Police gave stuffed animals to two children…
So begins a post at Raw Story. Is that not heart-warming? It’s always great to read about something nice the police did, right? Unfortunately, the rest of the first sentence isn’t quite so sweet.
Police gave stuffed animals to two children after a SWAT team raided their home last week looking for a previous tenant, but their parents are still waiting for officers to replace the door.
Oh crap. Another wrong door raid? What?
[Jeremy Handley] said officers were looking for a man who rented the home nearly a year before his family moved in, and Handley said he’s upset that police failed to thoroughly investigate before bursting through the back door.
Among the aspects of a warrant application that a judge is supposed to scrutinize is whether the information upon which the warrant is based is still timely. A truthful and accurate recitation of criminal conduct that happened a year ago doesn’t provide a good reason to issue a warrant today. People move. Criminals too. And after they leave a house or apartment, someone else moves in, like Jeremy Handley and his family.
Handley and his wife, Becky, were handcuffed and searched while their two children hid in a bedroom closet.
“We were staying quiet, because we thought they were bad guys coming in,” said 7-year-old Brenden Handley.
Jeremy Handley said officers ransacked the home, looking for cocaine, cash, and weapons in “every drawer, every cabinet, every piece of paper.”
Police told the family they were looking for “a man named Chum,” he said.
But what does “Chum” have to do with Handley? From the perspective of the SWAT team with a search warrant, the answer is “who knows?” Ignorance is a cops’ best friend, as it allows unfettered action because they’re not constrained by information. It sounds counterintuitive, but courts have demonstrated a consistent inclination to give police the benefit of the doubt, and so doubt becomes the weapon of choice.
Curiously, the harm would be bad enough had the SWAT team merely broken down the door, entered the house and forced an innocent family into submission. But at that point, with the potentially dangerous children removed from hiding in the bedroom closet for officer safety, the cops have an opportunity to assess the situation, recognize that there is no “Chum” there and that they’ve raided the home of a wholly unrelated family.
But no. They have a warrant, so search they must. For those who have never had the pleasure of seeing a home post-search, it’s about as disruptive and destructive a thing as one can imagine. Think of every drawer opened and tossed to the ground. Think of furniture ripped apart, and in many instances, destroyed to ascertain if something nefarious is hidden deep within the couch cushions. It doesn’t appear that they permanently destroyed the interior furnishings here, as Handley makes no claim for destruction beyond the door.
But the door. Imagine your home with a door frame busted from the ram rod, unable to close. Impossible to lock. You can’t leave your home until the door is repaired and replaced, because it’s open to the world. “Sorry” brings little comfort.
This story was sent to me by Victor Medina, who asked an important and terribly disturbing question: Is this still news?
It’s long been a concern, as stories of wrong door raids, stale search warrants, harm to innocents, become increasingly pervasive that we grow inured to abuse, misconduct and police error. Heck, nobody was shot and killed this time, and the children didn’t have guns put to their heads. This one barely registers on the outrage meter.
Is this still news? Only to those who give a damn, and as such raids continue despite having been widely condemned and publicized, others grow bored with the repetition. While some of us assume that the more the public hears of these outrages, the greater their skepticism of police claims, there is a very real fear that people will begin to take for granted that this is just the way law enforcement happens. Move on to the newer, cooler outrage.
And Jeremy Handley still can’t close his door, even though he’s done nothing remotely wrong. Given the trauma his children suffered, the least the cops can do is pay for the door they broke. The very least.