Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby RaharuAharu » Fri Feb 06, 2009 12:37 pm

http://www.reason.com/blog/show/131539.html

Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo, who last summer was subjected to a particularly violent mistaken drug raid in which police shot and killed his two black labs, is helping push a new bill in the Maryland legislature that would require every SWAT team in the state to provide to the public "a monthly public report on its activities, including where and when it was deployed and whether an operation resulted in arrests, evidence seizures or injuries."

This is a terrific first step, and the Maryland legislature needs to pass it. Part of the problem I've encountered reporting on this issue is that police departments tend to to be stingy with this sort of information. Even when it's available, it's often collected in ways that aren't usable. Over the last few years, I've tried to file open records request for copies search warrants, evidence return sheets, and any other documentation of SWAT-related drug raids in several major cities. In addition to being quoted prohibitive copying and labor fees, I've also learned that search warrants and evidence return sheets are usually kept in separate places, making it arduous to match them up once a case has been resolved. In cases where a raid resulted in no charges, the warrants are actually often thrown out. Of course, those are the very cases we want to know about.

The bill Calvo's pushing would begin to make data about SWAT teams available, so we can assess how often they're used, in what situations they're used, and, when they're used in drug raids, how often they actually find not only illicit drugs, but the high-power weapons proponents say make these sorts of tactics necessary. In the few places this sort of analysis has been done, the results have been less than convincing.

Calvo's bill would also show how many often Maryland's SWAT teams hit the wrong home.

It'll be interesting to see how the state's police organizations react. Commenters to the Washington Post article who appear to be police officers seem to be miffed at even this small bit of transparency.


Be sure to Check out the Fark Thread on this story, many good comments there, also some not so good.

The Fark Thread: SPAM.fark.com/cgi/fark/comment ... nk=4193882


Scerpes: Prank Call of Cthulhu: The warrant in the PG County dog shooting case is fascinating reading (new window). It basically says, "A box of drugs was discovered, addressed to a particular house. We're going to search that house and seize a bunch of stuff that drug dealers usually have. We don't have any proof they've got this stuff. But based on the nature of the charge we can infer they've got this stuff." Wonderful, circular logic that says because they're suspicious, that must be evidence of your guilt.

Umm...yeah...you should read a little further. A box of drugs was discovered addressed to the house. Undercover police posing as fedex employees delivered the box to the house it was addressed to. Therefore, we know the drugs are there. That's pretty solid evidence.

And who sent those drugs? The police did. They created their own probable cause. Supposedly they were investigating a drug ring that addressed boxes of drugs to the wrong houses and then picked them up before the homeowners got home. Strangely though, they've made zero arrests in that case...Maybe because this mysterious "wrong address" ring has been providing PG police with probable cause for almost 2 decades now


Mrstupid7 Quote 2009-02-06 11:37:59 AM
They should also show how much property and money is taken from people that they *suspect* (not proven guilty) are involved with drugs.

Guilty until proven innocent.
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Re: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby Relee » Fri Feb 06, 2009 2:13 pm

Oh that would be fantastic!
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Re: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby marinschild » Fri Feb 06, 2009 2:48 pm

I feel as though this would just mean that some SWAT teams would leave out the messy details from their missions.
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Re: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby strange_person » Fri Feb 06, 2009 3:16 pm

That would be relatively easy to fix, by checking with other sources. The problem right now is that they're leaving out entire missions.
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Re: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby Shackler » Sat Feb 07, 2009 2:50 pm

Good bill.
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Re: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby strange_person » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:29 am

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Re: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams

Postby Monocheres » Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:04 pm

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