A reader writes:
My apartment was raided by the swat team serving a search warrant for an embezzlement issue (re: nonviolent). It wasn't for me or my family of course. It was the for someone who moved out three months before. I was lucky; I leave for work work at 5:20am and was not there. My wife was traumatized but not mistreated (she was hustled out when she opened the door but not pinned to the ground or anything . . . our daughter was left in her bed while they swept the apartment for the person on the warrant). Still, it was a ridiculous and unnecessary risk* considering the crime in question. A couple of normal deputies, with guns in the holsters, could have served a warrant of this kind (and that's exactly how I think it would have been done 15 years ago) and ushered in the detectives and postal inspector looking for evidence. Really, a Judge's oversight is obviously no longer enough.
(* my wife and I both, legally, own firearms...)
The reader asked that I not use his name. But he did send and give me permission to post the search warrant, which you can view here. This is far from the most disastrous raid we've covered here. But it's another data point illustrating just how routine this sort of thing has become. Why is it necessary to wake people before dawn and point guns at them for an embezzlement warrant? And of course, even assuming that this suspect was some sort of violent mobster, and embezzlement was only one of his many suspected crimes, if you are going to serve the warrant this way, at least do enough homework to know your suspect has moved out -- and an innocent family has moved in -- three months prior to the raid.
The firearms addendum is not an irrelevant point. There have been numerous instances where the fact that a suspect was a legal, registered gun owner was indicated by police as a reason why SWAT tactics were necessary. That's absurd, and should at the very least suggest that maybe they have the wrong person -- hardened criminals tend not to register their weapons with the government. But it should also be a red flag for the gun rights community. Additionally, as these tactics continue to spread to enforce increasingly petty and nonviolent crimes, we're almost certain to see more wrong-door raids on legal gun owners. It isn't difficult to see a lot of tragic outcomes, there.
(The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.)