No-knock raid victimizes mayor, kills dogs

Another no-knock raid on a residence has wound up backfiring on police, and this one won’t go away quietly. A Maryland mayor wants a federal investigation after police burst into his home unannounced and shot and killed both of his dogs after what looks like a drug-bust setup gone very, very wrong:

Prince George’s County authorities did not have a “no-knock” warrant when they burst into the home of a mayor July 29, shooting and killing his two dogs — contrary to what police said after the incident.

Judges in Maryland can grant police the right to enter a building and serve a search warrant without knocking if the judge finds there is reasonable suspicion to think evidence might be destroyed or the officers’ safety might be endangered in announcing themselves.

A Prince George’s police spokesman said last week that a Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers were operating under such a warrant when they broke down the door of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, shooting and killing his black Labrador retrievers.

But a review of the warrant indicates that police neither sought nor received permission from Circuit Court Judge Albert W. Northrup to enter without knocking. Northrup found probable cause to suspect that drugs might be in the house and granted police a standard search warrant.

And to listen to Calvo’s version of the story, the probable cause for the normal warrant seems very suspect. Calvo came home after walking his dogs to find a package on his stoop addressed to his wife. He picked it up and left it on the table — and that’s when all hell broke loose in Prince County.

Who left that package on the porch?  Police now think it may have been left as a dead-drop for another courier in the drug trade, but that doesn’t make much sense.  If it was addressed to the occupant, it would have been opened before a dead-drop retrieval could be made. Presumably, that’s why the police raided the Calvo house.

However, why did this require a no-knock raid?  Did someone think the mayor would have guns at the ready to use against police?  If so, why not detain him at the door when he returned; why wait for him to go inside where he could get his alleged weapons?  And why, for Pete’s sake, did a SWAT team have to handle a marijuana bust?

Calvo wants answers, and as mayor, he’s in a position to get them.  The entire nation should be wondering about the judgment used in performing no-knock raids all across the US for marijuana busts, which killed a woman in Atlanta earlier this year and the mayor’s two dogs this time.  No-knock raids should be rare and limited to cases where an extreme danger exists for the police in capturing dangerous suspects.  Otherwise, the Fourth Amendment is meaningless. (via TMV)

Update: See-Dubya says in the comments that no-knocks are necessary in certain cases to keep people from destroying evidence.  That is exactly why I say these make the Fourth Amendment meaningless.  Any time the police need to conduct a search, the possibility exists that people will try to get rid of the evidence first.  If police use that excuse, it creates a lot more opportunities for no-knock raids — along with opportunities for fatal mistakes.

The difference in time between raiding a house and knocking on the door and presenting a search warrant is minutes at best.  The police could turn the water off to the house to keep the residents from flushing toilets more than once and accomplish the same thing without a violent, unannounced entry into a house.  Only when a clear and present danger to the safety of the officers exists should they be allowed to smash their way into a residence or business without identifying themselves.

Great debate in the comments — be sure to read all the way through it.

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