More Thoughts on Johnston, Raids

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Defenders of the police tactics used in this case take a rather open-and-shut, legalistic approach to all of this. That is, if the warrant was legal, the police had the right to be at the home. And if the police had the right to be at the home, Johnston — or anyone else in a similar position — has no right to defend their home from them.

Of course, the mere legality of the warrant might have little to do with whether or not the warrant was correct. For example, a drug dealer might conduct a couple transactions from the porch of your house while you aren’t home. Not much you can do about that. Or — here’s a possibility — if you could win the trust of a frail, 92-year-old woman, her house would make great cover for a small-time dope peddler, wouldn’t it?

The apologists say that if the warrant is legal, and the police have the right to be there, you’re pretty much screwed. If the police storm in and you — not being a drug dealer and consequently having no reason to think the police might break into your home — mistake them for criminal intruders and meet them with a gun, you are at fault. I guess your crime is living in an area where drug dealers could use your porch while you aren’t home, or being a too trusting, frail, old woman. Sorry about your luck.

On the other hand, if the police break into your home and they mistake the blue cup, TV remote, the t-shirt you’re holding to cover your genitals because they broke in while you were sleeping naked, or the glint off your wristwatch for a gun — and subsequently shoot you (all of these scenarios have actually happened), well, then no one is to blame. Because, you see, SWAT raids are inherently dangerous and volatile, and it’s perfectly understandable how police might mistake an innocent person holding a t-shirt for a violent drug dealer with gun.

Do you see the double standard, here? If the warrant is legit, they are allowed to make mistakes. You aren’t.

This discrepancy grows all the more absurd when you consider that they have extensive training, you don’t. They have also spent hours preparing for the raid. You were startled from your sleep, and have just seconds to make a life-or-death decision. To top it all off, many times they’ve just deployed a flashbang grenade that is designed to confuse and disorient you.

What’s the solution? It isn’t to encourage people to start shooting raiding cops to kill. That kind of talk is foolish, and needs to stop. But it isn’t to encourage to people to refrain from defending their homes, either. Both of those suggestions will lead to more people dying — both police and citizens.

The solution is actually pretty simple: Stop invading people’s homes for nonviolent offenses.

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