We have seen so many stories this year of deadly violence perpetrated by police on unarmed people, mostly people of color. But there are other kinds of police abuse that, while not ending in the death or injury of the person at the receiving end, also end up being traumatic. Many of these are due to the police barging into people’s homes with no warning, such as this case where a perfectly innocent woman was kept naked in her own home. This happened two years ago but the city tried to block release body-cam video that supported the woman’s version of what happened.
The city of Chicago attempted to block a local news station from airing recently obtained body camera footage of police mistakenly raiding the wrong home with guns drawn and handcuffing a distressed, naked woman.
CBS2-TV released body camera footage on Monday night of officers forcing their way into the home of Anjanette Young nearly two years ago. The 50-year-old clinical social worker, who helps victims of violence and mentors people of color going into her profession, had just finished her work shift at a hospital and was undressing in her bedroom when a group of male officers broke down her door with a battering ram.
In the disturbing Feb. 21, 2019, footage, officers appear to have their guns drawn while they yell for Young to put her hands up. She can then be seen in the video fully naked with her hands raised, looking terrified and confused (CBS2 blurred parts of the video in which Young was shown naked). One officer puts Young’s hands behind her back and handcuffs her, leaving her with no way to cover herself as police search her home.
CBS2 found that the officers involved failed to check if they had the correct address before getting their search warrant approved. A confidential informant had told the raid’s lead officer that he’d recently seen a known felon with guns and ammunition at the address, according to the police department’s complaint for a search warrant, which the news station obtained.
The informant reportedly gave police the wrong address, and there’s no evidence that officers independently verified the informant’s claim.
The body cam footage backs up exactly what Anjanette told us happened last year.
— Samah Assad (@SAssadNews) December 15, 2020
The top city lawyer has resigned in the wake of the controversy.
The practice of issuing no-knock warrants has to end or at least the judges who issue them should ask far more probing questions of the police before issuing them. New York State is proposing legislation to strongly limit the use of no-knock warrants.
The New York bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Brian Benjamin and James Sanders Jr. and Assembly Member Daniel J. O’Donnell, seeks to limit the use of unannounced, no-knock raids to the most severe circumstances, like the pursuit of a murder suspect or incidents involving active shooters, hostage-taking, terrorism, or human trafficking. It would ban the issuance of no-knock warrants aimed exclusively at searching for drugs, currently the most common use of these heavily militarized raids. But unlike other current and draft state and local legislation, as well as three federal proposals, the New York bill would also impose a host of restrictions on what are known as “knock-and-announce” search warrants, a more common type of forcible entry that has led to dozens of deadly encounters in recent years.
“We must stop the over militarization of our communities,” Sanders said in a statement. “Today, we are putting forth the most comprehensive, groundbreaking legislation in the nation when it comes to these police raids, which should only be used under extreme circumstances and with accountability.”
[T]he line between court-approved unannounced raids and raids in which police are legally required to knock and announce themselves is often blurry in practice, and most raids turn into what are known as “quick-knocks,” during which police announce themselves and break in almost simultaneously.
Brian Dolan, a criminal defense attorney who has studied the practice, warned of the “gray area” between no-knock and knock-and-announce warrants.
“A lot of times you’ll see that the police will sort of knock on the door very quickly while simultaneously saying ‘police,’ but not saying it loud enough for anyone to hear,” he told The Intercept. “And then they are waiting just a few seconds before breaking the door down, without giving anyone inside enough time to respond.”
The New York bill introduced this week does include a 30-second wait time provision, as well as a host of other restrictions on all warrant executions.
Then we have the case of a 71-year old black man Jethro DeVane who was kept naked in full public view outside his home just because he had opened his door slightly to see what the commotion outside was about.
A 71-year-old black man in South Carolina was embarrassed and feared for his life when a police officer looking for teens who might have been breaking into cars held him outside naked and at gunpoint after he peeked out his door to check on the disturbance, the man said in a lawsuit.
Body-camera video of the June 2019 encounter in Rock Hill shows Officer Vincent Mentesana cursing at Jethro DeVane and telling him not to close the door.
Mentesana orders DeVane to stand outside his home naked at 4am, facing the wall, according to the video, which DeVane and his lawyer obtained through a public records request and released on Tuesday. When DeVane asks what’s going on, Mentesana responds, “I don’t want to talk to you.”
The officer held the gun to DeVane’s head for 90 seconds as other officers looked through his home, according to the lawsuit.
“I did what the man said. He had the weapon. He could have took my life in a minute,” DeVane said at a news conference on Tuesday with his lawyer.
Once Mentesana got the all-clear, he asked DeVane his name and told him why police were in the neighborhood.
Police did not have a search warrant for DeVane’s house, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday, which claims gross negligence, emotional distress and false imprisonment.
DeVane said he was embarrassed because there was at least one woman among the officers and feared for his life; that if he tried to close the door, grab some clothes or argued, the officer with the gun to his head would fire.
“I won’t get over it the rest of my life,” DeVane said.
DeVane’s attorney, Justin Bamberg, said what took place at DeVane’s house would never happen in a rich white neighborhood.
“Why do we have to be here advocating for human decency and human dignity? It is utterly ridiculous and it is unacceptable,“ he said. “And it needs to stop before there is a death. God forbid, if Mr DeVane had panicked like a lot of people would and tried to close that door.”
And then we have the final insult of blaming the victim.
DeVane said the police chief went to his home later that month to discuss what happened and said he probably should not sleep naked.
“I didn’t have my clothes on that night. Why? I’m in my house,” DeVane said on Tuesday, adding, “Like I told him, if you had let me know you were coming, I would have put my clothes on.”
As DeVane’s lawyer said, this would never happen in a rich white neighborhood.