Skip to comments.How to serve a warrant: 1972 versus today, by Lt. Harry Thomas
Posted on 08/17/2013 8:41:22 AM PDT by bamahead
1) The warrant officer at your station gives you a warrant for someone who lives on your beat. Its for an old drug possession beef. The suspect has no criminal history. Ho-hum.
2) You go to the location. You knock on the door. If no one answers, you leave and come back another time. If your man answers the door, you either arrest him or cite him to court. If you know hes there (TV is on, curtains move as he peeks out the window at you, etc.) but he wont answer the door, you call another car to watch the back while you go in the front and get him. If he submits, fine. If he resists you thump him (tasers are years in the future). If he goes for a weapon you shoot him.
Fairly simple, no?
1) Bring a few more cops.
2) Bring shotguns.*
*The only full-autos that your department owns are a row of 1921 Thompson sub-machine guns with 50 round drum magazines, and, strangely enough, a single M-3 greasegun, that are standing in a rack in the armory at the Criminal Investigation Section (detective bureau). The last time that one of them was deployed was in the late 1950s at a late-night stakeout inside a closed Kroger grocery store where a gun battle occurred between stakeout officers and a gang of professional burglars and safecrackers. One of your departments last old cigar-chewing detectives from the gangster era used the chopper to fatally ventilate the bad guys. The old chatterguns have never been fired for effect since, and never will be again. You are not qualified on them, and know no one in your 1000 man department who is. If, through some miracle, you were to be qualified on one of the old warhorses, the thought of taking one to a warrant service would never even occur to you, and the chances of you being able to sign one out for that purpose would be nil anyway. Cops use alley sweepers, not trench brooms.
2) You and your pals put on black ninja outfits. You put black bags over your heads with little slits for your eyes. Now you can do anything you want and no one can identify you afterwards. Hey, it works for the PLO and the IRA, right? You call all of the schools within a fifty mile radius and tell them to go on lockdown.
3) You ride to the scene in an armored personnel carrier (yes, I said an armored personnel carrier!).
4) When you arrive, you jump out and storm the house, bristling with weapons that were, at one time, only used on foreign battlefields to engage implacable enemies of the United States and its interests. Now theyre used against this countrys civilian population.
5) The familys elderly Labrador, who is now approaching you, tail wagging, is obviously there to guard the drug kingpins stash, and presents a grave danger to law enforcement personnel. Hose him with your M-16, or MP5, or whatever squirt gun your agency issues. That way the neighbors will see what a baaaaadass you are.
6) Dont knock on the door thats for sissies. Take it down with a battering ram. Run in and cuss a lot, like they do in those cool movies. Prone everybody out on the floor. When the familys other dog gets excited and starts barking, blow him away like you did the other one. Do it in front of the kids. That way theyll learn that this countrys laws must be respected!
7) There are lots of news cameras outside because you called them ahead of time and told them to be there. March your prisoner out and look really grim. Now everyone watching the news can see your armored personnel carrier (yes, I said ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER!) and they can see how awesome you are in your Ninja outfit.
8) Make sure your department spokesman is there to give an exciting account of your great victory. That way the pretty girl with too much hair mousse can do a BREAKING NEWS story about how youve struck a stunning blow to the international drug trade.
Now, there are people who are going to think Im being facetious here. Im not.
Since the early 80s, the use of SWAT teams in civilian law enforcement has increased about 1500%. No, those two zeros are not a typo. At least FORTY completely innocent American citizens have been shot to death by rogue police, either because incompetent law enforcement officials hit the wrong address, or because startled homeowners attempted to defend themselves against the masked strangers violently entering their homes and were gunned down. One of them, Kathryn Johnston of Atlanta, was 92 years old.
I well remember the first time my agency pulled one of these stunts and scared an innocent old lady damned near to death. Our chief did the one thing in his career that I actually admired. He sent down word that if any of our personnel ever again kicked down an innocent citizens door, that they should send back the search warrant return with their badge pinned to it since they wouldnt be needing it anymore. It never happened again.
How did this happen? How did we go, in a few short years, from a beat cop knocking on a door to a full scale military assault reminiscent of Iwo Jima, over somebody selling somebody else a bag of weed?
Its because of the biggest failed social experiment in this countrys history, the Drug War.
I was around in the days of yore when the first drug forfeiture programs started. If you could prove that a guys stuff was purchased with the proceeds of drug trafficking, you could take the stuff. It was a great idea, and it hit these guys where they lived. And for a few years the law chugged along that way.
Then law enforcement administrators started thinking about just how much plunder there really was out there. That thing about proving that the guys stuff came from drug proceeds was a real drag. They said, HEY! We have a great idea. Lets take peoples stuff WITHOUT proving that it came from drug proceeds!! And they did. The law was changed. Law enforcement didnt need to convict people of anything. They didnt even have to CHARGE them with anything. They could just take the stuff!
The way it was explained to me in training was that the stuff was being treated as a separate entity, independent of its owner. In other words, the guy wasnt being charged with a crime. His car, or his house, or his cash was being charged with a crime. Stuff could now commit crimes, and be convicted of them. A cop could hold a trial at the side of the road, convict someone’s money of drug trafficking, and then put the money in jail.
Agencies scrambled to create drug interdiction units to patrol their expressways, such as the I-75 corridor from Florida to Michigan which runs through my city.
Their mandate? Steal money.
In my agency, our higher-ups got so addicted to stolen money that there wasnt enough in our city to satisfy them. They cut some kind of a deal with our county sheriff and got a team of our guys commissioned as deputy sheriffs. Now they could patrol our expressways all the way to the county line, miles outside city limits.
Theyre still doing it. Just last week I drove I-74 into Ohio, and sure enough, there was a Cincinnati police unit just over the state line, nowhere near the city limits, watching for anyone who meets the profile.
His mandate? Steal money.
The only way the victim can get his money back is to sue the agency and try to prove it DIDNT come from drug proceeds. So much for due process and the presumption of innocence. Oftentimes the cost of taking legal action exceeds the amount of money that was taken, so the victim just gives up. This is what agencies count on. Life is GOOD for law enforcement agencies! The only difference between them and pirates is the absence of an ocean. Highway robbery is back in vogue, literally!
So what to do with all that dough? No government agency ever returns money to the treasury. If they have any left at the end of the budget year they have a shopping spree.
What shall we buy? TOYS!!!
SWAT was the latest fad. Buy SWAT stuff!
Soon agencies all over the country were buying military hardware that had never before been needed or used in civilian law enforcement (this was before Congress passed laws allowing the military to GIVE surplus hardware to the cops).
Questions were raised. SWAT is a legitimate concept, and is needed in cases of barricaded persons, hostage situations, etc. But most agencies, even big ones, go for months and sometimes years without experiencing such events. The toys gathered dust. Officials and concerned taxpayers asked, What do you NEED this stuff for?
No need? CREATE a need!
And thats why things that used to be handled in a low-key, non-confrontational way by street-savvy beat cops now require SWAT intervention, including routine service of warrants for insignificant and non-violent offenses.
Are we better off? You decide.
Where are those stories available?
Thanks for your service, Lt. Thomas. I get the feeling you would not fit in with today’s “breed” of LEO’s who are nothing more than an organized crime gang working for a government entity.
Another reason for decriminalizing drugs.
Nothing like trying to buck the system.
This article explains it better than I could.
We currently live in a county with a terrific sheriff who supports constitutional carry. He recognizes that the citizens are responsible for defending themselves. It seems that the LEOs who want to disarm us are very fearful. It’s sad to know that Serpico-type situations are still going on.
no, another reason for geting rid of swat teams altogether.
I’ve repeated this anecdote several times on Free Republic, and it is always met with skepticism. I am merely relaying the claim of a person I believe to reliable and trustworthy, told to me in a manner that leads me to believe that it is true.
My cousin, who served as a member of the NYPD for twenty years, including stints in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, retiring as a Detective Lieutenant on the Manhattan DA’s homicide squad, claims that in 20 years on the force, he never drew his weapon once.
The refusal of the SWAT team could definitely be construed as an assassination attempt. “A paramilitary law enforcement unit,” should never be considered. When I couldn’t serve a warrant, I sometimes called the house and the wife, mother, girlfriend would answer. I’d ask “Where is Joe?” I dunno. “You tell him we had a welfare/ tax/ insurance check delivered here at the PD and we don’t appreciate getting mail from all over town. If he doesn’t get it the next eight hours, I’ll throw it away.” I was usually booking him within an hour. That is being a Peace Officer. (They aint’ real bright.)
In police-public relations, it is important to look at both sides of the coin. But this is usually done with the police on one side, and people who hate the police on the other side.
However, the vast majority of people *don’t* hate the police, and are often more than willing to help the police, sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly. And the more that police realize this, the more they might be inclined to take advantage of this help to achieve some rather important goals for society.
In particular, I am thinking of the many situations where the police are constrained, but the public is not.
I first learned of this in a situation that was *almost* corrupt, but whose overall ends were worth at least some consideration.
A city had a newly elected liberal government, that was pretty much anti-police, making their ROE impossibly strict, and in the face of a particularly nasty and violent criminal element, risking the lives of the police and the public. However, someone in the PD came up with an effective end-around to the problem.
The city also had an “outlaw” motorcycle gang of some size. And while they involved themselves with some crime and violence, it was never too obnoxious, mostly in-house, and it was never really offensive to the public or the police. They even “arrested well”, when the police were ordered to suppress them some, which they were at intervals.
In any event, the police reached an “entent” with the MC gang, so if they were in a position of conflict with a “protected person”, the cop would “call a biker”, to “resolve” the evil liver, after the cop left.
The technique proved effective at keeping the violent criminal element under control, at the price of the police being less inclined to hassle the bikers over mostly minor things.
I use this as an extreme example, but also to illustrate how the police may get some cooperation from the public.
It is an often used plot device in police dramas, that a particularly nasty, threatening and murderous criminal offender is held at police gunpoint, which is usually resolved by the policeman arresting them, “letting the courts handle it”, instead of the emotionally gratifying execution of “someone who needs killing.”
However, in many cases, the public is not held to this standard. If they feel “at imminent risk” from a vicious criminal, in most states they can act as “judge, jury and executioner”, putting down said criminal without having to carefully follow all the rules set forth by the police.
Now, this being said, the police are often aware of many honest people, who are well armed and willing and likely to defend themselves, their family and property, from violent criminals.
So when the police are constrained from righteously killing some evil fiend, there is nothing preventing them from subtly steering the villain into trespass against an armed and prepared honest citizen willing to dispatch them.
Of course there is no copyright on this idea, and it has likely been done by police for many years, solving many of the worst villains in society.
>When I couldnt serve a warrant, I sometimes called the house and the wife,
> mother, girlfriend would answer. Id ask Where is Joe? I dunno. You tell
>him we had a welfare/ tax/ insurance check delivered here at the PD and
>we dont appreciate getting mail from all over town. If he doesnt get it
>the next eight hours, Ill throw it away. I was usually booking him within
>an hour. That is being a Peace Officer. (They aint real bright.)
You, sir, are a genius! I appreciate that you are genuinely being a true peace officer, thinking of ways not to escalate situations. Cops who I have known who are like you - guys I was friends with since I was a kid - make for a better country. I wish there were thousands more like you!
I thought the same thing. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His superiors could have developed a habit of putting him in unsafe situations and denying backup.
We need more like you sir, seriously. You should consider becoming an instructor at a Police Academy. Based on current state of affairs - they are doing a poor job training officers.
In front of my building there was a row of cops with big plexiglass shields and batons. It seems the Administration was taking precautions against a student riot because of a new government regulation on universities. Fortunately we didn't have a riot.
What was unheard of less than 15 years ago is unfortunately now commonplace here at home.
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