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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No-knock warrants are troubling

    National militarization, violent uprisings and innocents harmed all sound like the problems of a faraway land like Egypt or Burma. But the reality is that these are increasingly apparent realities in the United States.

    In the past decade, U.S. police forces have become more similar to the nation’s military in terms of weapons and strength. With Department of Defense programs allowing state police forces to acquire the excess military equipment that the military doesn’t want anymore, a quiet but marked increase in the distribution of rifles, tanks and grenade launchers among our nation’s police officers has occurred. Special Weapons and Tactics forces are able to combine these new weapons with no-knock warrants, resulting in a particularly terrifying form of police violence.

    A no-knock warrant gives a police officer the legal right to break into a private home fully armed without announcing their presence. According to a variety of sources, including the Arizona Daily Star, CNN and The New York Times, no-knock warrants have become common in part due to the rise of the war on drugs.

    However it happened, it is now possible for a SWAT team to break into your home at any hour it pleases, with absolutely no warning, and point a gun at you — so long as officers believe you have drugs.

    It’s the middle of the night, and someone just burst through the door. In the initial panic, a resident can easily reach for their household gun, and the SWAT team could respond to the threat with deadly force.

    Did the gun owner recognize the threat as a SWAT officer at 3 a.m., or did he think he was responding to a criminal threat? Who knows. He’s dead now.

    The Washington Post reported on a story out of Killeen, Texas, earlier this year, when a no-knock raid led to the death of police detective Charles Dinwiddie. At 5:30 a.m. on May 9, a SWAT team raid on the house of a suspected drug dealer went horribly wrong, resulting in two officer injuries and two hospitalizations. One of those was Dinwiddie, who died at 2 p.m. the following afternoon.
    After further investigation, “drug paraphernalia, a safe, a grinder, a laptop computer, two walkie-talkies, a 9-mm pistol and three cellphones” were found — but no drugs of any kind.
    The use of this no-knock warrant cost an officer his life.

    Also in May, a Georgia SWAT team was tipped off by an informant who claimed to have recently purchased methamphetamine from a house in Cornelia, Ga. With no additional evidence that the home owner was a drug dealer rather than merely a drug user, a team of seven officers was dispatched to the home around 3 a.m. on May 28. When they were unable to bust down the door due to a blockage of some kind, they threw a flash-bang grenade inside.

    The door was being blocked by a baby playpen, and the grenade landed next to a sleeping 1-year-old. The suspect wasn’t even in the house at the time. The child was critically injured and placed in a medically-induced coma.

    This heart-wrenching example will not be the last.

    According to the Arizona Daily Star, there were 202 SWAT deployments in Tucson with issued warrants from 2001 to 2004. Only three of those warrants were no-knock warrants. From 2012 to 2013, the ratio was 104 regular warrants to 77 no-knocks.

    With this increase in frequency, accidents will continue to happen.

    People have a right to feel safe in their home no matter who they are. Even drug dealers reside in homes where innocent family members or visitors may be present. SWAT intelligence can’t always foresee all relevant factors.

    No-knock warrants, when combined with the new military power placed in the hands of SWAT officers, creates situations where anything can happen. This tactic of breaking in unannounced, bearing assault rifles and grenades, is unethical and unsafe. And in the broader scheme of things, it does nothing to make our communities safer from drugs or crime.
    _______________

    Ashleigh Horowitz is a creative writing freshman. Follow her @elhixsagh

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