There is a practice in the law enforcement community in the United States known colloquially as the “no-knock raid”. This is where a bunch of law enforcement officers gear up in paramilitary equipment, break in someone’s door, and drag someone to jail, all without any requirement to ever do or say anything to indicate they’re police officers until after the excitement dies down.
This is primarily a result of the “war on drugs”, of course. The justification is that knocking and announcing may give an alleged drug law violator time to flush drugs down the toilet and otherwise destroy evidence. This, despite the fact that anyone with enough drugs to make a strong case for conviction as a drug trafficker would have too much contraband to flush it all down a toilet, of course.
Secondarily, it is a result of the push by our government’s executive branch to expand police powers, fueled by the demands of a “war on terror” that are also used to justify institutionalized violation of rights to freedom from search and seizure without cause and to petition the courts for a writ of habeas corpus, among others.
The result is that police officers get to play war, and people often get shot. In the heat of the moment, quite a few innocent people have been shot by police participating in such raids, including octogenarians, a mother and her baby, and others less obviously absurd targets who are no less deserving of such treatment — including family pets, of course, sometimes even when they could not possibly pose any realistic threat to the officers. All too often, the raids are based on faulty information, targeting people who have done nothing wrong or even targeting the house one street over from the actual lawbreaker.
This is not solely a matter of police gone bad. DAs are complicit in these crimes against the citizenry, seeking the warrants used for these raids, and judges grant boilerplate warrants without probable cause. Not only is the executive branch of government, in the form of law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys, at fault for enacting such bad policies, but the judicial branch — supposedly the immediate check on executive power, meant to curb such excesses — is failing its duty and throwing in with the executive in violating the rights of the people.
A recent example of our system of jurisprudence failing us is the case of Tracy Ingle. This is a man who evidently makes poor choices and has been less than successful in life, but has never committed a violent crime and, despite his personal failings, appears to be a well-meaning individual. A no-knock warrant was served on the house where he lived, a house actually owned by his sister, with no notable evidence of any wrongdoing on his part having come to light. He was shot five times in the raid, then hauled out of the hospital to be subjected to substandard care that led to infections developing. He is now being held for trial on trumped-up charges based in large part on the presence of his sister’s jewelry-making tools stored in the attic (“drug paraphernalia”, naturally). His entire family put together cannot afford the kind of attorney he needs to get out from under these criminal charges, so he’s looking pretty screwed.
His sister put together a website meant to inform the public and seek support, to find justice for Tracy Ingle. More information can be found there, including links to a few informative articles by the likes of Radley Balko (who constantly reports on the increasing excesses of law enforcement agencies across the US), as can a donation button to offer monetary support for retaining a lawyer that may be able to help Tracy fight the case against him. Even if there’s no credible case, he still needs a lawyer to be able to make that clear in a court of law, after all — a better lawyer than he’s ever likely to get from the Public Defender’s office.
I just dropped $20 in the donation box (too damned poor in tax season, post-Penguicon, et cetera, to do much more), and may offer my services to help Tracy’s sister out in her efforts on his behalf in some other ways as well. Aside from donating money, spreading the word, using the contact information on the page to make sure certain organizations and people are aware of the growing public knowledge of these events, and offering words of encouragement to Tracy and his family can all contribute to improving their circumstances. Beyond all that, making as many people as possible aware of the problems with no-knock raids — which lead to the deaths of not only the often innocent victims of such raids, but police officers involved in the raids as well — is also important