We all hear about "police brutality" and other similar incidents.
Then there are incidents that aren't so clear.
DETROIT - Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was asleep on the living room sofa in her family's apartment when Detroit police searching for a homicide suspect burst in and an officer's gun went off, fatally striking the girl in the neck, family members say.
Her father, 25-year-old Charles Jones, told The Detroit News he had just gone to bed early Sunday after covering his daughter with her favorite Disney princess blanket when he heard a flash grenade followed by a gunshot. When he rushed into the living room, he said, police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter's blood.
This isn't a case where the cops barged into the wrong house: The suspect they were looking for, who was wanted for murder, was in the house and was arrested - on a lawful warrant drawn for the property they entered.
"This is any parent's worst nightmare. It also is any police officer's worst nightmare," Godbee said.
Then perhaps you might consider your tactics in serving such warrants.
Let's remember that while a suspected murderer that was being sought, the key word here is suspected. Until tried and a judgment is entered of "guilty", he's a suspect, not a convicted murderer.
Needless to say someone suspected of murdering another is presumed dangerous. But from reports it was obvious there were children in the house (there were toys in the front yard), the raid happened at 12:30 in the morning, and a "stun grenade" or "flash-bang" device (basically a big firecracker) was tossed in a window first.
One word comes to mind: Why?
What sort of insane definition of "police work" leads a department to do this? Isn't this pretty much like David Koresh?
Remember, at Waco, rather than waiting for Koresh to leave the compound and arresting him in town or in his car (which would have almost certainly been a peaceful arrest), they instead stormed the compound at Waco and many people, including innocent children who had no connection to the crimes alleged, died.
In this case instead of performing police work (that is, staking out the property and arresting the suspect when he attempted to leave - as he eventually almost certainly would - without incident) the cops decided to use their "flashy SWAT tools" and storm the house, despite apparent obvious and clear knowledge, just as at Waco, that there were known-innocent persons inside.
The militarization of "police response" at times and during events when it is unnecessary and excessive is a dangerous step, and not only for the obvious reason that there is now a dead girl who did nothing wrong.
No, the more serious problem comes if and when order degenerates generally in society.
Logical and reasonable police forces and officers, of which they are many, will find themselves allied with the citizens of the area against the gang-bangers and common thugs who would otherwise seek to play "Zombieland" in our nation's cities and towns.
But in places where the gendarme has chosen to play "Big Balls" instead of acting with logic and reason they will find that the citizens will defend only themselves and not the institutions and officers of law and order.
And let's be clear, simply on the numbers: There are more bad guys than there are cops; only the general trappings of polite society keep them from deciding to go on human hunting expeditions with seriously-destabilizing results for the public at large.
If you doubt this then read some news, such as the LA task force that has had apparent gang-bangers try to blow up their offices by diverting a gas line! To say that the trappings of "polite society" are getting stretched a bit thin these days is not an overblown conclusion.
"No-knock" warrants are almost always abusive. If you know the person you want is inside, there's no reason to go in with guns blazing or in a military-style raid - unless you intend to kill. Does it matter if you catch the person you're after right this instant or the next morning when they step out for a pack of smokes - or some food?
There is no difference if your primary intent is to arrest and displaying your flashy hardware and tactics as a device to intimidate the population is not part of your agenda.
Are there instances where a raid as occurred in this case is justified? I can come up with a few. An active hostage situation where the assailant has demonstrated the will to kill hostages is one.
But a duplex where the sought person is believed (by, as it is alleged, observation of a vehicle registered to him) to be inside along with persons known to be uninvolved and innocent, such as the girl who is now dead, is not one of those circumstances until and unless said suspect barricades himself and threatens in some form to injure or kill the family, which obviously was not the case here.
The test should not be "can we get this guy if we storm the place" - it should be if we don't storm the place is someone likely to be injured or worse as a consequence of doing police work and arresting the suspect when he emerges, since by definition the use of these tactics has a high probability of injuring or killing someone innocent of any wrongdoing.
If I engage in conduct that has a high probability of killing an innocent person, I do so on purpose, and an innocent person dies, I face a near-certainty of being charged with some form of manslaughter - as I should.
Justice in this case cannot simply extend to the officer whose weapon went off via a negligent discharge or some sort of "I'm sorry." (As an aside there is no such thing as an "accidental discharge"; an unintended discharge of a firearm happens due to negligence, not accident.) Rather, it must extend to the preference of manslaughter charges against everyone involved in the planning and execution of this raid, without exception, up to and including those in the department who authorized this "show of force."
Trust and partnership between law enforcement and law-abiding citizens has, in many cases, become something that law enforcement no longer values.
Sadly, by the time law enforcement in these areas recognize the foolishness of their militaristic approach to serving warrants and enforcing the law it will be too late for them to change their mind and rebuild the trust that they will need.
If you live in such an area and cannot change your law enforcement agency's approach to the community via peaceful means you must leave now for a village, town or area where law enforcement recognizes the essential marriage between public policy and law enforcement. Such areas, if and when the gang bangers decide to try to serve "Zombieland" upon your area, will find both you and law enforcement standing shoulder-to-shoulder in your effort to resist - and you will be successful in doing so.
Cities like Detroit, on the other hand, will most likely literally burn to the ground.
Your choice to stay or go may, in the not-so-distant future, turn into the difference between life and death.