Cops Who Raided Mayor Didn’t Have a No-Knock Warrant

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

It now appears that the entire raid on Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo may have been illegal.  Last week, police stormed Calvo’s home without knocking, shot and killed his two black labs, and questioned him and his mother-in-law at gunpoint over a delivered package of marijuana that police now concede may have been intended for someone else.

The Washington Post reports that the police didn’t even bother to get a no-knock warrant, which means the tactics they used were illegal:

A Prince George’s police spokesman said last week that a Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers were operating under such a [no-knock] warrant when they broke down the door of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, shooting and killing his black Labrador retrievers.

But a review of the warrant indicates that police neither sought nor received permission from Circuit Court Judge Albert W. Northrup to enter without knocking. Northrup found probable cause to suspect that drugs might be in the house and granted police a standard search warrant.

"There’s nothing in the four corners of the warrant saying anything about the Calvos being a threat to law enforcement," said Calvo’s attorney, Timothy Maloney. "This was a lawless act by law enforcement."

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has given the police leeway to disregard the knock-and-announce requirement. In June 2006, the Court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that evidence seized in raids in which police fail to properly observe the knock-and-announce rule isn’t subject to the Exclusionary Rule.  Justice Scalia assured us that there’s a "new professionalism" taking root in police departments across the country today, rending the Exclusionary Rule in such cases unnecessary.

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39 Responses to “Cops Who Raided Mayor Didn’t Have a No-Knock Warrant”

  1. #1 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The Supreme Court is simply adjusting the rules of law enforcement to match the abilities of the practitioners.

  2. #2 |  SayUncle » Shooting the dog - update | 

    […] And the police, it seems, did not obtain a no-knock warrant. This would seem odd since they did not knock, stormed his house, and shot his […]

  3. #3 |  Nando | 

    I heard this on the news this morning and was hoping you’d post it. If the state of MD has any balls, they’d prosecute all those involved.

  4. #4 |  nemo | 

    I’d like to know what the judge found to be ‘probable cause’ to issue the warrant. The word of an informant? An incompetent police officer who improperly addressed the package for the prospective sting? What bloody proof was there? That judge needs to be investigated as well.

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #2 Nando

    I heard this on the news this morning and was hoping you’d post it. If the state of MD has any balls, they’d prosecute all those involved.

    I see this more as a case where the state of MD was the perpetrator. Or at least a co-conspirator.

    There is no entity on the planet more aware and tolerant of the tactics used in the drug war than law enforcement and their bosses in government. When something like this happens the only thing being discussed behind the scenes is how to minimize their exposure.

    Remorse is a stranger in the halls of government.

  6. #6 |  Ginger Dan | 

    It takes a special sort of person to break into man’s home, shoot his dogs, put him in cuffs, and not have the common decency to leave a copy of the search warrant and then lie to a judge about it.

    Anyone want to wager on the punishment for this standard bearer of the “new professionalism”?

    5:1 he loses his take-home vehicle privileges and gets a disapproving look from his superior during roll call tomorrow.

  7. #7 |  ktc2 | 

    Administrative leave WITH PAY.

  8. #8 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Well, it’s important that the police don’t have to knock in a case like this. I mean, the guy would have probably flushed the 32lbs. of pot while the police were knocking.

  9. #9 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #6 Ginger Dan
    5:1 he loses his take-home vehicle privileges and gets a disapproving look from his superior during roll call tomorrow.

    That may not sound very severe, but that’s probably a big let down for the guy who was probably expecting a medal, advancement, and the hero treatment from the media and babes down at the bar.

  10. #10 |  MacK | 

    The news tomorrow from a Prince George’s police spokesman:

    “We are currently looking into ways to prevent this from happening again, and feel confident that we will devise a plan within at least a year, and we will be able to implement this plan within a year or two, we will of course have to hire an outside agency to review our current policies, and construct a well thought out response to the appropriate methods needed, thus enabling us to ensure that the current methods do indeed need to be restructured, or that they are no longer valid for operations as they are currently implemented, or perhaps you will have forgotten about this by then, so we can continue business as usual.”

  11. #11 |  nobahdi | 

    By “new professionalism”, does he mean an event similar to this one happens about once a week in this country?

    Did the police seriously think all this force was necessary for the mayor and his mother-in-law? If so, then this can happen to any of us.

  12. #12 |  Red Green | 

    Scalia is El Duce in a black dress. May the same fortune find him. There are too many copsa in the USA, and they want 100,000 more! Those that can,run for your lives. Or stay and fight the good fight.

  13. #13 |  Balloon Juice | 

    […] Radley Balko has more. […]

  14. #14 |  Billy Beck | 

    “The Supreme Court is simply adjusting the rules of law enforcement to match the abilities of the practitioners.”

    I said it about Heller: the Court is simply a focus-group for them now.

  15. #15 |  nemo | 

    The only good thing about a seriously contracting economy is that a form of triage will have to be applied to the DrugWar.

    The sad fact is that most Americans couldn’t give a damn about innocent lives lost, civil liberties trashed, etc… but talk money, and watch the eyes light up.

    We simply cannot afford it on a number of levels, but the one that, sadly, most Americans would agree on when you point out the monetarycosts associated with it is that it’s just too expensive for this debt-ridden nation to continue spending money on. If anything will kill the DrugWar, it’s the economy.

  16. #16 |  bago | 

    Men like that are the kind of men you need to protect this country from these savages. Hard men. Men willing to get their hands dirty. To serve and protect no matter what the cost! Should the law get in their way they’ll find a way around it! With no way around they’ll change the law! If that’s not an option because there are too many weak and scurrilous politicians in our government then they will take things into their own hands and nod sagely at the judge. You want the truth? DO YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

  17. #17 |  serge | 

    I almost cannot put into words what I would have done in the circumstances had I been the mayor. If a thug swat team member shot one of my dogs, in the back no less and while running away in terror, I guess it would have to become my life’s work to hunt that thug for the rest of his life.

    What a cowardly act, and then to lie about the faulty warrant afterward. I hope that a thousand pet owners and PETA hound the PG County police and sheriff’s offices until heads have rolled. (No pun was intended.)

  18. #18 |  chris | 

    worse, the cops planted a package full of drugs on this guys front porch and then stormed the house when he brought it inside…

  19. #19 |  Frank | 

    Remember this when you next go to court, especially as a juror: COPS LIE. They lie on the street, they lie on the stand. Nothing they say should be taken at face value.

    How do you tell a cop is lying? His lips are moving.

  20. #20 |  Frank | 

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if the local animal rescue organizations declared that employees of the PGPD and PGSD are unsuitable adoption candidates?

    “That’s right, kids, you’re not getting a dog because your daddy shoots dogs.”

  21. #21 |  supercat | 

    Justice Scalia is usually pretty good. While he is wrong on this issue, I don’t think it’s fair to equate him with Mussolini. Further, I suspect part of the reason for his ruling as he did is that justices are only supposed only rule based upon arguments put before him, and I think most lawyers who push for the exclusionary rule phrase it in terms of “rights” rather than in terms of Article VI supremacy.

    Per Article VI, the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. Government actions which violate the Constitution are not just illegal, but fundamentally illegitimate. A cop who engages in a no-knock raid without a no-knock warrant or exigent circumstances to justify such conduct is a robber. Evidence collected by robbers should not be admissible in court except against the robbers who collected it.

  22. #22 |  Paul | 

    This raid was the typical overkill, but was it illegal? Why did the cops need a warrant if they saw a package they knew to be drugs brought into the house? It is “hot pursuit”.

    For example, if the good Mayor had stolen a car and the police followed him to his house and watched him enter, they would not need a warrant to go arrest him.

    Please don’t get me wrong–I think drugs should be 100% legal and regulated–but I don’t see the need for a warrant here.

    Are there any lawyers in the house who know the right answer?

  23. #23 |  Delia | 

    See, what I’ve been wondering is if there was some feud going on between the Mayor and the PD, and the nimrods in law enforcement thought they’d found a handy little way of taking their enemy down. Bears thinking about.

  24. #24 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    This case is fairly representative of the blatant incompetence and brutal savagery that is drug law enforcement in the U.S.. Whether they’re shooting dogs or unarmed moms or getting naive hippy chicks killed, its just another shitty day in drug-war America. As I have already uttered countless times on this site, call the damn “war” off and treat us like adults. In the interim, here are a few other proposals:

    1.) No Knock warrants should be illegal. They not only violate the 4th Amendment, IMO, but they put everyone, citizens and police alike, at risk.

    2.) States should make it a statutory requirement that SWAT raids be video taped, like interrogations in my home state of IL.

    3.) Citizens need to make themselves aware that law enforcement is not playing by the rules these days. Invest in camcorders and cell phones that can record video if you live in a “high intensity” drug trafficking area, because you might get sucked into this shit for no reason. Remember, you have the right to film police and other government officials.

    4.) If you get jacked up for no good reason or otherwise abused, make two phone calls. One to the P.D., and another to the media outlet of your choice. Internal Affairs bureaus can’t be trusted to do the job.

    5.) The concept of mutual aid needs to be stressed more in our society. Neighborhood watches are great, but remember that the police can be criminals to. Whether its a burglar or a dirty narc, watch out for your neighbors.

  25. #25 |  matt | 

    I say we mail a bunch of pot to Scalia’s house and then see what he thinks of the police’s professionalism.

  26. #26 |  Tucker | 

    Paul:

    It’s my understanding that the cops intercepted the package at the post office and delivered it to Calvo themselves.

  27. #27 |  _Jon | 

    CNN is covering the story now.
    The reporter is giving the police spokesperson a tough time.

    Mebbe this starts something….

  28. #28 |  FWB | 

    It’s US vs THEM and we dropped the ball by not knowing (and doing) where the line was drawn. THEY are our servants NOT our leaders. We elect people to SERVE us not to lead us.

  29. #29 |  supercat | 

    This raid was the typical overkill, but was it illegal? Why did the cops need a warrant if they saw a package they knew to be drugs brought into the house? It is “hot pursuit”.

    What were the cops searching for that couldn’t wait for a warrant? And what probable cause did they have to believe they would find anything other than the package they already had?

  30. #30 |  Spencer | 

    I think those cops who killed the Mayor’s dogs should be fired and suspended from the force. There a disgrace to the force.

  31. #31 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Jon, thank you for the update. It’s got to start sometime. Let’s hope for the best and be prepared for, well, the usual.

  32. #32 |  el ciudadano | 

    There have been incidents like this locally twice in the past year, and I live in a fairly small town. One was a wrong address where they threw a 65 year old woman on the floor after breaking down the door. In the other incident they had a warrant for the brother of the guy whose house they were invading and they shot him.

    This is what happens when you declare a “war” on crime, the police start treating citizens as the enemy.

  33. #33 |  Frank | 

    #32

    “If cops continue to play at being an army of occupation, they should expect the subjects to play their role in return. Vive la resistance.”

    – J. D. Tucille

  34. #34 |  supercat | 

    //I think those cops who killed the Mayor’s dogs should be fired and suspended from the force. There a disgrace to the force.//

    After that they should be prosecuted for robbery.

  35. #35 |  Paul | 

    I still think the legal situation surrounding the warrant is not clear.

    Tucker just pointed out that the cops may have actually picked the package up at the post office and delivered it themselves, but I don’t think that changes the cops’ defense–they followed the package into the house, so they didn’t need a warrant.

    This is not a house search. I still think it is an arrest in hot pursuit (of the package, even if they delivered it themselves) followed by a search of the house after the arrest for good measure. I suspect the cops didn’t need a warrant. I’d be interested to hear someone knowledgeable on the subject speak up.

    That aside, the cops have obviously bitten off more than they can chew, and I’m sure they are quite sorry they didn’t handle things differently now. I doubt they will end their violent raids (for everyone’s safety!) altogether, but at least they will lay low for awhile.

  36. #36 |  It’s official: security trumps free speech rights | the 941 | 

    […] • Update: cops who busted in and shot mayor’s dogs didn’t even have a proper warrant. […]

  37. #37 |  gsxrkllr | 

    “Justice Scalia assured us that there’s a “new professionalism” taking root in police departments across the country today, rending the Exclusionary Rule in such cases unnecessary”

    i feel so much better!
    seems they are aiming to render all god given rights “unnecessary”.

    i believe eurotrash england tried to do the same thing back in 1776 didn’t it?

  38. #38 |  supercat | 

    Tucker just pointed out that the cops may have actually picked the package up at the post office and delivered it themselves, but I don’t think that changes the cops’ defense–they followed the package into the house, so they didn’t need a warrant.

    Why didn’t they get a warrant before delivering the package? A cop can only use “exigent circumstances” as an excuse for a search when there is no practical way for a cop to obtain a warrant in timely fashion. What exactly was the difficulty with getting a warrant in this case (other than lack of evidence to justify same, perhaps)?

    Actually, once the warrant was obtained, I’m not quite sure what would be the purpose of delivering the package anyway. Can you think of anything the cops might have hoped to accomplish by doing so?

    This is not a house search. I still think it is an arrest in hot pursuit (of the package, even if they delivered it themselves) followed by a search of the house after the arrest for good measure.

    A search of the house for good measure is not a house search?

  39. #39 |  You Want to Kill My Dogs While You’re Here? « Olde Frothingblog | 

    […] huge mistake. The mayor’s house wasn’t the intended recipient of the drug package, and the SWAT team didn’t have a no-knock warrant to conduct the raid anyway. Yet the Prince George’s County police refuse to apologize for the […]

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