Earlier this month, I wrote about a raid conducted by Alameda, California police on the home shared by political consultant Alex Clemens, his wife, and their infant child. No one was hurt in the raid. Based off quotes Clemens gave to the San Francisco Chronicle, I speculated that he wasn't bothered enough by what had happened, or nearly happened, to his family: "Somebody should tell Clemens that it's perfectly acceptable to be livid when the cops jeopardize your safety, your family's safety, and your property. Everybody responds to trauma in his own way, but this is just ridiculous."
Boy, was I wrong.
As some H&R commenters pointed out at the time, I shouldn't have condemned Clemens' reaction. Period. It was also wrong of me to assume that Clemens' quotes in the Chronicle article represented the sum of his thoughts on the raid. Had I called or emailed him, I would've learned that he's seen a professional to help him with the PTSD, and that he can't look at his front door without thinking about having a gun pointed in his face. As it is, I learned these things when Clemens contacted me to ask for an apology and a correction. So, I'm sorry to Alex for making so many assumptions, and to H&R readers, too. I'm also happy that Clemens agreed to answer by email a few questions about the raid, which you can read below.
Reason: What were you feeling during the raid? What were you feeling after? What have you felt in the weeks since?
Alex Clemens: It was a surreal and scary experience. I was concerned for my safety and my family's–though if guns are going to be pointed at me, I would prefer that they be carried by law enforcement than, say, a bunch of motorcycle club members or gangsters, since you can usually have a rational conversation with law enforcement. (Though I would prefer to not have guns pointed at me at all.)
I was in shock for a good 24 hours or so, but I have a great doc who is walking me through the expected fallout from a spectacular shock of adrenaline and some PTSD. Talking with my wife, neighbors and friends has been healthy and helpful as well, I think.
Reason: What do you think about the fact that your house was raided by mistake?
Clemens: I have talked with officials at the lead agency on the raid (there were three) about the due diligence they performed before raiding my home. They have been clear that they feel justified in the due diligence they performed; I remain unconvinced that it was sufficient. I think when you're going to be performing a guns unholstered, safeties off, surprise raid during peacetime, you need to get damn close to 100% certainty that you are targeting the right folks. (especially when there is a lag time of more than a week between when the warrant was signed by a judge and when the raid takes place–time was clearly not of the essence here.) They point to a couple things they did that made them feel confident they had the right house; I can, as a layman, point to a dozen records (public and private, but accessible by LE) that should have stopped them in their tracks and made them dig deeper. At present, we seem to be agreeing to disagree about whether their due diligence was sufficient. I am pretty sure I am right, but reasonable minds can disagree…
Reason: How has the raid affected how you feel when you're in your home?
Clemens: I feel safe in my home–but so far, I remember the guns pointing at my face when I look at my front door. Every. Single. Time. Not fun.
Reason: How has the raid changed the way you think about your local police?
Clemens: Alameda police? Hasn't changed my thinking about them at all. As I understand it, they were there for local logistical support and local intel. This raid was run by the Martinez PD and the FBI, as I understand it—and the Alameda PD came along to advise on the local terrain only.
Reason: How has the raid affected your big-picture thinking? Say, about criminal justice issues or the war on drugs?
Clemens: I like living in a safe community, where bad guys don't get to roam unfettered. That hasn't changed. I like it when people take responsibility for their actions–and that hasn't changed. My perspective on the "war on drugs" hasn't changed, but my perspective remains something that I discuss in person with friends, rather than in the media with strangers. Like many others who live in and near San Francisco, I have a ton of libertarian tendencies—and one that has remained consistent is that if folks with guns are going to raid a private home, they should be damn sure they're doing it correctly.