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.
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