’s a lot to expect in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Excuse me, I have to wretch.

    2. There’s no reason, but they like to do it anyway. It’s like shooting family pets, trashing the house of a perp is just the cops’ way of inflicting a little extra-cirricular punishment on the perp.

  23. “My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities.”

    Sadly, that’s probably true.

  24. “Incredibly, Jackson’s deputies and his department weren’t even aware of their own state’s laws governing the service of search warrants.”

    So, what you’re saying is ignorance of the law *is* an excuse. When you’re a cop.

  25. There is no reason for the wanton destruction and trashing of personal property that these cops do. There is no sense is sweeping books from shelves, emptying drawers then tossing the empty drawer on the pile of contents, breaking furniture, etc.

    Sure there is. If you don’t give cops the opportunity to engage in this kind of wanton destruction every so often, you won’t be able to attract and retain high-qualified LEOs. No one wants to risk their life to enforce the law simply in exchange for their lawful salary.

  26. Maybe Prince George County needs to form “Committees of Vigilance” whose tasks will be to watch the cops’ “drug warrant service teams”, follow them to the homes of their proposed victims, videotape them in action – complete with audio preferably – and take notes so as to be prepared to testify at trial(s) as to the events of the raid. Oh, yes: having the Committees of Vigilance’s folks heavily armed might be a good idea, as there is no telling what the “correct doctrine” and “proper procedure” is, when the local cops discover their illegal actions being video-taped. Perhaps a live feed would be the best idea; a live feed to a satellite which re-broadcasts across the nation. Yeah, that’d work.

  27. Does Nancy Grace work for this guy too?

  28. This is good news. Pissing off Calvo will keep the issue on the burner.

  29. I’m hoping Calvo decides to run against him. The ads alone would make it worth it:

    “Sheriff Jackson Shot my Dogs. Vote Calvo. I Approve this Ad.”

  30. Ugh. I live there.

    The Prince George’s County Police brings nothing but one scandal after another. A couple of years ago, U.S. News rated the P.G. County Police as the most corrupt in the nation. Now that is really an accomplishment for a police force located outside the state of Louisiana…

  31. The ironic thing is, even though PG County totally sucks for this and many other reasons – my ex-girlfriend is a teacher in PG and the PG schools are some kind of fucked up, even for a public school system – however, the PG County Park and Rec department run an excellent trap and skeet range. Not only does it have a a bunch of trap and skeet ranges, it also has a sporting layout, five-stand sporting, and Olympic (trench) trap.

    1. From their actions, why do I think you left out one of the ranges?

      You know, the one they put in the dog park. Maybe only the PD gets to use that one. One officer throws a frisbee past all the dogs at “Pull” and the others blaze away at any dog dumb enough to go after it.

  32. People of PG County! HIDE YOUR DOGS!!!!!

  33. The ironic thing is, even though PG County totally sucks for this and many other reasons – my ex-girlfriend is a teacher in PG and the PG schools are some kind of fucked up, even for a public school system – however, the PG County Park and Rec department run an excellent trap and skeet range. Not only does it have a a bunch of trap and skeet ranges, it also has a sporting layout, five-stand sporting, and Olympic (trench) trap.

    BitterB*st*rd,
    Just so you know, bragging about having taxpayers being forced to subsidize gun nuts goddam hobbies probably won’t go down real fucking well around here.

  34. I’d like to see Michael Jackson out on his ass. His answer to a judicial hearing question regarding my situation: Mr. Jackson, why did you deputies detain **** and **** **** for 45 minutes? His answer: “I don’t know”. Nice……

    1. I’d like to see Jackson and his ilk twisting in the wind on a long rope from a tall tree. Shit like this makes me want to applaud when I hear a cop gets shot or killed. I know all cops and all PD’s aren’t as bad, but this sort of callous abuse of citizens and their rights is goddamned infuriating.

  35. Just so you know, bragging about having taxpayers being forced to subsidize gun nuts goddam hobbies probably won’t go down real fucking well around here.

    How do you know it is subsidized by tax payers? I know that the private gun club that I am a member of in Baltimore County loses money on the rifle and pistol range but makes a profit on clays. Another club I shoot at in Carroll County also makes a profit as does Pintail Point on the Eastern Shore. So, since the PG County Trap and Skeet not being subsidized by the tax payer of PG County is a quite reasonable thought. Moreover, in a county which is a big a cesspit that PG is, if the Trap and Skeet Center lost money I would guess that it would have been closed long ago.
    Anyway, why do you think you can speak for everyone that uses this site? Are you a fucking asshole statist want to be or just a plain fucking asshole?

    1. Because you said that it was run by the PG county parks and rec department.

  36. Wow this guy pisses me off so much. He is so ridiculous it’s like he’s something from the movies.

  37. $260k doesn’t seem like much when considering medical bills, home damage repair expense, and attorney fees. She’ll be lucky to have a net 10 bucks for the pain and suffering regarding the dog..

  38. Of course , these stories are just the tip of the Prince Georges iceburg of corruption.

    PG cops are so dirty that they let gang stalkers poison people without the slightest interference.

  39. If you’re surprised that a 2nd Amendment enthusiast wouldn’t care about the 4th, you shouldn’t be. It should be clear to anyone paying attention that most of the people who keep their guns ready to protect their freedoms from the government will only use those guns to keep the givernment from… taking their guns.

  40. It was a very nice idea! Just wanna say thank you for the information you have shared. Just continue writing this kind of post. I will be your loyal reader. Thanks again.

  41. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane.

  42. It was a very nice idea! Just wanna say thank you for the information you have shared. Just continue writing this kind of post. I will be your loyal reader. Thanks again.

    1. This A-Hole sure has the nerve guess a sorry sheriff will make a great country executive feel sorry for Prince George’s wondering what he will cost the county next. hopefully no lives..

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