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Buffalo Police and the wrong apartment.

2008-08-18 13:04:19.453259+00 by JT 12 comments

“We wouldn’t be comfortable discussing the internal investigation,” Richards said. “We can say comfortably that over 1,100 search warrants were executed last year and 580 to date this year and that, with such a high volume and such a fast-paced environment, it is understandable that mistakes could happen.”

I wonder if "mistakes could happen" covers clubbing an epileptic man in the head with a shotgun?

Two important things in this story, one... the chief is making statements apparently before an investigation is complete, and two... they give no reasons why this man's arm was dislocated after he was hit in the head with a shotgun. Sometimes making no statement at all is better than making half-statements.

Via Fark, but I prefer the discussions here in all honesty.

[ related topics: Politics Privacy Law Enforcement ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 15:20:55.107347+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

I think I'm gonna surprise you a little here JT, and say that the problem in situations like this lies not in law enforcement, it lies in legislative bodies and in the judiciary. Law enforcement officers are human, they'll make mistakes. As long as we have no-knock warrants, we're going to have citizens thinking that their homes are being invaded by armed thugs, and if the cops going in know in advance that they're as likely to be responded to as though they were the rival drug gang, then they're going to be even more keyed up than if they're just being taken as cops.

Go through a front door with a battering ram and guns drawn, totally keyed up because it's quite likely that those inside the house will be disoriented and shooting back and, yeah, if there's someone acting a little strange, say epileptic or developmentally disabled... well, frankly it's a miracle more people don't get accidentally shot (at a rough estimate, it looks like about 1 in 20 intentional killings in the United States is a police officer in the line of duty Edit: I was wrong, see below).

No-knock warrants are evil, they endanger police officers, and though there are a few situations in which they're legitimate, for the most part they simply lead to this sort of mistake, which further polarizes citizens and police to an "us against them" attitude.

I really liked this XKCD:

Except that I don't think it's quite as simple as "police officers using no-knock warrants are like teachers wearing condoms while teaching", because the officers can't be expected to see the big picture, they're just doing their jobs as best they can with the tools they have available. In fact, given those tools, if they don't use 'em, they're going to get crap from their superiors. The fault here lies in legislatures that give them inappropriate tools (and inappropriate laws), and judges who issue warrants too easily.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 15:32:11.023371+00 by: JT

Well, I've been on a number of no-knock warrants, never with any mistakes thankfully, nor any mistakes in any department I've been a part of. We've picked locks, gone in with battering rams, I've been on perimeter duty and been knocked from a second story balcony in the process. It's dangerous work, however... making partial statements is a wonderful way to destroy public relations, especially if an investigation hasn't been completed.

The only thing I've seen where epileptics deviate from seemingly normal behavior is either during a Grand Mal, Tonic, or Clonic seizure, which wouldn't quite require bumping someone in the head with a shotgun butt, or being absent, which basically would be someone sitting there not doing anything and completely out of touch with reality. I just think by not making a full statement about all circumstances, this police chief is really screwing his public relations.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 15:56:16.71663+00 by: meuon [edit history]

I get tempted to post this near the top of my driveway:

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 16:49:54.354163+00 by: m

I have to take exception to Dan's ratio of 1:20 of intentional killings of police officers in the US vs the general population. In 2005 there were approximately 17000 murders, while the FBI states that 55 police officers were feloniously killed in 2005. This is a ration of 1:310.

I will even go further than Dan in saying that the problem goes beyond the police. Even beyond the judiciary and the legislative branches. There is a world wide Zeitgeist stressing the power of the State, as embodied in the Roman fasces, to control, to punish and to kill. The officer on the street would not taser a boy with a broken back and ankle 19 times, without an atmosphere that provides the tacit approval/demand of his superiors, and the acceptance of society in general.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 16:56:22.332787+00 by: Larry Burton

Well, at least no dogs were killed during the serving of this warrant.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 17:50:46.556703+00 by: Dan Lyke

Whoops, M, I apparently thought there were half the murders in the U.S. that there are (I was thinking about 8,000, probably remembering gun murders, though this says I was low even for that restriction), but this report claims roughly 350-400 justifiable homicides committed by police per year. So, yes, I was wrong, but by "intentional killings" there I also meant done by a police officer, not done to a police officer.

Wait, here are justifiable homicide numbers for 2005, see tables 13 and 14. Yep, we were talking about different things, but I was still off by quite a bit. Still not sure about what those numbers mean, does:

mean "convicted felon", or is the deceased deemed a felon because they were committing a felony even though they weren't convicted?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 18:25:47.883481+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oh, and, Larry, that first one you linked to there's no excuse for, the second one is beyond inexcusable because, so far as I can tell, they were tracking several packages, they knew that it wasn't about the recipients, it was about the delivery chain, and still they served a no-knock on one of the recipients. People's careers should get destroyed over that.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 19:07:35.933256+00 by: m


I have seen statements that not all jurisdictions, not even all states, report the number of justifiable homicides committed by police. I believe this even includes some large states like Florida.

It is difficult to determine the quality of these numbers. Even on different sites can be radically different. Numbers for the same reporting period seem to differ by 15% or more. This may be the result of differing definitions, or just blunder. But I found these type of problems when I was doing epidemiology too.

I know of no where to find the number of civilians killed when there is no justification. Such a number would make for an comparison with the number of officers murdered.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-18 20:01:53.014648+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, did you notice that it was the same police department involved in both incidents?

I have grave concerns over how this stuff can happen. I shouldn't ever have to worry about the lives of my family and pets coming to an end at the hands of my government if I'm following the rules and sitting in my own home.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-19 13:28:38.457104+00 by: JT

Deceased people can still be tried and convicted. During an incident when I was on the sniper team at a police department we had to take someone down. After they were deceased, there was still an automatic investigation, a trial, and a conviction. It seemed like a waste of time and money at the time, but in order to keep everyone cleared who was involved, the trial was a necessary part of the investigation into the officers who were found to be operating within procedures.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-19 13:43:36.159326+00 by: Dan Lyke

JT, that makes sense. Was it a jury trial? I'd think that'd be a fascinating one to sit on...

#Comment Re: made: 2008-08-19 15:38:50.109119+00 by: JT

If I remember correctly, I had to sit before the grand jury on it, so it wasn't a full trial as if the person was still alive, however it was still a "jury" trial.