Drug Policy

A More Efficient Way of Breaking Down Doors

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In January 2008, police in Chesapeake, Virginia raided the home of 28-year-old Ryan Frederick. Days earlier, an informant had broken into Frederick's house, spotted several marijuana plants, stole some of them, then gave police the probable cause they needed to conduct the raid. During the raid, police put a battering ram through part of Frederick's door. By Frederick's account he awoke, saw someone breaking into his home, panicked (given that he'd been burglarized days earlier), and fired his gun through the broken door. His bullet struck and killed one of the police officers, Det. Jarrod Shivers.

Though depicted by the prosecution as a cold-blooded cop killer, Frederick's taped interviews shortly after the raid clearly showed a man who feared for his safety, and showed immense remorse upon learning that he'd killed a law enforcement officer. Frederick was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to ten years in prison. The state had sought to convict him of capital murder. (See a roundup of my coverage of the case here.)

More than two years later, the Chesapeake Police Department has announced a change in how it will conduct drug raids. But the department won't be reconsidering its policy of sending cops on volatile, forced entry raids into the homes of suspected, low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Nor will it be changing the questionable way its narcotics officers deal with drug informants.

So what's the new drug raid policy? Henceforth, Chesapeake narcotics officers will be using a new and improved battering ram.