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Friday, August 08, 2008

The Police State: FBI Investigates

CNN tells us that the FBI, at the request of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife Trinity Tomsic, will be monitoring an investigation into the recent "no-knock" raid in which the Prince George's County Sherriff's SWAT team kicked in the front door of the mayor’s home and shot and killed his two black Labrador retrievers. The investigation will be conducted by the Prince George's County police. Which is rather like asking the fox to take charge of the henhouse, but hey. The spokesweasel for the FBI is one Richard Wolf, in an ironic example of Interesting Names Connected With Strange Cases. The Prince George's County police chief is — Melvin High. The county sherriff? Michael Jackson.

Mayor Cheye Calvo formally requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate his case and other similar cases in Prince George’s County. To date, the Prince George's County police and the County Sherriff have failed to produce a warrant consistent with their claims. While Maryland judges are empowered to grant no-knock warrants, the warrant issued by Circuit Court Judge Albert W. Northrup was a standard search warrant.

However, when Mayor Calvo requested the SWAT team to show him their warrant, they refused to do so. That should be a punishable crime, since the Constitution specifically requires that government employees who enter a private citizen's home have (and, presumably, show upon request) a warrant that states specifically the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Fourth Amendment is all but dead, the citizenry having traded it away for the mess of pottage that allows such criminal actions by government servants acting under colour of authority. Chances are, however, that the only "punishment" meted out to the police will be exclusion of evidence obtained by illegal search and seizure.

Subsequently, Prince George’s authorities claimed to have a “no knock” warrant, but failed to produce it when requested. The warrant that they finally did produce indicates that they never asked for, nor received, a no-knock warrant.

The fact is, the officers knew that they were behaving illegally. A detective signed a sworn statement to the presiding judge that he had provided Calvo a copy of the warrant at the time of the raid, as required by law. Why lie unless you are doing wrong?

The Washington Post weighs in:
The warrant issue will probably only heighten anger in the community over the incident. Even when a search warrant has been issued, courts have held that police must generally knock to announce their presence, preserve the privacy of a homeowner and let occupants know they are not experiencing an illegal home invasion.

"It's a traditional constitutional protection, going back forever," said defense attorney Richard A. Finci, who is not involved with the Calvo case.

Police officers are sometimes allowed to search without knocking, even without getting authority in advance, but courts have ruled they can do so only if there are specific circumstances at the time of the search that lead officers to conclude evidence might be destroyed or law enforcement could be endangered, said lawyer William C. Brennan, who is not involved with the case.
Do you think the Prince George's County law enforcement folks could tell us how to dispose of 32 pounds of marijuana between the time the cops knock at the door and the time the homeowner lets them in? A small amount of weed can maybe be flushed down the bog or set on fire, but 32 pounds?

Things took a turn for the surreal when Prince George's County Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said legal counsel had informed her that "no-knock" warrants do not exist in Maryland. CNN has a video clip of police defending their botched raid.

Taylor said:
"This warrant was for permission to search the premises," she said. "The special operations team that supported us made a decision about the necessity of entry at the point of being on the scene."


Taylor, a self-described dog lover, expressed sympathy for the loss of Calvo's dogs, but stopped short of apologizing for the incident.

"We've done these similar kinds of operations over and over again, to the tune of removing billions of dollars of drugs from the community and without people or animals being harmed," she said. "We don't want any of our operations to result in the injury or loss of anybody, and certainly not animals."

"I would say that the dogs presented a threat, I would imagine, to the special operations situation," Taylor said.
What's your degree in, Ms. Taylor? Weaseling? Incidentally, the Prince George's County law enforcement have bungled drug raids before.

It's time to end the so-called "war on drugs," whose major legacy to the nation is the imprisonment of one per cent of the population. If that seems ludicrous to you, consider that the prison system is privatized; but subsidized by you, the taxpayer; that prisoners are a cheap source of labour to manufacturers but the taxpayer derives no benefit therefrom; that every prisoner who is incarcerated for a drug "offense" has a family that is affected, sometimes severely — whether it's children who have lost a parent and a provider, however poor; or parents who have lost a pair of hands that could add economic, social, and emotional stability to the household.

Consider also that you, the taxpayer, heavily subsidize SOME drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, and the prescription pharmacopeia; that much of the prison population who you are paying to house and feed while businessmen profit from their cheap labour and take away your union jobs are in the hoosegow for offenses relating to marijuana, a drug that has no recorded fatalities; consider that if marijuana usage, possession, and even exchange were not criminalized, billions of taxpayer dollars currently spent to monitor, harrass, arrest, incarcerate, and otherwise interfere with ordinary citizens whose only offense is that they like to get high, could be used for better things — like a better health care system. Consider that prison has never rehabilitated anyone, only taught them how to commit worse and more dangerous crimes. And that prisoners are eventually released into the community from which they came, but it's a community that has changed during their incarceration and it's difficult for them to fit in. So they often turn to a life of crime.

Sheriff Michael Jackson and Police Chief Melvin High have not apologized for the raid, saying their officers acted appropriately. They claim the heavily armed SWAT officers in full protective gear were justified in shooting two innocent, tame, gentle family pets because they "felt threatened." Like we said before, clearly these cops are too wussy for their current line of work if they're scared of two black Labs. They should go into babysitting, there's good money in working as a nanny to the wealthy property-owning classes. Oh, wait, they're probably going to shoot the babies if they feel "threatened."

It turns out that Mayor Calvo and Ms. Tomsic were apparently the victims of a scheme in which packages of marijuana were sent to unsuspecting people and were intercepted by a deliveryman. Five or six other innocent residents of Berwyn Heights have been similarly victimised. Two men have been arrested in the marijuana shipping plot. And two sweet and much-loved dogs lost their lives for the complete idiocy of the LE of Prince George's County. And a couple or three very nice people are completely traumatized and will be for a long, long time.

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At 8:10 PM, Blogger Chuck Butcher said...

Some folks need their heads handed to them.


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