Drug War

Hasty Drug Warriors Are a Menace

Prompted by a raid that gravely injured a toddler, Georgia considers limits on no-knock search warrants.

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The last time the Georgia legislature considered a bill aimed at restricting no-knock search warrants, it was prompted by a 2006 drug raid in which Atlanta police killed Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman who grabbed a revolver to defend herself against the armed men crashing into her home. This time around, the precipitating event was a 2014 drug raid in which a Habersham County SWAT team burned and mutilated a 19-month-old boy, Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh, by tossing a flash-bang grenade into his crib.

Any reform that makes such horrifying incidents less likely is welcome. But the proposed changes deal with just one aspect of the aggressive paramilitary tactics that needlessly endanger police, their targets, and innocent bystanders.

Bou Bou's Law, introduced last week by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), would allow no-knock warrants, which authorize police to enter homes without announcing themselves, only in cases where the police can show probable cause to believe that making their presence known prior to entry "would likely pose a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed." That rule is stricter than the standard the Supreme Court has said is required by the Fourth Amendment: "reasonable suspicion" that knocking and announcing "would be dangerous or futile" or "would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime."

It's not clear that Fort's proposed restriction would have spared Bou Bou the injuries that have left his family with $1.6 million in medical expenses and forced him to undergo a series of surgeries that will continue into adulthood. The cops who raided the home where he was staying with his sisters and parents were looking for his cousin Wanis Thonetheva, a small-time meth dealer, and they argued that his history of gun charges suggested they would face violent resistance.

It turned out that Thonetheva no longer lived in the house, where police found no drugs or weapons. He was unarmed when police arrested him later that day at a different location.

The Habersham County grand jury that investigated the raid nevertheless concluded that Thonetheva's history justified the no-knock warrant. Even under the stricter standard favored by Fort, a judge might agree.

Assuming police could not meet that test and therefore had to announce themselves, it might not have made any difference, since the raid occurred between 2 and 3 a.m, when everyone in the house was asleep. It is doubtful whether the Phonesavanhs would have heard and understood the police, let alone that they would have had enough time to answer the door before it was knocked down.

Police are supposed to wait a "reasonable time" after announcing themselves, but it's not clear what that means. According to a 2003 Supreme Court decision, the relevant question is not how long it takes to answer the door but how long it takes to flush drugs down the toilet. In that case, the Court said 15 to 20 seconds was plenty of time. For people awakened in the middle of the night, that is probably not enough.

Another Georgia bill, introduced by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), would require that no-knock search warrants be executed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. "unless the judge for good cause expressly authorizes execution at another time." A similar timing expectation for all searches would make the knock-and-announce rule more meaningful.

The Habersham County grand jury found that the botched raid in which Bou Bou was injured and the "hurried, sloppy" investigation that preceded it could be explained by a false sense of urgency. "Whenever reasonably possible, suspects [should] be arrested away from a home," the jurors said. "There should be no such thing as an 'emergency' in drug investigations."

It is bad enough that police respond violently to peaceful transactions involving arbitrarily proscribed substances. When they kill old ladies and burn babies in the process, we have to ask what they hope to accomplish and whether it's worth the price.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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40 responses to “Hasty Drug Warriors Are a Menace

  1. …a Habersham County SWAT team burned and mutilated a 19-month-old boy, Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, by tossing a flash-bang grenade into his crib.

    If that family didn’t want their child scarred for life, maybe they shouldn’t have been somewhere where there might have been someone who did drugs, drugs that this mythical occupant possibly could have flushed down the toilet thus making the lives of law enforcement less convenient, goddammit.

    1. The supreme court standard of 15 to 20 seconds to flush the drugs means that 1/2 second after they announce they have to break down the door because it might take 17 seconds to get to the bathroom and another 3 seconds to stop the flushing.

  2. Gonna keep retweeting this for everyone til everyone reads it:

    http://hotair.com/archives/201…..ves-arbys/

    Remember a couple of days ago the cops that killed a girl with a gun in their lobby. This CITIZEN managed a good deal more than that with a good deal less:

    “This guy went above and beyond the call in terms of avoiding violence. Upon returning to the restaurant he confronted the deranged robber and ordered her to cease and desist. In the initial encounter ? probably hoping that the woman was aware of the rule about not bringing a knife to a gunfight ? he didn’t even draw his weapon. He just showed her the butt of the weapon. Rather than complying, she she kept her knife and approached him, causing him to then draw his weapon.

    Even then, with every justification to take the shot, he chose to grab her arm and take away the knife. When police arrived he set down his weapon and gave them all the details as they took her into custody.”

    1. Huh, it’s almost like it makes a difference when people are held personally accountable for their actions. And are not sociopaths looking for an excuse to kill.

      1. Huh, it’s almost like it makes a difference when people are held personally accountable for their actions. And are not sociopaths looking for an excuse to kill.

        Are you saying that person who is insulated with immunity for their actions, will behave less well than someone with no immunity privileges? That’s crazy talk!

    2. I have it on good authority from posters such as OneOut (or One something, I forget) that according to MythBusters and research conducted in the 60s it is physically impossible for a person to defend themselves from a knife-wielding attacker without shooting them five times in the chest. I’m a little surprised they didn’t bring up the Boxer Rebellion or the Phillipine-American War.

      1. The testing methodology there involved stopping a charge in progress, and only that sub-section of defense. If you’re not trying to interrupt their momentum, the dynamic varies.

        1. Yeah, no, it’s rhetorical nonsense that the usual suspects throw out whenever they need to justify a cop shooting.

          Militaries around the world train soldiers on disarming opponents. Standard CQC training is practically centered around an unarmed defender disarming and subduing/killing an attacker with a gun or knife. Hell, back in my jujitsu days a guest instructor who would come by every couple months trained FBI in CQC techniques for a day job, and he came up specifically to teach knife and pistol disarms. In fact, I distinctly remember him saying that the objective when defending against a knife or a gun was the same as defending against an unarmed attacker: to leave the encounter alive. Just as you should expect to get hit a few times in a fistfight, you should expect to get cut in a knife fight. The goal is to limit the damage and secure the weapon, not to remain unscathed.

          If it were such an impossible task, no one would bother training it. For that matter, no one would bother training to fight with a knife if it were such an automatic win.

          1. You’re referring to the Teuller drill or ’21 foot rule’, which demonstrates that a determined knife-armed opponent can close that distance and stab most people before they can draw their gun and shoot them. Which is not necessarily inaccurate in and of itself.

            The problem is that this ‘rule’ has become the basis of policy that leads to fearfull cops gunning down anyone with a knife within ten yards of them.

            Most of these incidents stem from lack of discernment and lack of confidence in their gunhandling on the part of the police. The private citizen mentioned above obviously made a evolving critical judgement of the knife-wielding woman’s intent and ability, and adjusted his actions accordingly. Police are taught that anyone with a knife is a walking murder machine, and they know deep down that they are way underqualified as marksmen, leading to a panicked overreaction.

            Not sure what the solution is. I know in Japan they use some kind of hooked catch-pole

      2. from posters such as OneOut (or One something, I forget) that according to MythBusters and research conducted in the 60s it is physically impossible for a person to defend themselves from a knife-wielding attacker without shooting them five times in the chest.

        In both rhetorical structure and substance, this is every 3rd H and R thread.

        1. wharton is just making shit up here HM. I never posted the statement that the liar said I did.

          Why he felt the need to make up such a lie I don’t know.

          Maybe he has butt hurt left over from a previous conversation.

      3. “I have it on good authority from posters such as OneOut ”

        Uhh no, no you don’t have it on good authority. In fact your authority sucks wharton.

        It is impolite and shows bad character to lie and say that someone said something that they didn’t say., especially when they aren’t around to defend themselves. And even more so when the lie is included in a condesending snark trying to act smart.

        Fuck you liar asshole.

        But you did it anyway.

    3. I think that the would-be robber is very fortunate the man did not shoot her as she assaulted him, and I am impressed with his forbearance.

    4. …as they took her into custody.

      I think you must mean they took both of them into custody.

      1. You’re forgetting Utah’s Stand Your Arby’s law.

    5. We can’t ignore incentives here. While I do agree that often times, people can be disarmed without firing a shot, this individual, not being a cop is in real danger of facing prosecution AND conviction.

  3. This is why we need Twisted Metal live. Gotta do something with all these juiced out starship troopers

  4. only in cases where the police can show probable cause to believe that– Blah blah blah

    The government should ALWAYS have to present a warrant.

  5. just before I saw the bank draft four $7417 , I did not believe that…my… sister was like actualie receiving money part time from their laptop. . there friend brother had bean doing this 4 only six months and just paid for the mortgage on there place and purchased a new Honda NSX .
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    1. Why don’t you go sit on a flash-bang grenade?

      -jcr

  6. only in cases where the police can show probable cause to believe that making their presence known prior to entry “would likely pose … imminent danger of evidence being destroyed.”

    Like a person in there with a *mouth*?

    1. Hey, cops are perfectly justified in using force to stop you from swallowing your drugs.

      1. You’re destroying evidence.
      2. That’s the very act the drug laws made illegal – so they’re stopping *another* crime from being committed!
      3. Public safety. Drugs have been deemed bad, therefore they are saving you from harming yourself. Its better the be harmed by another than by your self.

      1. [It’s better to] be harmed by another than by your self.

        Much government policy in a nutshell.

        1. “[It’s better to] be harmed by another than by your self.

          Much government policy in a nutshell.”

          Nice.
          I Hope you don’t mind my using this in the future.

          1. Well, I’ve been led to believe that anything on the Internet is in the public domain; but perhaps you’d better take it up with Agammamon.

  7. “There should be no such thing as an ’emergency’ in drug investigations.”

    That’s the smartest thing anyone’s said about no-knock warrants EVER.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but 15-20 seconds at 3:00 AM is just enough time for my dogs to go nuts, my wife to say, “Did you hear something?”, and me to reply, “Probably cat knock over mumble mumble…” Even during “normal” hours, that’s not a hell of a lot of time to react. And quite frankly, if I’ve got 15 seconds to decide whether to admit armed intruders claiming to be police or run to my gun cabinet, rack a round, and tell them to fuck off, I’m doing the latter. I could be wrong either way, but at least one way I go down swingin’.

    1. Years back down in the Miami area, a SWAT team served a warrant on the wrong address. The house they assaulted belonged to an elderly couple who thought they were under attack by a gang. (Well, actually, I guess they were – but this gang had badges.)

      Anyway, grandpa had just enough time to shoulder his 12-gauge and let one fly down the hallway, not-so-neatly removing the head of the lead cop.

      Arrests ensued.

      The cops wanted (more) blood, but the prosecutor said there’s nothing to prosecute. The TWAT [sic] team went to the wrong address, therefore they had no legal right to be in the home, the homeowner correctly perceived he was under attack, despite the cops’ belief that the attack was “legal” so – no charges.

      Thereafter, at least for a while, the number of “no-knock” warrens declined…

      This is an effective way to handle out-of-control cops. The guy who murdered two cops in NY didn’t do himself any good, but since that happened, cops have been far more circumspect about harassing citizens. It doesn’t hurt for cops to think, “If I’m a total asshole for no reason, I may not go home alive.”

      1. Damned spell-checker. WARRANTS!

  8. Hasty Drug Warriors Are a Menace

    All drug warriors are a menace, Jacob.

  9. There is a compelling government interest to burn children alive, as history has repeatedly demonstrated. Statism is a real cunt.

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  12. Now if the burglar alarm just included claymore mines directed outward, maybe the cops would be more reticent about “no knock” raids.

    The only duty a landowner owes a trespasser is to “warn of traps”. So signs conspicuously posted saying, “Beware active claymore mines” ought to do it.

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