The list of tragic deaths of innocent people caused by police and SWAT teams blasting into people’s homes in the middle of the night with battering rams and with their guns firing continues to grow. Some jurisdictions have stopped the use of so-called ‘no-knock’ warrants that allows them to break down doors without warning.
But John Oliver on last week’s Last week Tonight says that there is little difference between a ‘no knock’ warrant and a warrant that requires knocking, since the police are only required to wait only 20 seconds after knocking before breaking down the door. Since they usually arrive in the middle of the night, the 20 second limit is meaningless. Hell, it often takes me longer than that to answer the door even when I am awake and dressed and it is in the middle of the day.
He says the solution stares us in the face. We should ban the use of drug raids that make up the majority of these cases. The ‘war on drugs’ is the cause of a vast number of abuses in the justice system, such as the hyper-militarization of local police forces, mass incarcerations for low-level non-violent offenses, and police brutality while providing very little benefit. Most of the people targeted are users, who need treatment and other forms of help rather than imprisonment.
The problem is that because many police departments have now become paramilitary forces equipped with wartime equipment, they use massive force to deal with pretty much every situation, as this story reveals, and courts have ruled that they are not required to compensate people for the damage to property they cause. Some are suing to try and change that.
[I]f the government won’t be on the hook for any cost from the damage, cops have little reason to stop and think before they bash up someone’s home, said Daniel Woislaw, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian public interest law firm that is not involved in Baker’s case.
“The incentive structure that’s created when the government is not accountable for destroying or taking private property is they’re going to do that more, they’re going to be more destructive, they’re going to use more military equipment,” Woislaw said.
Without accountability, abuses by prosecutors and police will continue.