Skip to comments.UPDATE: SWAT raid prompts Columbia police review of policies
Posted on 05/06/2010 9:01:22 PM PDT by The Magical Mischief Tour
When Columbia Police SWAT officers kicked in Jonathan Whitworth's door, they didn't find what they were looking for but drew a worldwide audience.
Acting on an 8-day-old warrant on Feb. 11, at least eight officers raided Whitworth's home at 1501 Kinloch Court in southwest Columbia on the suspicion that he was dealing a significant amount of marijuana. But there were no drugs. The tip on Whitworth came from an informant who the police chief said apparently wasn't consulted before the raid was carried out.
Another problem: During the raid, officers fatally shot Whitworth's pit bull and wounded a Welsh corgi before arresting Whitworth, whose wife and 7-year-old were also home.
Now, as the department nears the end of its internal investigation of the matter, it is facing widening ripples of consequences of a story that has gone viral. A video of the raid had received almost 295,000 views on YouTube as of 8 p.m. Thursday as Whitworth's attorney said his client was contemplating legal action against the department.
"We're reviewing everything right now, and we're keeping every possibility open," Jeff Hilbrenner said. He said Whitworth had not yet filed a formal complaint with the Police Department, and Whitworth's family had been put in an awkward position.
"They know that its come to the attention of people all over America," Hilbrenner said. "Theyve been contacted by people they dont know offering support from all over the country. They dont want that to be how theyre known. They would prefer to go on living their life as a young couple with a young son."
The attention has been much grimmer for the Police Department. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Ken Burton held a news conference with Mayor Bob McDavid at Columbia City Hall to combat what he repeatedly called the Internet's mixing of "fact with fiction."
"We're getting death threats from literally all over the world," Burton said, declining to release the names of the officers involved.
Burton sought to put an end to rumors that the pit bull was in a cage when the officers shot it. He also said the corgi had been shot in the paw by accident because it was next to the pit bull when the larger dog attacked the officers coming in the front door. The pit bull ran away and again threatened officers, who shot it, Burton said.
In the video, "you hear that dog (the corgi) screaming, and that isn't pleasant to listen to," Burton said.
As for Whitworth who pleaded guilty on April 20 to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of drug paraphernalia and was fined $300 Burton said a federal drug conviction and a history of combative arrests prompted the use of heavy police force. Burton regretted the department waited so long to execute the warrant.
"I dont think we should have run it eight days later," Burton said. "We should have run it that day. We simply didnt do it. So we own that, and were very sorry it turned out the way it did. None of those officers wanted to hurt that dog or any dog, as a matter of fact but it was an unfortunate situation.
As McDavid stood next to him, Burton said he had changed department policy to conduct raids immediately after a search warrant is obtained. Burton said the department moved slowly in Whitworth's case because the SWAT team is made up of part-time members who hold other jobs within the department.
But he said the SWAT team had no policy on how to deal with dogs.
When asked whether police would have conducted the raid if they knew Whitworth's son was present, Burton was equivocal. "I would have looked at the situation and the circumstances that day," he said.
Burton said he expected an internal review of the matter to be finished as soon as Monday. There were notes of ambivalence in a chief who largely stood by his officers.
"Frankly, we wouldnt be standing here if an officer had been bit by a pit bull instead of the reverse happening," Burton said.
He added, We probably could have been involved in a shooting in there with a person and not been given this much attention, but because it was a dog ...
Lt. Scott Young, who is in charge of the department's SWAT team, said he couldn't comment specifically on the incident because of the ongoing investigation. As for the department's policy on handling dogs, he said. "If they're aggressive and violent towards our officers, we'll shoot 'em," though he said it was "rare."
What about using a Taser?
"Its just not as effective on dogs as it is on humans," Scott said. "An aggressive dog is a very tough animal. ... The dog certainly suffers no aftereffects (from the electric shock). As soon as the five seconds is up, theyre right back at it."
The video, depicting a paramilitary-style police raid on a suspected marijuana dealer, highlighted a separate issue. In 2004, the city voted to pass an ordinance that stated: "The limited resources of law enforcement should be directed primarily toward crimes of violence or property loss. The enforcement of laws against marijuana shall be among the lower priorities of law enforcement."
But Scott said the ordinance was intended for misdemeanor levels of possession. "We do not do search warrants based on information that theres a small amount of marijuana there," he said.
Heavily armed raids are conducted on drug dealers because of a "high frequency of violent offenders and high-frequency of weapons involved," Scott said. Still, most of those go off well.
"Weve had years where weve done over 100 (raids) a year, and the vast vast bulk of them are without incident, with no violence, no resistance, no problems," Scott said. "Were always reviewing our tactics and methods to make sure were safer for everybody."
As for the video, during Thursday's news conference, Burton said cameras on SWAT officers already common for downtown patrol units were still in the experimental phase. Scott embraced the idea.
"We video all of them that we can," Scott said. "If a person were to be resistant towards us, it would be good to have that on video. Video gets us out of a lot more complaints and accusations than they get us into."
This crack tema of idiots slaughtered a pit bull WHO WAS IN A CAGE and a Corgi...
Its just more proof that the police in this country are absolutely terrified to do their job a job they all volunteered for I might add...
So they respond by going into every single situation guns blazing, recklessly endangering far more lives than the criminals they claim to protect us from.
All int he name of rescuing a bag of dope!
Kicking someone's door in and pointing a machine gun in their face isn't violent? I suppose, then, that the way "violent crimes" are reported, there must be some errors.
It is likely that these guys may train only once a year. They are not professional SWAT, only part timers. They should not be doing warrants; only emergency reaction and VIP protection.
If these clowns only train once a year then they do not need to be on a SWAT Team. Come to think of it if the team only trains once a year, you do not need a SWAT Team period!
As for the department's policy on handling dogs, he said. "If they're aggressive and violent towards our officers, we'll shoot 'em," though he said it was "rare."
Oops...chief's gonna regret those statements. A thousand sources, people, policies and data, to prove him wrong...lying...or just incompetent, IMHO
Yep! Some litigator is chomping at the bit to get his or her teeth into this case!
It would seem that our police are no longer police, but have evolved into legally armed militia.
Legally armed militia?
Naaah... try a state controlled Stasi.
Well, it’s not so much the case, itself [I do find it strange that this is a NIGHT TIME raid.....unlawful in my state without exegent circumstances..and authorized by a magistrate or judge....and usually ‘no-knock’];
but, rather, the fact that dogs are a prominent subject in all SWAT training, and that any dog loose in the domicile usually ‘gets it’...as a matter of policy: that is, that any loose dog, that is a threat, is, reasonably, a ‘go’ target, for safety reasons. And virtually all dogs, in that situation, are.
I personally don’t know of any SWAT raid in which a loose dog was not whacked. And it was usually the team leader who was first-in, and did the deed. I know my department’s team leader very well. He is a great, compassionate, reasonable war-hero of a guy. It was and remains a long-running inside joke.....’needles’ directed at the team: “Get the dog?” Haha. Routine thing. And often necessary for officer survival.
But the chief just bollixed things up for himself and his team leader, I think. Just tell the trufe, chief!!
btw...most of the dogs were pits, dobies, and rotties....specifically in the places to alert on and harry cops during a feared raid. Time buying apparatus....and just a hoot, if one can get a bite on a copper.
You sure about the cage?
“Oops...chief’s gonna regret those statements.
Yep! Some litigator is chomping at the bit to get his or her teeth into this case!”
I think we really need some court decisions here that put the people who live in cities with (butt) crack teams like this into indebted servitude to the victors in a lawsuit for years. Hitting people in the wallet is brutal, but sometimes it’s the only (legal) way to get a point across.
As a uniform guy, I'd often be used by my vice unit to knock at the door; it wasn't a raid if a guy in uniform was knocking! :^) The BG’s opened the door, and all hell would pour into the place. Arf. Good, safe, advantage-buying tactic.
I also used to photograph, document, and collect evidence at SWAT and vice raids. And I spent many years answering calls to service. I never shot a dog...but came close several times, but I had an option that SWAT, and others serving warrants, didn't have: I could reasonably retreat...and threaten to shoot the owner. [kidding]. Scare the shiite outta ya. I hate collies. Some dogs that my colleagues whacked were legend. A collective cheer would go up in the station when the news of demise came. If these canine thugs weren't trying to get a piece of a cop today, they'd be tearing the face off the 3-year-old kid of the human alpha male in the house tomorrow. Dogs are dangerous, unpredictable weapons. I claim no foul for the SWAT guys in the vid.
“The family is claiming the dog was in a cage and the cage has bullet holes in it.”
The officer may not have descried a thinly wired cage in poor light.
The officer may have been looking through the cage at the threat: revert to training...I’m sure cages were not discussed. threat-nutralization is the thing.
No guarantee the cage was locked.
I give a preliminary pass.
If a (I assume) body-armored SWAT team member is fearful of a Corgi, may I suggest that he is in the wrong line of work; clearly, there is something wrong with the vetting process.
Police are given a great deal of power; but with that power comes responsibility, and I am not seeing any consequence of abusing that power and shirking that responsibility. This needs to be corrected, and this is what the courts and punishing, crippling lawsuits are supposed to be for.
The officer may not have descried a thinly wired cage in poor light. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I would imagine it's hard to put holes in a thinly wired cage...
I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin....
My department's SWAT team was excellently commanded, and populated with genuine good guys. Mostly inactive Marines and Army. Hardly ‘butt crack’. Some were decorated vets...including my personal hero, the commanding sergeant. I was invited to join...I was an excellent rifleman; but being the sniper was a duty that would have been fun in the training, and hell in actual practice: better left to someone better than I.
100 search and arrest warrants a year is about what the top ten cities in any given state, by any particular unit, might be surmised to perform. And we're ‘damned’ both ways. Major badness gets nipped...but every once in a while, things just go boink. But these guys do a lot more good than harm. Only thing that gets heads is “Man Shoots Dog”. Not much press for the thousands of officers injured in the line by ‘Fido’ [”He was such a quiet dog”]
Lighten up. Think! BTW...I do recall several 'Dog Shoots Man" headlines in the last year. But that's not where I was going, xactly.... :^)
It could be that wire was displaced by the bullet. Just sayin’!
“If these clowns only train once a year then they do not need to be on a SWAT Team. Come to think of it if the team only trains once a year, you do not need a SWAT Team period!”
I believe SWAT training among county and city departments is generally a weekend [two days] a month. Or should be, at a minimum.
In that case, I’d say the shooter is going to have a problem about shootin a caged mutt, as the initial report said doggy attacked.
Well, I have a stupid question: what ever happened to surrounding a house, and cop on a bullhorn saying “We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up?”. This seemed to work fairly well FOR ABOUT 70 YEARS, and was safer and less costly for everyone involved. I thought that SWAT teams were designed for life-and-death situations (armed kidnappings, hostage situations, and so on). Not potheads.
Take away the dope, and ya got a lot of cops standing around, looking for something to do...
Lots of people make a good living off dope.
bingo. thats why its still illegal.
Burton said a federal drug conviction and a history of combative arrests prompted the use of heavy police force.
“What ever happened to surrounding a house, and cop on a bullhorn saying We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up?
Sounds like a good model of a hostage situation, that way.
Information likely included presence of woman and child in the home.
And raids like this have been done for...jeez...how many years since King ‘enry o’ Britain??
I think that whatever happened was that TV and movies have changed their preferred lenses!
The idea is to use surprise & overwhelming force to avoid nastiness that can develop when the subjects of a warrant have a little time to cogitate upon whatever evil with which they may be so inclined to respond.
I watched the video and they did knock and say Police come out and waited about 5 seconds before kicking in the door and executing the dog.
Now 2 things come to mind here, first I now know NOT to even attempt to try to open the door EVEN if I knew the cops were real (it being night, how could you know?). And second, what do they expect? They are the ones busting into someone’s property and dogs are normally going to protect an invasion.
Quite frankly, this shit needs to stop. They deliberately wait to wee hours of the morning and then bust in on triffling warrants like some kind of goon squad killing in their path. One day, they are going to hit the wrong place and cops are going to die, and by wrong place, I mean a lawful armed citizen is going to shoot invaders in black with no insigna that come busting down their doors.
And also why there exist such things as SWAT teams.
Well the system isn’t working. Too many innocent people are dieing NOT including dogs.
Cops are out of control!
Cops are out of control!”
I must respectfully disagree. I think you are responding as Pavlovian pigeon responds to the bell: the MSM/liberal/socialista drumbeat is trying to discredit, destroy, disable and deconstruct pillars of social order...and police establishments have always been high on their list....for obvious reasons, if you know anything about communists.
I want you to imagine where you live. Then I want you to think about every bordering municipality or town, Expand your view outward and outward. Consider the numbers: crimes up; courts throwing bad guys out onto the streets pending slow trials: the numbers of raids on larger numbers of bad guys.....and the fact that there aren't more whacked-out travesties of justice may strike you. There is an extraordinary effort...with some exceptions, in some ‘rogue’ organizations....to ensure zero errors in the service of warrants. The courts are a check on the police...the magistrates and judges having to sign-off on the papers after hearing testimony and reading reports of the investigators. The Fed and state police are the checks on the ‘rogue’ orgs.
If anything is out of control, it's criminals, aided in their mayhemical ways by liberal judges....courts swamped by illegals, facing deportation...maybe...only when their trial is ended. Takes a year or more....during which time they commit more crime. “Anchor Felonies and Misdemeanors’ Institutionalized poverty and ignorance and disrespect for freakin’ civilization itself among the government-created underclass...jeez.
Cops and organizations are like a box o’ chocolates. But it's a very small number of bad ones. You always hear about them. A million cops will do a million positive things, big and small, every day. Crickets.
Listen, I'm a God-fearin’, homeschoolin’ historically grounded son of the Declaration and the Constitution. I'm retired LEO with 21 years...and may be going back. You need the cops...and what they do...to keep this whole enterprise rolling along.
If you got beefs, take it up with the legislatures. Good luck. We certainly have little. We keep lockin’ ‘em up; and the lawyers, legislators and judges like the ones folks hope sue and punish the bejesus out of the subject org and officers in the story, are undoing a significant portion of all the effort made by good men and women to keep peace in the hoods.
It's just not as bad as you think. Resist being a tool of the deconstructionist left!!
“They deliberately wait to wee hours of the morning and then bust in on triffling warrants like some kind of goon squad killing in their path.”
Wee hours save lives. And, yeah, it’s real deliberate.
Fixed it for you.
I don’t trust cops anymore and people like you are why. Cops ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS protect their own, no matter how wrong they are.
Therefore, they cannot be trusted. Time and again, cops are running rampantly destroying liberties and you guys sit around and defend this trash. Well bug off, I ain’t buying.
And what, exactly, is your personal experience with a cop who violated your lawful liberties? We are on the same side...or should be.
‘I dont trust citizens anymore and people like you are why. Citizens ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS protect their own, no matter how wrong they are.
Therefore, they cannot be trusted. Time and again, citizens are running rampantly destroying and stealing life and property, and you guys sit around and defend this trash. Well bug off, I aint buying.’
I hope the above version sounds as nutty to you as yours does to me.
“And what, exactly, is your personal experience with a cop who violated your lawful liberties?”
It’s about accountability. When a public body messes up, it must be accountable to the public through the ballot box. The unaccountable bureaucracy is one of the primary tools of a dictatorship.
Police are an armed bureaucracy not accountable to the people. A police chief cannot be voted out of office. That’s why I’m a strong backer of the elected sheriff. An elected sheriff can be petitioned by the people and voted out of office if need be. An unaccountable police chief can’t be voted out. Unaccountability can too often lead to mounting corruption.
An elected sheriff is the proper and necessary form of police power for a free people.
The sheriff in my county is a constitutionalist and a strong backer of the 2nd. He sends his deputies out on stake-outs and nabs bad guys. He doesn’t have a ninja-turtle swat team that busts down doors at O dark-thirty in the morning. He’s also good at nabbing crooked embezzlers in government through detective work by his crack accounting team. We bought him a WWII landing craft should the bridge to the peninsula fall down and citizens are cut off from the mainland.
He’s a good guy.
Can you cite any single incident where a dog killed a cop in SWAT raid?
Combative arrest? What does that mean? Does the Chief mean this guy was arrested for violence? Ya know that could mean he simply pulled his arm away after being grabbed by a LEO...
In court they'll be forced to reveal if this guy had a violent criminal history. It'll be interesting to see where this goes from here...I'll follow it...
I'll be honest with ya.
This video has now been seen by nearly 425,000 people on the Internet...If the LEOs continue with this type of violent military tactics, for relatively minor, non-violent crime, they're going to have big problems in the future.
Bet the rent.
But any department is susceptible to corruption or negligent administration: the rot starts at the top. No argument from me.
“Can you cite any single incident where a dog killed a cop in SWAT raid?”
Nope. The cops have superior tools, and use them under the circumstances discussed. Testimony to the effectiveness of the tactic. Sad; but most often, necessary.
Y’know, if these types of raids were stopped, the consequences would be dire. The form is a rational response to the circumstances. And remember, NASA has lost two shuttles...and an Apollo crew, in a “Zero Error” environment. Stuff happens. 30,000 people die every year in MV wrecks. Stop driving, sir?? You might kill someone! [Be rational!]
A dynamic raid for minor offense is just wrong. I never heard of such a thing. However, arrest warrants for misdemeanorin’ hombres who default court, and have a violent history, are sometimes approached that way. Sometimes the judges get pissed that cops don't actively pursue defaulters. [Stop letting them out on the streets pending their forever trials, sirs’, says I]
The bumps come when info is bad, or addresses are wrong, etc.
Great care is taken. No cop wants to get involved in a cluster that can send him to jail or cost him all he has.
But sometimes stuff goes wrong. One must weigh the bad and good...reasonably...to determine prudence of such measures. That has been done...and judicial and legislative check are such that, if things are as bad as made out to be by the YouTube activists, the practice would be curtailed; but the data and real-life experience of learned men deny the purported crisis view.
Is it against the law to bar your door so it cannot be broken down? What do they do if they can’t get in?
I'm now a constable, and I have arrest powers in my state. Would that it devolved upon me the effect his arrest, you can bet I'd be bashing the door at 4am...and I'd shoot the freakin’ dog, too. He has nuthin’ to lose. And I won't be poked with his knife or bullet while distracted... wrestling with his animal.
Attitude? You betcha! Survival. I wanna see another day. And I don't wanna kill nobody...legit or otherwise, either.
A window into my mind that might illuminate the discussion.
“What do they do if they cant get in?”
Yep, and the video substantiated there were no guns, basically no dope, no violence from the suspect, yet pets were shot, and a 7 year old boy was present while shots were being fired by the LEOs within the home...
This event clearly depicted this military style raid was not only unreasonable, but extremely very unsafe for the innocent's in the home and neighbors adjacent to this property.
This is the type of raid you'd expect when searching for murder suspects or terrorist.
I agree. But the fault does not lie with the SWAT Team. They went by the book, I think. [except, maybe, ‘in the night-time’...they knocked!???? But states differ in requirements, maybe???]
The trouble is with the informant, information, delay, and vetting of circumstances: the judge signed a fresh warrant; the police administration fumbled. There is legal culpability there, I believe. Information has to be fresh; no unnecessary delay is allowed...exactly to avoid circumstances like this.
That is, the SWAT team performs a certain way. They are a tool, and respond in that fashion upon orders and direction of police administration. The errors occurred at desks...by those authorized to deploy that tool.