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What kinds of police raids should we tolerate?

| Aug 21, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Another high-profile case of mistaken identity recently played out in Nashville. Police officers, acting on bad information, raided a family home at 6:05 a.m. They apparently knocked but gave the family no time to answer before knocking their door down with a ram.

Can you imagine the terror of waking from a deep sleep to hear your door knocked in by a battering ram? Surely such tactics are reserved for only the most urgent, serious cases, right?

Apparently not. In this case, the police were looking for a 16-year-old boy they thought might have evidence related to auto burglaries. This was not especially urgent. There was no need to serve a warrant at such an early time or to knock down the door of the residence.

Almost as troubling, the police relied on a Nashville public housing agency database to locate the boy they were looking for. This was apparently illegal; the public housing agency had determined that sharing housing information with the police violated privacy laws.

It was also inaccurate. No one had updated the database since 2018. Furthermore, the officers took no additional steps to ensure they were at the right address. They did not surveil the residence or check with any human source.

“No innocent family in Nashville, anywhere, should be subjected to what the mother and her two children went through on Tuesday morning,” the Metro Nashville police said in a news release. “We have to be better than that, and I absolutely assure you, we will be moving forward.”

Is this the kind of policing we want?

This police raid comes just months after the “no knock” warrant that was used by Louisville, Kentucky, police to enter the home of Breonna Taylor. That, too, appears to have been a case of mistaken identity.

It was also another case where highly invasive tactics were used when there was no good reason. Traditionally, police have been expected to serve search warrants during normal business hours and without any undue heavy-handedness unless there is an urgent need or some crisis involved.

The officers who killed Breonna Taylor were looking for narcotics. They didn’t find any.

In Nashville, three officers have lost their police powers over the incident.

As we all try to reckon with police brutality and racism, it is crucial for us to decide what kind of police forces we want to support. Should they be battering down doors at the crack of daylight? Should they be serving no-knock warrants at night?

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