Please Protect Us From Our Protectors

Unanimity scares me.  Matters that are agreed upon without dissent usually reflect (a) populist passion, (b) a lack of thoughtfulness, or (c) the blindingly obvious.  The state Senate recently passed a bill 43-0, and I’m glad to see it’s in category (c).   It’s pretty unusual, to say the least, to have a bill co-sponsored by Senators Alex Mooney and Jamie Raskin.

The bill requires any “law enforcement agency that maintains a SWAT team” (how many are there, for crying out loud?!) to report on activation and deployment of those teams to the Governor’s Office on Crime Control.   The reports are to include information on the number of arrests made, type of property seized, whether forcible entry was made, whether a SWAT team officer discharged a weapon, and whether a person or domestic animal was injured or killed in the raid.  That office, in turn, is to produce an annual analysis and summary of the use of SWAT teams in the state.

This, of course, is in response to the mistaken raid on the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo last year.    As he described it,

“My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs.  They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don’t think they really ever considered that we weren’t.”
Calvo described a chaotic scene, in which he — wearing only underwear and socks — and his mother-in-law were handcuffed and interrogated for hours. They were surrounded by the dogs’ carcasses and pools of the dogs’ blood, Calvo said.

The raid, it turns out, was entirely a mistake.  I suppose it takes a politician or other celebrity to be victimized before action is taken.  In defense of the SWAT team, Sgt. Ellis of the Sheriff’s office countered,  “We’re not in the habit of going to homes and shooting peoples’ dogs,” Ellis said. “If we were, there would be a lot more dead dogs around the county.”

These kind of paramilitary raids are growing throughout the country, and they represent a fundamental attitude of “We’re the government, and you don’t matter.”   Here’s a link to a local movement to address the problem at Make Maryland Great.

And here’s a map to the website of Radley Balko at the Cato Institute, who documents the horrors nationwide.  This bill is a good start, but only a start.  The police need to be brought under control, with firm regulation– before more people (and pets) are needlessly killed.

Explore posts in the same categories: Civil Liberties, Police State

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