What’s Going On in New Haven?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

New Haven has been having some problems with its nightlife. So they’re sending out the SWAT team.

For a moment, employees at a St. John Street cabaret said, they thought they were being robbed when masked gunmen with assault rifles stormed in Monday night.

It quickly became clear, however — as bartenders, patrons and exotic dancers were ordered to the floor and handcuffed — that they were part of some type of raid.

Police had a warrant for a suspected marijuana operation, but it was in a different portion of a 15,000-square foot building that housed several businesses. They just went ahead and raided them all.

“I work hard to run a clean operation,” said Johnny, the owner, who didn’t want his last name used. “They came in here like gangbusters and put guns on people. They know we’re clean.”

One person was arrested on cocaine-related charges, but Hoffman said it was an on-site arrest, not because of the search warrant.

“These guys are no joke,” said one eyewitness who was at the raid and like other patrons, staff and “handcuffed, naked strippers,” was prone on the floor.

He saw agents charging in, some in masks.

“Battering rams, bulletproof shields, assault rifles. They had 30 to 35 people on the floor in cuffs and this whole building was locked down in a matter of three or four minutes,” the man said, not wanting to provide his name.

This comes a few weeks after New Haven police sent the SWAT team to raid a bar where there was suspected underage drinking.

Police arrested five Yale students, including one who ended up in the hospital after officers Tased and subdued him. Police said the student was kicking and punching three officers. Eyewitnesses said a cop punched and kicked and Tased the student with no provocation beyond a request to make a phone call, while other students were threatened with arrest if they used cell phone cameras or sent text messages, according to this story and this story in the Yale Daily News.

“It was beyond overreaction. They were like storm troopers,” claimed John Carta, attorney for the club’s owner, Rommerro Farrah. Click here to read a letter he sent Monday to the police chief.

The incident occurred a week after similar complaints followed the arrest of a Quinnipiac University student who was video-recording an arrest outside Toad’s Place. The video captured both a bouncer and a cop ordering him to put away his cell phone camera. Chief Limon said the student was arrested not for taking the video, but for disobeying police commands and interfering with an investigation and with his friend’s arrest.

More on the student raids here and here.

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52 Responses to “What’s Going On in New Haven?”

  1. #1 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    “It was beyond overreaction. They were like storm troopers,”

    Correction, they are stormtroopers.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    I bet this helps them qualify for some federal grant money…

  3. #3 |  MadRocketScientist | 

    I wonder why we never see these kinds of raids on police dramas on TV or in movies?

  4. #4 |  EH | 

    Ha ha, they want “disobeying commands” to be a crime SO BADLY.

  5. #5 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    “What’s Going On in New Haven?”

    Why, exactly the same thing that’s going on in the rest of our incipient police-state.

  6. #6 |  JS | 

    Wait till the troops get home from doing this same shit in Iraq and Afghanistan and join your local police force.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    maybe it’s another ‘cop/stripper’ story gone wrong.

  8. #8 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Rolling your eyes and smirking are evidently a felony in New Haven.

  9. #9 |  Joe | 

    Is this the new community policing program in action?

  10. #10 |  Joe | 

    Those Yaleies are friggin wild, you need a tactical team to keep them under control.

  11. #11 |  Mattocracy | 

    If only Joe Leiberman had been a patron to get roughed up in the process.

  12. #12 |  SJE | 

    Marion Barry got beat by the white police in the early days of DC, and spent the next few decades making life difficult for the white residents of DC. In 5-10 years, a bunch of Yale students will start to be in positions where they could exercise some power over the police state. I hope they remember their treatment at the hands of New Haven cops.

  13. #13 |  Cynical in CA | 

    What’s Going On in New Haven?

    The popos are practicing.

  14. #14 |  Bob | 

    New Haven police Lt. Jeff Hoffman, who heads the narcotics squad, stressed the warrant wasn’t specifically for Crazy Horse Cabaret, the former Stage Door Johnny’s, at 85 St. John St., but rather for the 15,000-square-foot building, an old clock factory that takes up an entire block on Hamilton Street.

    Yeah, That’s not a raging 4th amendment violation of search and seizure laws.

    You can’t just get a warrant for an entire city block. Oh! Apparently you can!

    Fuck, why stop there? The entire city! “There’s drugs in that city, Judge! I needs me a warrant!”

  15. #15 |  Whim | 

    The eternal clash between Town and Gown.

    Lower middle-class New Haven police beating down upper-class Yale college students.

    It’s been happening since at least the Middle Ages, regularly at Cambridge and Oxford.

    Now, SWAT teams looking for underage drinking do seem like just a bit of overkill, but you just can’t be too careful.

    One of the students might squirm when being manhandled, and can justify a bodyslam into a concrete road surface to inflict abrasions, bruising, broken teeth, black eyes, and of course its intended purpose:

    OBEDIANCE Training.

    Serves the bitch right?

  16. #16 |  dsp | 

    You need not have followed Radley long to learn that this is now commonplace.

    Don’t expect it to stop, because it won’t.

  17. #17 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    JS @ #6 is not to be taken lightly. The shit you do over there follows you home.

    Whim, it doesn’t matter if you squirm or not. The cops can put a bullet thru your skull any time they want. That is the power they’ve been given. Now, if you squirm it’ll just make their story easier to write.

  18. #18 |  Marty | 

    Bush was a Yale alumni… I smell a conspiracy.

  19. #19 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Of course, I don’t think the thugs needed much encouragement to extend their warrant to include the strip joint.

    Remember, they are heroes…as they slam a boot into the back of a naked girl.

  20. #20 |  K9kevlar | 

    All praises to allah that the godvernment prohibits dogs in the bar/stripjoint.

  21. #21 |  K9kevlar | 

    The warrant for the entire block seems plausible. But wtf, nice job on giving them the idea for the entire city! Mich. v. Sitz can make that reality.

  22. #22 |  Bob | 

    One of the frightening things I see happening here is the total erosion of the 4th amendment.

    The people responsible for this are the cops getting these bogus warrants and the Judges passing them out like candy.

    The people actually getting and issuing the warrants are legally untouchable. The worst think that could happen is whatever evidence is gathered can’t be used in court. So what? Was that ever even a concern? The very existence of the warrant allows the po pos to just barge in and start racking up incidental arrests. Some found drugs here, a ‘resisting arrest’ charge there.

    Look at this raid on the Cabaret. The warrant is for a “Marijuana grow op” somewhere in the 15,000 foot complex. What, they thought they were growing pot RIGHT THERE IN THE CLUB? No.

    Clearly, this warrant was totally bogus as far as the raid on the cabaret was concerned.

    But… that doesn’t matter to the cops! In a twisted mockery of the constitution, the only evidence that could be thrown out would be evidence pertaining to crimes that they knew weren’t being committed. But what if a po po sees you with cocaine? Or runs your ID and mistakes you for someone that has a warrant? Or thinks you looked at them wrong and need a “resisting arrest” arrest? None of that has anything to do with the crap warrant.

    The cops are basically saying “Ok! We used our shit warrant to get in the door, now it’s fish for arrests time! Bend over, Peons! The Blue Gang is here!”

  23. #23 |  Maria | 

    They’ve been collecting these shiny toys, costumes and “training” for decades now, we can’t honestly expect them to just sit on it all and wait till there is a real, true, honest, cross my heart, need for them. Can we? Of course not! That would be terribly mean and unfair to the poor excitable tots. All these poor boys want to do is go out and get dirty, and play! Don’t worry though, don’t feel left out, there will be many more fun times to be had by all.

  24. #24 |  Bob | 


    New product idea! A vinyl sticker that reads “Bend over, Peons! The Blue Gang is here!” that is just big enough to cover up the writing on police cars that says “To protect and serve”.

    Don’t get caught putting them on, though. I’m pretty sure the po pos won’t like it.

  25. #25 |  JS | 

    Bob “New product idea! A vinyl sticker that reads “Bend over, Peons! The Blue Gang is here!” that is just big enough to cover up the writing on police cars that says “To protect and serve”.”

    It would be more appropriate though. Or maybe one that reads “To bully and intimidate”

  26. #26 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    New Haven cops up to their old tricks.
    Remember when they locked up Jim Morrisson for “making” out” with
    a young woman?

    Same old shit, different decade.

  27. #27 |  Bob | 


    I thought of that, I’m also rather partial to the one Barricade (The evil robot in the “Transformers” movie that turns into a Police Car.) has. His says “To Punish and Enslave”.

    The problem with these is they’re too much like the original. (Yes, I realize that’s the intent) It’s too easy to glance at it and read “To Serve and to Protect” by mistake.

    Mine’s far more in your face and unmistakable.

  28. #28 |  Kevin3% | 

    Using the threat of lethal force for Mala prohibita “crimes” is part of the conditioning process. This is an ongoing endeavor throughout police work to rule by intimidation. Arrested for “not obeying commands” is also part of it.

    We are witnessing the rampant growth of the police state. It only gets worse from here. There will be no turn around or change in attitude or tactics among LEO’s. We won’t vote our way out of this mess.

    Obey and submit like a kicked dog or gear up for the coming fight like a free-thinking individual. Guerrilla skirmishes are soon to follow.

  29. #29 |  MacGregory | 

    #22 Bob
    “The very existence of the warrant allows the po pos to just barge in and start racking up incidental arrests. Some found drugs here, a ‘resisting arrest’ charge there.”

    It was never about stopping a “Marijuana grow op.” It’s revenue generation, arrest notches in the 9mm and a chance to bash some skulls in the guise of “public safety.” The same thing could be said for DUI checkpoints.

    Incidentally, I cringe at the phrase “public safety” especially when it’s in the same sentence with “federal/state grant money.” I know these assholes aren’t buying more fire trucks.

  30. #30 |  the innominate one | 

    “Chief Limon said the student was arrested not for taking the video, but for disobeying police commands and interfering with an investigation and with his friend’s arrest.”

    Disobeying police commands like “stop taking video”.

  31. #31 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “… while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Eugene V. Debs


  32. #32 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “ ‘These guys are no joke,’ said one eyewitness who was at the raid and like other patrons, staff and ‘handcuffed, naked strippers,’ was prone on the floor.”

    Actually, I beg to differ. If you are using dynamic entry tactics to investigate a suspected marijuana operation in a cabaret, you probably are a joke.

  33. #33 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Yeah Helmut, it’s probably the only way those cops could get a stripper prone!

  34. #34 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #31 Cynical:

    I always thought the part about “while there is a soul in prison, I am not free” was a little naive, because, frankly, I am not a prison abolitionist. Some people, most notably psychopathic offenders or unapologetic pedophiles (these offenders represent a minority of those currently incarcertated, of course), will need to be separated from the rest of us one way or another. Aside from that critique, I certainly appreciate Debs call to empathize with fellow citizens, most of whom do not possess much wealth or access to power.

    Hmm, you quoted a socialist’s call for solidarity, Cynical. I respect the fact that you did so even though you probably would disagree with Debs’ stance on economic issues. Anti-authoritarians should stick together, whether they lean left or right.

  35. #35 |  JS | 

    “Anti-authoritarians should stick together, whether they lean left or right.”

    Nicely put Helmut!

  36. #36 |  Kevin3% | 

    Helmut @34

    ah!!! but please do not forget that authoritarianism is a key element of socialism/collectivism.

  37. #37 |  croaker | 

    We need to stop calling these “search warrants” and start calling them “writs of assistance.” Problem solved.

  38. #38 |  delta | 


  39. #39 |  a Duoist | 

    What is the recourse of the innocent American citizen caught up in a SWAT/police raid and subjected to violent control tactics? Sue the city? Threat of federal lawsuit? Email campaign to local politicians? Agitate for a Citizens’ Commission? Formal request for a City Council hearing? Newspaper ‘tip’? Letters to Editors? Graffitti-paint empty cop cars? Bumper stickers? Silent street protests? Recall efforts of city council? Chamber of Commerce interest? Local civic societies? ACLU? Local law school professors and students? Local television news interviews publish/broadcast the judge’s name who authorized the warrant? File a complaint against the authorizing judge with the State Law Board? Local playwright stages a re-enactment; calls the play, ‘Local Thugs in Uniform’? Local artists paint/compose their local ‘Guernica’?

    Or, just bitch and whine on a blog?

  40. #40 |  David Ruttenberg | 
  41. #41 |  Peter Ramins | 


    99% off-topic.

    NSFW / Weak stomachs

  42. #42 |  Bob | 

    #37 Croaker

    We need to stop calling these “search warrants” and start calling them “writs of assistance.” Problem solved.

    Tragically, “Order of Compliance” would be more apt.

    The days when the Police were your friend, and if they needed to search your house they knocked respectfully on your door and served a Search Warrant to you are over.

    This is the age of the Storm Trooper. They bust right in and hold guns to your head. Is their warrant legal? You have no way to know. You never got to look at it!

    Nor do you have any meaningful legal recourse against the thugs that just broke into your house.

  43. #43 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #34 | Helmut O’ Hooligan

    Great point Helmut about the “while there is a soul in prison” phrase. I’m not a mind reader, let alone a psychic medium, so I’ll never know what was in Debs’ head when he said that, but I can easily amend it to read “while there is an undeserving soul in prison …”

    Debs trafficked with all types, anarchists included. Vonnegut, a huge Debs admirer, is one of my favorite authors, and while some of his and Debs’ socialism rankles me, there is much to admire from the two Indianans.

    There is no denying Debs was a man of principle, willing to go to jail unjustly for his beliefs. He fought against the exploiters of men, and if he was a little economically and politically naive or credulous, he can be forgiven.

  44. #44 |  Ben | 

    Ah, the constitution state!

  45. #45 |  Anonymous Coward | 

    Hey, how about a plug?!


  46. #46 |  Cynical in CA | 

    h/t Anonymous Coward.

  47. #47 |  Peter Ramins | 

    I sent Balko the link to the drug war pics and I didn’t get a plug!

    Well, wait, I sent him an email that went something like “You’ve probably gotten 900 emails like this…”

    If I really wanted credit I’d have my own blog, I suspect.

  48. #48 |  Cynical in CA | 

    h/t Peter Ramins. See new Agitator post today.

  49. #49 |  Walt Forest | 

    Welcome to the drug war. Check your civil liberties at the door please.

  50. #50 |  Don’t Hand Over That ID! | Truth and Justice For All | 

    […] Problem is, Yale is in New Haven, Connecticut.  And New Haven apparently has a SWAT team that has an institutional over-active thyroid.  Radley Balko’s summary. […]

  51. #51 |  Max | 

    > Chief Limon said the student was arrested not for taking the video, but for disobeying police commands

    So if a policeman orders you to jump off a bridge, are you supposed to follow his command?

    Just asking so I don’t get freaking tased.

  52. #52 |  Gunnutmegger | 

    New Haven is run by liberal democrats. Has been for over 20 years.

    This is what liberalism gets you. This, and lawsuits for promoting firemen without taking their race into consideration. And aggressive panhandlers, too. And parking meters that suddenly start being enforced on weekends!