Another Isolated Incident

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

The headline says, "Two Officers Are Saved by Bullet-Proof Vests." It could just as easily have read, "Police Screw-Up Terrorizes, Nearly Kills Couple and Their Six Children."

The Police Department’s SWAT team was attempting to search a house in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue N., at 12:46 a.m. as part of an investigation by the Violent Offender Task Force. But police said that they learned later that the wrong information led them to that house.

"It was found out that this particular address was not part of that long-term investigation," police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia III told KSTP-TV on Sunday. He told KMSP-TV that it was a "bad situation. It could have been much worse."

Garcia said it was not so much a mistake by Minneapolis police but a mistake in the information that was given to them.

That last line translates to, "Admit nothing. Cover your ass in case of a lawsuit."

Come on. You nearly killed innocent people because you wrongly raided a home based on bad information. I don’t care how or where that information went bad, it’s pretty clearly a "mistake."

Here’s another version of the same story:

Police believe they received some bad information and executed a search warrant on the wrong house early Sunday when two officers were shot at and hit, but were protected by bulletproof vests and helmets, a police spokesman said.

“It was some bad information that was received on the front end and it’s unfortunate because we have officers that were hit by gunfire and this truly, truly could have been a much worse situation," said Sgt. Jesse Garcia.

[…]

Family members living in the house said they were upstairs when they heard someone bust through their back door. They said Vang Khang grabbed his hunting gun to protect himself, his wife and his six children.

"He thought they were gang members and he was scared," Vang’s brother, Dao Khang, told KARE-TV. Dao Khang said Vang fired a warning shot, and then two more shots through his closed bedroom door. The bullets hit two officers, but they weren’t injured.

Several officers returned fire but no one in the house was injured, the department said. The man suspected of firing the shots was taken into custody, police said. He was later released.

Note where the police department spokesman’s concern lies. No apology to the victims. No regret for nearly killing a man, or for spraying bullets all over the home where an innocent family lay sleeping. No, this incident is "unfortunate" because "we have officers that were hit by gunfire."

Note too that police claim they announced themselves, but no one in the house apparently heard them. Mr. Khang did nothing wrong, and isn’t being charged. He isn’t a criminal, and has no reason to lie.

So why is it that in so many of these cases, police claim they announced, but no one inside or outside seems to hear them? Retired cops have told me it’s because the "announcement" often comes as the door is coming down, if it comes at all. Of course, even if there is an announcement, it doesn’t do much good if it comes in the middle of the night, while the people inside are asleep in a back room or on the second floor. Such scenarios effectively erase any real difference between a "knock-and-announce" and a "no-knock" raid.

When Mario Paz was killed in a SWAT raid in El Monte, California a few years ago, the town’s assistant police chief told the L.A. Times:

“We do bang on the door and make an announcement—‘It’s the police’—but it kind of runs together. If you’re sitting on the couch, it would be difficult to get to the door before they knock it down.”

Now imagine you’re asleep when all of this is happening. The whole purpose of the middle-of-the-night raid is to catch the suspect off-guard. Why would police make a clear, full-throated announcement if the intent is surprise?

The catch-22 comes when the suspect, like Mr. Khang, or like Cory Maye, or like Cheryl Lynn Noel, justifiably feels threatened and acts in self-defense. Then "we need the element of surprise," dubiously morphs into, "They should have known we were the police."

It can’t be both, as evidenced by the accumulating pile of bodies resulting from these unfortunate tactics.

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51 Responses to “Another Isolated Incident”

  1. #1 |  code red | 

    Because the system won’t punish them, they won’t learn their lesson and they will go on terrorizing their community.

    This is a call to all hunters: hunting ammo is for hunting, not self-defense. Buy some high penetration self-defense rounds in case the next gang of thugs who randomly decides to bust down your door and attempt to kill you and your family is wearing bulletproof vests and helmets.

  2. #2 |  Radley Balko | 

    Believe me, I understand the frustration. But please don’t advocate killing police officers on this site.

    It’s not only ugly and vulgar, it’s bad advice. I don’t care how well-armed you are, if you decide to take on a raiding SWAT team, you aren’t going to win.

  3. #3 |  die pigs | 

    I agree with Mr. Code Red

  4. #4 |  code red | 

    This isn’t about killing police. It IS about defending your life, your property, and your family.

    How do you know the people who just broke down your back door are polite little police officers or nasty thugs dressed and claiming the same? How are you gonna stop either of these groups long enough to check ID? Because the group of gang-banging thugs intent on raping your family MIGHT just be a SWAT team, we shouldn’t attempt self-defense? Or we should, but not enough to kill them, just in case they turn out to be police? And how do you react when you KNOW you are not a criminal and there is no reason for police to raid your house?

    Because if we aren’t gonna defend our castles in exactly this type of situation, (when the law is clearly on the “civilians” side), we’ve already lost… everything.

    My feelings is, if you are moved to violence in the defense of your life or family, you should do so with EXTREME vengeance! This man didn’t cause any of the actions that happened that night. He responded to violence put upon him by what he believed to be violent criminals. Just because, this time, they happen to also be carrying a badge only changes the next days headlines.

    Side note <<>> Why weren’t they announcing who they were as they reached the 2nd floor? Did our black-robed morons really say or imply that “knock and announce” was required only busting in the front door? Even if the raid takes place in a 4000 square foot 3-story mansion? Side note <<>>

    I’m a firm believer that between the second amendment, the B.O.R. and the writing of the founders, they always meant for superior armed resistance to be in the hands of the citizens. A good case could be made for the military to have this power as well. But the militarization of the domestic police officer was wrong then for the same reasons it is wrong now.

  5. #5 |  andyinsdca | 

    Huh…I’m all confused now. I thought that no-knock raids were supposed to be safer for the cops because they don’t give the bad guys a chance. The cops are EXTREMELY lucky this “bad guy” didn’t get two of their own waxed because of their stupidity and their gung-ho-ness.

  6. #6 |  Nick T | 

    I like how the article seems to portray the police “returning fire” as a mere afterthought, imagine the home-owner or – god forbid – a child lay dead right now from police bullets.

    Sadly no one wants to ask that question, because we should just blindly not question police conduct because “we don’t wear a badge/it’s a tough job blah blah.” Cynically, of course we know that had that happened, charges would be brought against somebody in the home, or drugs planted or something to make try to justify the death of a completely innocent person.

    Out of curiosity, how come nobody IS dead? Doesn’t this seem like a miracle? What made the shooting stop? I’m guessing someone finally did yell POLICE, but to reveal that that’s what stopped the shooting would be to admit it was never announced in the first place… and that would sound like questioning the police.

  7. #7 |  Phil | 

    There isn’t a single man engraved on any coin or pictured on any denomination of US currency who wouldn’t have responded exactly as Mr Khang did.

    For many of the founders of this Republic, advanced knowledge that the men knocking down his door were the police would have made little difference in his mode of response.
    But then this country has moved so far from its origins that were any of the signers of the Constitution somehow teleported into this time period, they would either be killed confronting the authorities or thrown in prison very quickly.
    Or dead by suicide, their lofty hopes for their revolution and its lasting effects on their posterity destroyed.

  8. #8 |  Darren | 

    “Believe me, I understand the frustration. But please don’t advocate killing police officers on this site.”

    Why not? If you are being subject to a home invasion by well-armed thugs you have every duty to protect yourself by incapaciting or threatening the invaders. I don’t care if it is the police – the police are not special people above the law or above my own will to maintain my safety and life.

    “I don’t care how well-armed you are, if you decide to take on a raiding SWAT team, you aren’t going to win.”

    People have been killed by merely complying. You’re better off with a large caliber shotgun. Believe me, even a group of cops will not run into a loaded and cocked shotgun pointed to their face.

    The search was not validly executed and the cops are in the wrong. You have every right to defend yourself.

  9. #9 |  Russ 2000 | 

    But please don’t advocate killing police officers on this site.

    Read into what you will, but the poster didn’t advocate that.

    However, dead police officers is the logical conclusion of militarized police tactics. A militarized force ought to expect more casualties than a non-militarized force.

  10. #10 |  mike | 

    Radley – I think the next step in your efforts is to ratchet up the heat on these MSM outlets that don’t ask the questions you ask. They are willing participants in the law enforcement agencies’ verbal judo.

    I propose that for these events, when you believe the press, local or national, has not asked the pertinent questions, you provide us some contact information and maybe some help with phrasing. I’ll gladly send a note to media outlets expressing my disappointment in their coverage.

    You could also consider compiling a guide for journalists – “How to report on police events” or something like that. It could outline some relevant statistics from your work on the topic and provide suggested lines of questioning.

    “If this happened as a result of following procedure, when do you plan on changing the procedure so that it does not cause your officers to kill innocent old women?”

    “Is it wise to invade the homes of private citizens based on shoddy information from unreliable informants, comrade?”

    “Can you reconcile today’s events with your stated mission to protect and serve?”

  11. #11 |  MikeT | 

    It’s not only ugly and vulgar, it’s bad advice.

    It is bad advice, but I fail to see why it is ugly or vulgar to suggest that concerned citizens should arm themselves with ammo that can kill SWAT officers in the event that they execute a raid on bad information. The truth is, if many SWAT teams faced down someone with a .50 Desert Eagle in their home, you’d see a lot more police officers learning the value of proper intelligence gathering before they execute a raid.

  12. #12 |  MikeT | 

    I don’t advocate killing cops, but I don’t oppose it either. In my opinion, an innocent private citizen has a moral right to use a firearm to defend their life against police that are raiding their home. The fact that the police haven’t realized their mistake, doesn’t mean that the private citizen has any less of a right to kill them than he or she would have the moral right to kill a burglar entering their home.

    I would also go so far as to say that if the police engage in any unlawful conduct such as threatening to shoot someone who has already been subdued, as is often reported by witnesses, that an armed member of the house has a moral right to disarm–at any cost–that police officer on the grounds that he or she is a violent criminal.

  13. #13 |  MikeT | 

    **by not opposing the killing of cops, I simply mean that I see no distinction between killing a cop who is acting badly in the line of duty, and killing any other type of violent person who is a threat to your life.

  14. #14 |  Zeb | 

    Indeed, if you do intend to be prepared to defend your home with deadly force you should have the right equipment.
    Sadly, had this man had the armor penetrating bullets, he would be in Corey Maye’s position right now, or dead.

  15. #15 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    Killing SWAT doorkickers will not result in less promiscuous use of doorkickers to serve routine (and less than routine) warrants.

    I’m not sure how or if, mind you, that this aspect of militarization of the police can be reversed, but that won’t do it. At best, it won’t result in a lot more itchy trigger fingers, and a lot more innocent folks killed.

  16. #16 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    MikeT: I don’t think there’s any particular reason to think that .50 AE rounds — that’s what the big Desert Eagle fires — will penetrate Level II or better body armor.

  17. #17 |  Jim Pikl | 

    Radley,
    You need to get this type of information to Congress. This type of militarized police action must be stopped, for everyone’s benefit, the police and private citizens alike. I cannot believe that Congress would ignore such a threat to the well-being of U.S. citizens AND the police who are trying to protect them. The SWAT police seem to be just a bunch of little boys playing “soldier” and this must be stopped. In only about 1 in 1,000 scenarios where they are used are such SWAT tactics even arguably “justified.”
    What will make this go away?? How many more citizens must die? How many more police placed in harm’s way? The insanity of it all is just astounding. I have never seen any police officer attempt to justify the use of a SWAT team to execute a standard warrant. Darryl Gates, Los Angeles’s police chief and designer of the SWAT team, envisioned SWAT teams to be used only in hostage or riot situations, not in routine police work. How has his vision been so badly corrupted, and how do we fix it?

  18. #18 |  Joe McGuckin | 

    If some of these stormtroopers manage to get themselves
    killed by homeowners while serving defective search warrants,
    won’t that act as an incentive to make sure they’re raiding the
    correct address in the future?

    I just wish I could kill people with the same impunity police are allowed to. In this country, all a cop has to do to get away with executing someone is to say the magic phrase: “I felt my life was in danger”.

    If I shot someone in the head because they looked at me in a manner I didn’t like, or they put their hand in their pocket, I’d be duly convicted of murder. If a cop does it, he gets a commendation.

    Go figure.

  19. #19 |  Roach | 

    I like the way that if one of Radley’s readers dares to generalize about the criminal underclass, that kind of discussion is policed intensely for anything smacking of a generalization or venom. But your readers above are gleefully and without much objetion from you swapping tales about what is the right kind of bullet to defeat a SWAT team’s body armor in between adolescent authority envy, viz., “I just wish I could kill people with the same impunity police are allowed to.”

    Now I agree that there are times when innocent people can use force and no one should go to jail, particularly in the case of a mistaken raid. And obviously mistaken SWAT raids are a bad (though relatively rare) thing. But I think, as in other areas of life, the best way to deal with rogue or mistaken cops is to sort it out not at the time of the arrest but in court, in a hearing, in a conversation with the D.A. Cases get dropped for lots of reasons. That’s what criminal defense lawyers do. But it’s not a good world where every time a cop makes an honest mistake–and this issue goes beyond SWAT raids at night–some libertarian fanatic is going to answer the summons with a mouthful of buckshot. This is Tim McVeigh territory. Besides between motions to supress and Section 1983 lawsuits, there are plenty of tools in an aggreived citizens tool kit if these things go sour. And the cost of too-timid policing is not zero, as the 30,000 plus homicides per year in the seventies and eighties attest. Certainly criminals have killed far more people than cops, and the “bad shoots” among cops are a smaller fraction still of the total officer involved shootings in a given year.

  20. #20 |  Radley Balko | 

    Comment #2 is hardly “without much objection.”

    I let you threadjack the Cory Maye comments to spew your vile, racist BS, Roach.

    So you hardly have room to complain about being “intensely policed.”

    I’ve yet to delete a comment by anyone since reinstituting them.

  21. #21 |  SusanK | 

    The spokesman said they received “bad information” – are we to assume that the police routinely conduct SWAT raids based solely on information without any independent investigation, or it was “just this one time.” No wonder why so many property crimes go unsolved – they’re not as fun and sexy as the drug crimes (or whatever type of “bad information” the police received that caused them to strike out without any work put into it).

  22. #22 |  Roach | 

    Just because I don’t like prison rapists and black criminals and get somewhat impassioned when I think about how evil some of them are (and also fine their style rather vulgar), doesn’t mean I am racist against black people in general. Indeed, regular law-abiding black people suffer a great deal at the hands of black criminals. And just because I’m willing to make fact-based distinctions among groups of people, including the races, doesn’t mean that I also am going to make invidious ones that are not supported by evidence or are contrary to the evidence. Sometimes the evidence leads us to places that go against our instincts and the values of our social set, I’ve learned.

  23. #23 |  The J | 

    Am I the only person to notice that the surname of the guy in question was “Kang”? Is that a Vietnamese name? In other words, is this another variation of the Cory Maye story where a bunch of white cops invade the wrong house, the minority defends his family and gets in trouble for something that is clearly self-defense?

  24. #24 |  The J | 

    While we’re at it, is Cory Maye still imprisoned???? Why doesn’t someone link the Jena 6 and this case? Yes, the two events are in separate states, but we need to do something.

  25. #25 |  SWAT Monkey | 

    I’m not going to try and defend this operation, because clearly it was a bad one. Particularly when dealing with scumbag CIs, it is imperative that the cops have their sh!t wired tight before hitting the door. And the homeowner here was righteous.

    But like Roach suggests, it is grossly misleading to say that this operation typifies what SWAT teams do. Whether you’re talking about active shooter scenarios, hostage situations, or violent fugitive apprehension–SWAT teams clearly perform an important tactical function.

    Even with more ordinary warrant service, rockhouse hits, etc., a well-trained SWAT team is by far the best way to go if there is even a possibility of violence. The use of overwhelming force snuffs out the likelihood of resistance.

    I promise you that a stack of 20 guys wearing balaclavas and carrying M4s, flooding every room of the house in 45 seconds, after the rake-and-break team has deployed flashbangs, is going to do a lot more to discourage violence from felons than other tactics. Hell, even the pitbulls that most of these scumbag dealers have with them 24/7 are whimpering in the corner covered in their own urine after the smoke clears.

    SWAT teams should be well-trained. Maybe there’s an argument that SWAT teams should be full-time teams only. Maybe small PDs without resources shouldn’t be handing out M4s to a bunch of guys whose sole qualification is a 40-hour basic SWAT school course. I more or less agree with all of this.

    But it’s just as stupid to condemn SWAT teams in blanket fashion.

  26. #26 |  Ochressandro | 

    Sorry Radley, I see where you’re coming from, but you’re on the wrong side, here. I’ll posit that you just haven’t thought it through enough. Yon poster #1 saith: Buy some high penetration self-defense rounds in case the next gang of thugs who randomly decides to bust down your door and attempt to kill you and your family is wearing bulletproof vests and helmets.

    He doesn’t say anything about cops. Come on. You know that laws against guns don’t do anything to prevent criminals from acquiring stuff honest law abiding citizens can only dream about. What makes you think laws against non-LEOs owning body armor are going to be any more effective? And heck, in most states in the Union, it’s not illegal for your average Joe to own a rifle rated vest. So there’s a very real possibility that a group of criminals, set to bust into a house and execute a home invasion robbery, will be wearing something that will easily shrug off birdshot.

    I don’t think admonishing people to uprate their home defence rounds to deal with harder targets constitutes “advocating killing cops”.

  27. #27 |  Radley Balko | 

    SWAT Monkey: What exactly does “even a possibility of violence” mean?

    Pot smokers? Parking ticket scofflaws?

    Break into someone’s home in the middle of the night and there’s always going to be a “possibility of violence,” even when the person on the other side of the door is completely innocent, as was the case, here.

    I agree with you that there’s a legitimate use and purpose for SWAT teams–to defuse iminently violent situations. But using “20 guys wearing balaclavas and carrying M4s, flooding every room of the house in 45 seconds, after the rake-and-break team has deployed flashbangs” for routine warrant service isn’t defusing defusing a violent situation, it’s creating one.

  28. #28 |  La Rana | 

    Radley, did you notice that the first article recites the police claim that they were shot at after they confronted the man and identified themselves….but later released that man?

    Something tells me that he would still be in jail if that were true.

  29. #29 |  Roach | 

    I really think the amount of time on the line matters. Something like 1/2 of Americans have guns; it may well be a little higher among criminals, though I’m not sure. That’s a lot of “potentially deadly” situations. Yet all but the most hardened offenders are going to start shooting. It seems to me (a) more takedowns should be done away from the house; this argument was at issue in the Branch Davidian raid, and I agree with it and (b) when smallish amounts of time are involved, the old fashioned knock on the door might be more appropriate, particularly if the criminal understands he’s not looking at 30-life.

    It’s when people are facing life or 30 years or have a history of violent crime SWAT makes the most sense. People looking at that time are very unpredictable; it essentially means there life is up in smoke.

    I also agree with most of what the SWAT Monkey says, and think that “running the numbers” by department, by training, nationwide, in comparison to patrol officers, etc. is the only way we can judge whether these mistakes are excessive or not. Statistics, not anecdotes, are the only way to move beyond collectively talking out of our rear.

  30. #30 |  Les | 

    Just because I don’t like prison rapists and black criminals and get somewhat impassioned when I think about how evil some of them are (and also fine their style rather vulgar), doesn’t mean I am racist against black people in general.

    But, certainly, you can understand that when you say you don’t like “black criminals,” instead of, simply, “criminals,” it gives the impression that you do have a problem with black people. I’m not saying you do, only that you give that impression with sentences like that.

  31. #31 |  The J | 

    I’m not sure my last submission went through. To contact Mississippi’s governor:
    “… contact us by phone at 1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150, or by mail at: P.O. Box 139, Jackson, Mississippi 39205.”

  32. #32 |  Gonzo | 

    I don’t understand something.

    The police tell us:

    “Look, these dynamic entries are the safest thing for us. By deploying flash bombs, coming in with massive numbers, and creating pure confusion and disorientation we are able to take control of the situation.”

    Then they fuck up. And it becomes:

    “Well, they should have known it was the police because we did announce.”

    Which is it?

  33. #33 |  code red | 

    Ha, ha, ha… A SWAT monkey shows up and speaks his mind. And the first words the monkey types is, “I’m not going to try and defend this operation, because clearly it was a bad one.” Is anyone not surprised the first thing on his mind is whether or not he will be defending the actions of his brothers in blue?

    Next thing the Monkey is compelled to do is brush aside this “isolated incident” describing Criminal Informants as “scumbag CIs” to us. (Yet, make no doubt, when applying for a warrant these “scumbags” are described as a “reliable witness.”)

    Monkey’s brain than moves on to defend the use of SWAT raids, describing pit bulls “whimpering in the corner covered in their own urine.” (Increased SWAT raids designed around a politicians re-election campaign, unmentioned.)

    Finally the monkey calls for more funding/training for SWAT teams, (his entire 5th paragraph).

    As for monkey’s last paragraph: I will do him the favor of not condemning all SWAT teams to be composed of men as ignorant as him. (SWAT Monkey, you are a puppet. Keep carrying the biggest stick, YOU need it).

  34. #34 |  Chris | 

    As this story originated from my town, I feel I have to add my two cents..

    I don’t agree with the current use of these SWAT teams and think it’s a huge waste of time, manpower, money and has shown it will bring nothing but heartache when they are conducted with poor information and training. These raids need to be stopped immediately for non-violent offenses. Period.

    I have a friend who works in a printing company and he gave me a book called “S.W.A.T. – S.R.T. Instructional Manual for Tactical Teams”, written by Steven Matoon. His company was contracted to print this book for the various SWAT teams in Minnesota. Some very interesting reading. Especially the section on what terms to use when dealing with the press. Instead of “Defensive Fire”, it suggests using the term “Officer Safety Techniques”, or the terms “Injure, Hurt, Cripple” should be changed to “Handcuff, Restrain, Subdue”. There is quite a list of them, arranged in a “Do Use/Do Not Use” type section. Entertaining and scary. Oh yea. The front cover also has a big banner on it saying “Restricted Sale”. (My friend was kind enough to present it to me as a gift from the print run, as I could not have bought it legally.)

    I do have a shotgun in my apartment that I hope to never use. I decided a long time ago to have some sort of protection against those who would try to harm me or my loved ones, and I sleep better at night knowing it is available for such an emergency. Not a “gun-nut” or survivalist, but I do think the way things are going that having some form of protection is prudent.

  35. #35 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    SWAT Monkey: the MPD SWAT team is very professional, and highly-trained, full-time professionals who are a credit to their profession. Just ask the MPD brass.

    And these highly-trained, full-time professionals, a credit to their profession, once again kicked in the door of the wrong house, and fired twenty to thirty rounds into the house without even once hitting the guy that they were, one would trust, trying to shoot. (One would, I hope, expect that this stack of highly-trained professionals in their black hoods [err…excuse me: balaclavas] would not be shooting up the house out of panic, but would have fired each and ever shot aimed at the person that they intended to stop, wouldn’t one?)

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  36. #36 |  doc tom | 

    why is the threat of any violence towards the police a justification for escalation techniques. shouldnt police be in the business of deescalating situations? i mean….are we at the point where i shouldnt wanna call the police because i have to worry that someone will get shot?

    mike

  37. #37 |  MikeT | 

    SWAT Monkey,

    That’s all well and good, but there are few police forces that could ever justify having SWAT units in the first place. In Virginia, where I live, there is no reason why any locality should have one. One state SWAT force, divided into 10-20 men for each of the 7 divisions of the Virginia State Police would suffice for our needs.

    The police ought to be more creative in how they use force. In Fairfax, they are frequently called out on **any** felon, even if the person was just an average white collar criminal with no history of violence. Look up the case of Salvatore Culosi to understand what I mean.

  38. #38 |  Persona non grata | 

    Why not apply a bit of common sense?

    Instead of kicking in doors playing breach and the fatal funnel game just wait the criminal out. Eventually you will be able to apprehend them with a “grab” team rather than a SWAT team. It takes a little more planning and surveilence but results in a lot less violence.

    These seemingly endless displays of police professionalism stem from lack of training and or experience on the part of SWAT and police-intelligence. Some of these SWAT guys act like cowboys out on their first “round-up” and as for police-intelligence maybe they could get off their “hemorrhoid farms” and actually vet the information before the SWAT cowboys play “round-up” with some innocents.

    Justice Scalia must be proud.

  39. #39 |  Alex | 

    I served in the Army, receiving intensive training with the M16 and automatic weapons. It baffles how much more lax the training is for use on American civilians than it is in the military, for killing our sworn enemies. I was just looking on the A&E site, and Detroit appears to have the most rigorous selection process (of their 3 featured cities). It includes a basic phyical fitness test and 640 hours of training. 640 hours! 16 40-hour weeks! That’s less training time than Army Basic to ride around American cities in tanks.

    What’s really unsettling is that fixing the system wouldn’t be very hard. Like Mike above, clearly these teams should be state police for both resource and mobility purposes. Also, something like 4 years in the Marines or a combat MOS in the Army should be highly preferred because veterans apparently have a lot more respect for the use of force than the local yokels. I think if both of those were instituted the problem of bored SWAT teams itching to “serve a warrant” would take care of itself.

    Of course, none of that really matters if the press and the local politicicans never ask this one question, “Why is it easier to send 20 people on a raid than to assign two plain-clothes detectives to pick him up at the store?”

  40. #40 |  Troy Camplin | 

    While the police are busy breaking in to innocent people’s houses and shooting them up, the police could not have looked less interested when “investigating” the burglary of my van. Apparently you have to ask the police to fingerprint (did you know that? I didn’t). I wonder if we had the same laws allowing the police to seize the property of thieves as we do for drug dealers if the police would begin to show interest? Surely property crimes are more important and more damaging to society than the pot smoker.

  41. #41 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    I just have to add this little tidbit. While an active duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, my upstairs neighbor was a sergeant in the USMC and was a recon guy. Totally gung-ho. I was talking to him one day and he tells me that he’s getting out of the USMC. I was shocked as this guy seemed to bleed green and I figured he was a lifer. This was back in that awful, fairly peacfeul period in the mid 80’s when the U.S. wasn’t overtly involved in any wars. I asked why he was getting out and his answer was:

    “I’m getting out because there is no war and no possibility of war. My goal in joining the USMC and going into recon was to kill someone. I’m getting out and am joing the San Diego police Department and going to try to get on the SWAT team. I figure I’ll have a much better chance there.”

    This is an ACTUAL conversation I had with this man. You will be happy to know that not only did he get on the San Diego PD, he eventually got on the SWAT team. Of course if he had only known, he could have stayed in the USMC and killed just as many people as his sick, black heart desired…hindsight is 20-20 I guess. Makes me rest easy knowing that him and many more like him are out there.

  42. #42 |  Alex | 

    Zappa, I know 100% that guy you’re talking about. I figure Marines and combat Army soldiers are pretty similar, and I’d put that blood-thirsty psycho mentality at about 10% in the military. I’ve also known the majority of people of three different SWAT teams, and I think they represent at least 30%. One difference is, I don’t think I ever met any of those psychos at the E6 level or higher. I’m sure they existed, but it appeared the psycho had been trained out of them. However, I’ve known more than a few SWAT members that exuded the blood-thirsty mentality.

    I guess it all goes back to the basic role of the SWAT teams. If you’re in a shootout with terrorists, that guy that bleeds green is your best friend. If you’re trying to serve a run-of-the-mill warrant, I think trying to stay out of trouble around that guy would be quite the distraction.

    This whole thing pisses me off. It’s like the perfect storm of libertarian pet peeves.

  43. #43 |  Nick T | 

    Roach,

    You wrote:

    “Besides between motions to supress and Section 1983 lawsuits, there are plenty of tools in an aggreived citizens tool kit if these things go sour.”

    Obviously, the motion to suppress is only applicable if charges are brought against the “aggrieved citizen” so that would not apply in cases of innocent people. (Although bonus question for you: let’s say Mr. Vang Khang had some contraband in his bedroom and it was picked up by the police during this mistaken and botched – “sour” – raid, how would a motion to suppress fair in the ensuing criminal case?)

    And as for 1983 lawsuits, can you tell me how likely those are to succeed given the high number of “tools” (I think fairly described as “plenty”) available to police and police departments to cloak themselves in various forms of immunity, and other affirmative defenses? How would those immunity doctrines have played themselves out in this scenario? If Mr. Vang Khang is to bring a lawsuit, what is his claim? Chances of success? Or, is he not aggrieved? Or, did this raid not go “sour?”

    Lastly, what other “tools,” other than the ones you mentioned, are available to the aggrieved citizen (clue: if you say “filing complaints with the PD/city, that’s the wrong answer)? Or, does 2 (well really 1 and something that only helps one NOT go to jail rather than punish he police or be made whole) count as “plenty?”

    In other words, do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

  44. #44 |  Robert | 

    Yeah, right… plenty of tools. I’d bet that the Khang’s won’t even be reimbursed for damages because the warrant was legit. I’m not even talking punitive, or stress, or anything like that. I’d not be suprised to hear they get to pay to replace their own windows, and patch up the bullet holes (as well as fix whatever else the jack booted thugs broke).

  45. #45 |  Roach | 

    Most cities accept tort liability to a point for various types of negligence, above and beyond 1983 immunity.

    It’s true there are immunity doctrines in 1983 and reliance on a valid (though ultimately mistaken) warrant shields a lot of behavior. Even so, unlawful or excessive force ususally presents a fact question, because the threshold and ultimate question is basically the same. Since we know multimillion 1983 verdicts happen frequently, including against SWAT teams, I don’t see why this is not a real tool, even if, like any legal cause of action, it does not work out. Try to sue your insurance company on breach of contract and see how far you get, even though no important interest is involved there, I guess, since we’re talking about the sainted private sector.

    I drafted dozens of opinions on 1983 cases when I clerked for a federal judge, have litigated some on the defense side, have evaluted some on the plaintiff’s side, so I do think I know what I’m talking about, but maybe law school dropout Radley and his fanbase know this stuff better than me.

  46. #46 |  Radley Balko | 

    See ‘ya later, Roach.

  47. #47 |  Nick T | 

    Roach,

    Of all the cases you’ve evaluated as alawyer, it’s funny you don’t evaluate Mr. Khang’s chances as a plaintiff in your latest comment. Would you care to do that for us now? Or should we assume your lack of evaluation implies the results of such an exercise?

    Khang is almost completely SOL, at least based on the facts as presented so far. The officers will surely not be disciplined or punished, Mr. Khang will not be made whole, even if he does get reimbursed for the damage to his home, and so of all the tools a violated homeowner can turn to, not one helps Mr. Khang at all.

  48. #48 |  the friendly grizzly | 

    Maybe Mr Khang should offer conducted tours, with a small admission price. “And over here, you can see the scattered bullet holes in the wall…”. It would raise awareness in the community, AND help defray the repair costs.

    Oh. That’s right! He’d probably need a permit…

  49. #49 |  Lee Xiong | 

    having lived in the minneapolis region and in minnesota for so many years i find this news shocking. i have not had much positive experience with the MN state patrol officers as well as local police. this incident just reinforces my view of law enforcement.. by the way i am no criminal… just a simple young man with simple tastes.

    i say Mr Vang should sue the state and specially the people involved in this particular case.

    Knowing how little state of mn settles lawsuit cases for, i think his settlement may be around the $100,000 only.

    perhaps he should go all the way thru trial and although the state of MN has immunity, the officers involved can be found guilty if they did not follow proper procedures. from what iv read in the papers, it seems like that may not have happened. the next time swat decides to surprise a “criminal” they may actually make sure its not a innocent citizen sitting down with his family.

    -the above statements are solely the opinion of myself and not to be mis-intepreted or reproduced-

  50. #50 |  rico567 | 

    As soon as (the police) slip out from under the thumb of a suspicious local tribune, they become arbitrary, merciless, a law unto themselves. They think no more of justice, but only of establishing themselves as a privileged and envied elite. They mistake the attitude of natural caution and uncertainty of the civilian population as admiration and respect, and presently they start to swagger back and forth, jingling their weapons in megalomaniac euphoria. People thereupon become not masters, but servants. Such a police force becomes merely an aggregate of uniformed criminals, the more baneful in that their position is unchallenged and sanctioned by law. The police mentality cannot regard the human being in terms other than as an item or object to be processed as expeditiously as possible. Public convenience or dignity means nothing; police prerogatives assume the status of divine law. If a police officer kills a civilian, it is a regrettable circumstance: the officer was possibly overzealous. If a civilian kills a police officer all hell breaks loose. The police foam at the mouth. All other business comes to a standstill until the perpetrator of this most dastardly act is found out. Inevitably, when apprehended, he is beaten or otherwise tortured for his intolerable presumption. The police complain that they cannot function efficiently, that criminals escape them. Better a hundred unchecked criminals than the despotism of one unbridled police force.

    – Jack Vance, The Star King

  51. #51 |  JEA | 

    I’m pretty sure shooting at a police officer is a bad idea under ANY circumstance

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