Militarization of Police

Update on Wrong-House Raid in Alameda: "I remember the guns pointing at my face when I look at my front door. Every. Single. Time."


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.

NEXT: ATTN, NYC Reasonoids: urban renewal documentary screening tomorrow with Battle for Brooklyn

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  1. Like many others who live in and near San Francisco, I have a ton of libertarian tendencies…

    O_o say whaaaat?

    1. Libertine, libertarian, libertard, liberal, it’s all the same with the magical liber- prefix.

    2. Yeah, I noticed that line first. Somehow it jumped out at me before I even read the article.

      Seriously, Bay Area types think they share libertarian sentiments because they love TEH GHEYZ and thought the PATRIOT act was an abomination while Bush controlled it (but they don’t mind it so much anymore with the dreamy mulatto using it with his enlightened wisdom).

      And don’t even get me started on their conceptions of self-ownership when it comes to money…

      1. I live in San Francisco. I’m perhaps a little more left-libertarian than many of the people in H&R, but I’m massively more libertarian than liberal. Free minds & free markets, hell yeah. I’ve spent much of today angrily castigating assholes on both the left and the right who’ve been backslapping over al-Alwaki.

        There is a definitely strain of libertarianism in SF. It’s not dominant. The majority of the people here are liberals, but there’s a big streak of libertarianism in the liberalism, and there are not-a-few straight up doctrinaire libertarians here.

        And, to be clear, Obama is just as odious on civil liberties as Bush was — if not worse. I really didn’t think he would be, but he has been.

        1. No shit.

          I thought I thought better civil liberty policies would mitigate the democrats socialist crap sandwich at least a little bit.

          Boy was I wrong.

        2. Yeah, in my experience (3 years in SF), it’s definitely true. The issue is that people there are politically vocal, so they get drowned out by the full-throated Dems. But you will find plenty of people who believe firmly in capitalism and support personal lifestyle choices (doctrinaire types aside), which is close enough to libertarian tendencies for me.

          And technolibertarianism is still alive and well in Silicon Valley just as sure as you can find knee-jerk socialism in DC.

          1. I read that originally as “[civil] libertarian” tendencies – e.g, the ACLU. I can understand someone left-libertarian saying that, and I think it’s an important distinction from the strict “liberals” who follow the (D) markers come hell or high water. Greenwald comes to mind.

            1. Also, good luck to Mr. Clements. I hope things only get better from here on out.

        3. Obama is in many ways worse then Bush, if only because of the cooling effect on civil liberties and peace advocacy.

    3. He is very possibly referring to the fact that Silicon Valley is near San Fran and a very large number of programmers and tech geeks are libertarians.

      I wouldn’t start unloading the San Fran hate on this guy just yet, haters. You big bunch of haters.

      1. I have it on good authority (AKA H&R Team Red trolls) that every single person living in, on, near, around, above, below, parallel or perpendicular to the city of San Franciso is a communist 5th columnist pushing the Homosexual Agenda on wholesome Midwestern youth.

        1. KULTUR WAR

          1. I was actually hoping to get your take on Bachmann apparently stating earlier that if they don’t vote to be nice to Israel, then the US shouldn’t allow the Arabs to have democracy. Somebody posted it up in another thread earlier today.

            I haven’t verified it on my own, but I trust the regulars here IMPLICITLY with this sort of thing.

            1. the US shouldn’t allow the Arabs to have democracy

              I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean.

              TEAM RED Israel thuggery is nothing new. I said on H&R, many years ago, that there should be a permanent sticky thread about Israel just for the fools who want to argue about it endlessly, keeping them away from those of us who never want to ever fucking hear about the Israel-Palestine bullshit again, and want even more for us to stop giving fucking money to them.

              1. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean.

                Apparently now the right to not live in a dictatorship is at the sole discretion of the US, and can be revoked at any time if you really refuse to tow the lion (ala Iran, early 50s…because that worked out so well).

                1. Wait, did you just say “tow the lion”?

                  Do you really think that that expression has anything to do with a large feline?


                  1. New here?

                    It’s a running joke.

      2. a very large number of programmers and tech geeks are libertarians.

        That’s not been my experience. Or rather, that may have been true once upon a time, but no longer.

        1. It’s been my experience. What’s your experience? Mine is working as a programmer for over 10 years, including currently in the #2 programmer haven, Seattle. I’m not saying they’re all libertarians, but the libertarian urge is very strong in the programmer community.

          1. I have a number of friends in the programming field and a number of them in San Jo as well. They generally are of libertarian tendencies, although generally more oriented towards the civil libertarian issues and less assertive about economic libertarianism (and their civil libertarianism is generally less about TEH GHEYZ and more about torrents).

            But this guy is Alameda East Bay, and a political operative at that. The chances that he has anything approaching consistent libertarian tendencies are fairly minimal.

          2. Programmer in the games industry for 13 years: 3 of those years in California, 3 in England, the rest in BC.

            I can also point to Slashdot as a place that was (long ago) pretty libertarian-ish, but anyone the stories and comments lately are anything but (JCR notwithstanding).

            1. …but anyone the stories…

              Anyway, maybe it’s the industry I’m in, or the places I’ve been, but I ain’t feeling anything like libertarian love from my colleagues.

              1. Anyway, maybe it’s the industry I’m in, or the places I’ve been, but I ain’t feeling anything like libertarian love from my colleagues.

                That’s weird; at least two of my programming colleagues here are explicitly libertarian, and the other two are explicitly non-political as far as I know. And I’ve met a bunch of people in the programming world in Seattle who were outspokenly libertarian.

            2. Worked on any cool games that we’d know?

              You will definitely see some retard levels of liberalism and even conservatism amongst programmers, just like any other group, but they tend to understand things like having a shitload of their money taken from them when they fucking earned that shit because they’re smart.

              1. Worked on any cool games that we’d know?

                Well, here’s a partial list, I’ll let you decide which are cool or not: NHL 2000-2004, Riddick, Hulk, F1 2010, 50 Cent (both games, *sigh*), X-Files, Scarface.

                Well, so much for my anonymity. 🙂

                (I’m pretty sure you and I have chatted extensively before, long ago in #atheism on Undernet.)

                1. Nope, that Undernet conversation wasn’t me.

                  I haven’t played any of those games; I’m mostly a “kill shit and get loot” gamer or a Civ gamer.

                  1. Probably a year or year and a half wait for this:


                    1. TOO LONG.

                      Man, I had a lot of fucking fun playing Borderlands. And I just bought a retarded desktop solely for gaming. I’ll have to satisfy myself with The Witcher 2 for now.

                  2. Gimme the old school Baldurs Gate style RPGs.

                    That and sports games.

          3. The early programming culture was very libertarian, but it’s gradually shifted more towards liberal, probably because the areas programmers tend to congregate in are extremely liberal as well. Call it a takeover by assimilation.

            1. yea, i agree. i’m pretty old school programmer and back in the day imo it was way more libertarian than it is now.

              1. I agree. Libertarians were thick in Silicon Valley during the old Wild West days of the 1980s. But over time, crony capitalism, masquerading as libertarianism, gained a lot of ground and may very well be dominant now.

          4. If by libertarian you mean “doesn’t like being told what to do by anyone less intelligent than themselves (which is everyone)”, I agree.

            1. “Doesn’t like being told what to do” is a big chunk of the way to libertarian (then it just requires the “don’t tell others what to do” part).

              1. Yep. Seems to be a yawning chasm to a surprising number of intelligent and personally decent people.

          5. My experience in the programming scene in Boston agrees. Not that libertarians are the majority in the field, but it’s a way higher percentage than elsewhere.

      3. Despite the high levels of left-wing silliness, there are plenty of libertarians in San Francisco. Not to mention it’s still a nice city.

  2. “Martinez police were searching for Sang Ung, 43, who made bail after being arrested in August in connection with an indoor marijuana-growing operation.”

    Great reason for terrorizing law-abiding people in their own homes.

    1. an indoor marijuana-growing operation.

      If the operation is of any substance then why are the cops coming in with guns ready?!?!

      He will not be able to destroy it in 15 min any better then he could in 1 min.

      Also why are guns so effective at stopping the destruction of drugs??

      Wouldn’t cops armed with cameras and wrestling skills to catch and stop the drug grower trying to dispose of his stash work better?

      And what the fuck…so a guy has a bag of weed held over the toilet and he is about to drop and flush it and the cop, gun pointed, yells at him “put the weed on the ground!!” the cop actually going to shoot the guy if he does flush it? and if he does WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!

      We are condoning shooting people because they flushed drugs!??!?!

      1. Come to think of it…why aren’t cops using tazers and tear spray for this kind of operation?

        They use them on the street readily enough why is a citizen’s private residence suddenly the place to put down the tazers, damn the torpedoes and pull out the automatic weapons?

        Isn’t a tazed and tear sprayed dog better then a bullet going through the dog, through the floor beneath him and into a babies crib in the downstairs living room?

      2. For that matter, why are we waging war against idiots who want to destoy themselves with drugs? Why not let them do it? We get rid of them, along with a huge element of dangerous government. A two-fer!

  3. 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.)

    That’s pretty much what I said at the time, though I’m sad that he actually did have such a bad time of it after all.

  4. I like it when people take responsibility for their actions?and that hasn’t changed.

    It doesn’t sound like the officials he spoke with came anywhere close to taking appropriate responsibility. But odds seem to be pretty good that law enforcement has nothing to lose when they and their victims agree to disagree. This will continue happen.

  5. 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.

    What the fuck?!?!

    Dude how about cops never draw guns for a drug raid. Drugs are a fucking vice not the ritual satanic sacrifice of infant hostages.

    By the way I will not be apologizing to Clemens for this comment.

    If he does not understand how the war on drugs and the militarization of the police to propagate it is terrorizing and killing Innocents at this point he never will.

    1. Well, to be fair he never said just what his thoghts were on the WoD, other than it was something he discussed with friends, not the media. And I’m sure he doesn’t want to give them any reason to mistakenly raid his home again.

      1. If he fully supported the WoD, I get the feeling he would have said so explicitly: “Drugs ruin lives, and I fully support the jobs these officers are doing, but…” If he’s trying to get the police to cooperate, he should sugarcoat his position as much as possible, and if he supports the WoD this was his chance to proclaim so to the media.

  6. i have to agree with Clemens. AWHSIT, due diligence was NOT followed here, and especially because there was no exigency, the due diligence required is that much higher.

    they messed up.

    1. Then I guess you will breathlessly await the certain punishment the officers will be subject to, up to and including false imprisonment, unlawful entry and reckless endangerment, right?

      1. …including false imprisonment, unlawful entry and reckless endangerment charges, right?

        1. In a sane world? or the one WE live in?

      2. Why? They pounded on the door. Clemens said, “Dave’s not here, man.”
        Then they left.
        The only thing that could be construed as a crime was the brandishing of their weapons.

        The world is a scary place. Being the victim of rude, unsettling behavior is not an injury.

        Yes, the DEA is an abomination. Yes, those welfare queens need to get real jobs intead of terrorizing us. In the end, though that does not make every action they do a crime.

        1. First off, they forcibly removed the man from his house. Second, they started cuffing him. Thirdly, they forced him to the ground under threat of violence while pointing weapons at his head.

          Nice try, but there was a lot more to the incident than “rude behavior.”. Had a burglar done any of those things in commission of robbing him, do you think there would be enhanced charges? Or would then burglary charge stand on its own?

        2. I think you’re confused with the DEA raid in a different state.

        3. In many other parts of the world, no-knock raids with machine guns brandished are reserved for hostage situations or arrest of a dangerous violent criminal (a la Ted Bundy).

          In the USA, it is normal to serve warrants for MJ grow operations this way, and, visibly, the public is so desensitized to such incidences that, on a libertarian site, someone actually makes comment about “unsettling behavior”.

          Man! They behaved as if they assaulted the Arnhem bridge against a prepared SS Panzer force. For suspicion regarding a fucking weed. Is that an acceptable part of your “scary world”?

          Clusterfucks like that cost innocent people lives. One crazy cop pulls the trigger and bang, suddenly you have bloodshed.

  7. this is exactly how “the media” should be done. my thanks to Reason & prayers to the Clemens.

  8. There are those who find a successful and tolerant society so unpleasant that they support government coercion and the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens even though at great risk to their own personal safety and financial security.

    They view pleasure as the devil’s snare and swear vengeance on all those who might embrace any of God’s pleasures.

    In a dangerous and futile attempt to stamp out alcohol, tobacco, heroin, marijuana, pornography, prostitution, marital infidelity and masturbation, this former land of the prosperous and free has been pillaged by groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Society, The Anti-Saloon League, The Anti-Cigarette Movement, The Social Purity Movement, The Social Hygiene Movement and our latter day Drug Warriors.

    Laboring under no burden of doubt concerning their own rectitude and right to impose their standards on everybody else by the barrel of a gun, they have ceaselessly proclaimed their Christianity while blatantly overlooking Christ’s main admonitions, namely “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the first stone.”

    Alcohol prohibition in the US run from 1919 to 1933 – Now google ‘The Great Wall Street Crash’ and see when that happened!

    During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on education etc. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

  9. Having your home raided by those you entrust to protect you is not something easily forgotten. I had the same experience. Though they had the “right” house the raid was beyond ludicrous for the situation. And it was a no-knock raid so they broke my door down and ran through the home shouting with automatic rifles. There was a 5 year old little girl, her mom and myself, a 52 year old woman home. Its a miracle the child was not traumatized which was only because we saw them come up the driveway and were sitting on the floor when they came in. My crime? I had ordered less than a months worth of prescription pain meds online as I had a decade long extremely painful illness which I had tried to treat and get help for for years. No doctor would see me as I had no insurance. I was not poor by any means… just didn’t have the literal thousands they required up front to start testing. I was bedridden and suicidal. So I did what I had too to survive. The task force could have cared less about my obvious illness. They took me away in handcuffs and four months later I was a convicted felon. Mother, grandmother, wife of 33 years, voter, social activist, with no criminal record. It was a long time before I felt “safe” in my home and did not freeze up when I heard cars coming up the driveway. Other PTSD symptoms still continue. I’ve dealt with it by writing a book, starting a website and trying to raise public awareness to the issues that allow over over 70,000 of these raids to occur a year, most on non-violent citizens. The people and children’s lives traumatized and the violence that occurs BECAUSE of these raids are incalculable. My heart goes out to this family.

    Nancy Rector
    Author of “A Painful Truth – The Entrapment of America’s Sick”

    1. My heavens – may good karma find its way to you and yours. Sending positive thoughts your way. Best wishes and good luck!

      1. Yeah, that’s a tough way to have your eyes opened.

        Still, does this technically count as blogwhoring? If so, a waiver should be granted.

        1. sloop – on topic, by someone who usually doesn’t come here, to discuss her efforts against the sort of thing we’re against.

          I’ll vote “no”.

          1. Yeah, I hope she knows it was a joke.

            And speaking of jokes: I present to you the 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes football team. [sigh]

            1. Sorry, bro. I briefly went out with a woman who was a huge OSU (& Indians) fan. As a result of how that turned out, I can wish nothing positive for OSU.

    2. nancy, i feel for your bad experience. But I don’t agree with your prescription for fixing things:

      “I’m not sure how we went from Americans being in favor of health care for everyone to now being against it. .. So much of our tax money is spent for things that do harm or just pad the pockets of corporate America. I’d love to see part of it be spent on easing suffering and giving all men, women and children the option for health care. That’s how it is in every other industrialized nation. We stand alone as the one that chooses instead to profit off our sick and dying.”

      Back in the day we had charity hospitals and such where people could get good care for almost nothing. These hospitals were funded by people who cared where their money went. As govt began to take over responsibility for charity, people no longer feel as much need to donate on their own. The link between giver and receiver has been severed. This is a problem – moneys extracted at the threat of jail do not enrich the giver and favors bestowed by law do not enrich the receiver.

      1. Thats something I tell my progrssive friends all the time. Monies that you are able to wrest through the threat of government force for whatever social good you wish do not accomplish the real victory that you want, i.e the improving of the human condition. That money is given begrudgingly, it might will make someone give less to charity, and that person will take every step possible to minimize what they have to hand over to the government. Contrast this with private donations that are freely given. Often the amount of money given will exceed whatever money you could muster to take and the individual will be far less likely to cut such charity during hard times.

    3. The best and surest way to end the drug war is to end government licensing of health care workers.

    4. Since you stated that you weren’t poor or destitute, I’m wondering why you just didn’t pay a doctor cash.

      There is no excuse for the IDIOTS who broke down your door however. Sorry for your travails.

  10. This man’s thinking has to change before he can heal. Denial never works well enough to let you sleep at night. I’m sure the counsolers are being paid well to keep him thinking he’s doing the right thing.

    If a gun in your face can’t change your worldview, what can?

  11. “if folks with guns are going to raid a private home, they should be damn sure they’re doing it correctly”

    Is there really a correct way to do this in America?

  12. “As I understand it, [Alameda PD] were there for local logistical support and local intel.”

    Would that not include surveillance and confirmation of the identities of the actual occupants? I would not let Alameda off the hook.

  13. When the Big Dogs (FBI/DEA) are involved, they don’t particularly pay much attention to the concerns of the local agencies; and, the locals have a tendency to defer to the Big Dogs because they don’t want to appear “stupid” or confrontational.
    Alameda PD has a lot to answer for IMO.

  14. Should a person who is not sufficiently diligent to get the address right on a violent forced entry raid be trusted with a firearm? Should a judge who is not sufficiently diligent to detect lack of due diligence when asked to sign such a warrant be trusted with making judicial decisions that affect the lives of others? If the individuals involved worked for a reputable private organizations they would have been fired immediately.

    We need to restore accountability.

  15. I had a similar incident years ago when as a single airline pilot. I would be gone from home many days at a time so my neighbor watched over my home while I was away. I returned home late one night and two days early after a flight cancellation. My neighbor called the local police, thinking that a burglary was under way, and two undercover cops who happened to be in the area responded. I had a combination push button lock on my front door and my neighbor gave the combination to the cops. It was 3 am when they broke into my bedroom brandishing shotguns. I had a .38 revolver in my bed side table and had I heard them coming up the stairs to my room would have gotten it out prepared to use it. They were dressed as motorcycle bums and one wore a head scarf. I was so lucky to have not been killed that night. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had had a family too. If I had been killed the cops would not have been at fault nor anyone else but me. That is what society and the msm would have concluded.

  16. This is once again an indication of the TOTAL INCOMPETENCE of the Police Agencies involved including the FBI if they were also part of this IDIOTIC raid on another incorrect address.

    You don’t have to be a genius to quickly check out the address of a normal law-abiding citizen.

    We are suffering from a lack of common sense and IQ in our police departments. Then again, that doesn’t surprise me.

  17. America is becoming over-criminalized and the cops are becoming militarized. Drawing guns when investigating a non-violent crime is an outrage.

  18. “…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…”

    I am not so sure. I understand his sentiment but the thing is that if the biker shoots you he will have to answer to the criminal justice system. If the cop shoots you he has qualified immunity. So there is no disincentive for the cop to shoot. None.

  19. >>>I understand his sentiment but the thing is that if the biker shoots you he will have to answer to the criminal justice system. If the cop shoots you he has qualified immunity. So there is no disincentive for the cop to shoot. None.

  20. Mark 10:42
    42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
    43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
    44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

  21. What does it mean to lose our “Christian” society? Our rulers get to lord it over us like the olden days, and don’t they just love it? The New Samurai think its peachy keen to brutalize us. And we deserve it because we chose it, in our ignorance and with our apathy.

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