Better And Better

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Vocal Minority on No-Knock Warrants.

In comments on my last post, my good friend Old NFO stated that the sad thing was that I was beginning to become the minority in my opinion. I began to respond, and then decided that this needed a post all its own.

I don't think that's necessarily the truth. The problem is that too many cops are hearing a vocal minority who are declaring that our lives are too important NOT to do No-Knock Warrants, without really thinking it out:
1. No Knocks increase the likelihood of our being shot at.
2. The argument is meretricious-- the real hidden goal often is to protect evidence.
3. What about the innocents and those maybe not-innocent-but-not-deserving-of-being-shot? Shouldn't we protect their lives?

If we lay it out that way, I think  that the average cop will agree that No Knock Warrants have by and large had their day.

The vast, vast vast majority of cops do not serve No-Knock Warrants.

I've served a few felony search warrants (not that many, though), and I have never served a No-Knock warrant, in almost a decade and a half. I've never even been asked to do so.

The last felony search warrant that I served came closest, and that wasn't very close. We had a drug raid where one of our officers obtained a felony search warrant, and there was a discussion of obtaining  a No-Knock clause (the guy had a pistol), but in the end, we just beat on the door, and shouted "Police with a search warrant! Open up!" When no one answered after the given time, we opened the door with a sledge hammer, and announced ourselves repeatedly before securing the scene. The guy was gone, but his drug dealing operation (drugs, money, gun, files) wasn't. We taped the warrant to the broken door, and left with the evidence, and got an arrest warrant. Like you do.

In a small department, we do pretty much everything, which means that we act as investigator, entry team member, and bailiff. If a No-Knock Warrant were obtained in our department, I would have known about it. Not once in my career have I been part of such a thing.   This isn't a brag-- I don't think that the next department south or north has done one in that time, either. It's just not that common. So why is it that we small town PDs can get along without them, but the larger ones can't? I think that the answer lies in the mentality of the tactical commanders of SWAT teams.

The premier SWAT unit in the United States has traditionally been the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). They have a very difficult and specialized job, which they are trained to do really well. Everyone wants to be the elite, and thus, tactical teams look toward that team as the standard to emulate. But here's the thing: hostage rescue isn't that common. The vast majority of the uses for tactical teams turns out to be high risk warrant service. But since hostage rescue does occasionally happen, they train for it, as they should. The problem comes when you apply training for this situation to other situations. When SWAT goes in on a hostage rescue, you can bet that the likelihood of someone getting shot at goes way up. We do NOT want that increased percentage of a shooting in an instance where we could prevent it, like a simple warrant service. But when you model yourself after a group whose primary role is hostage rescue, you can get into that mindset.

Bona fide tac commanders are the snake eaters in a department, and tend to be highly regarded. They are used to giving directions and being heard. They are used to looking at a problem and seeing how to overcome it. We need these guys. We also need to keep them in check, and check their influence on standard. Often, the tactical commanders have a good handle on when and when not to use force and surprise, but they will be misunderstood and misquoted by others. A culture develops where the guy who raises his hand and questions why we need to make "Dynamic Entries" is derided by those who don't actually know what the tactical commander actually would do.

So it is that we have a good number of guys who are infected with bad information.

Approximately half of the officers in this nation come from departments of 10 or fewer sworn officers. Those smaller departments do NOT have "SWAT teams," per se (sometimes departments will have task force teams). I think that most of the smaller departments do not have as much of a shift toward no-knocks, because they don't have a tactical team.  I am not against SWAT-- we need them, badly at times. They practice to do a difficult job which is everything about teamwork and very little about personal achievement. I do not think that the answer is to ban them. But part of the tactical training, especially for commanders, needs to be to recognize when to hold off on the "dynamic entries."

The only hostage rescue that I ever took part in, I played a tiny role of. A murderer had a child that he planned to abscond to Mexico with. He had holed up in a motel. I was one of the first ones at the motel, and with my patrol rifle I lay in prone overwatch on the door of that motel for about 90 minutes, waiting for SWAT to deploy. When they relieved me, I was grateful-- without a shooter's mat, I had found every little acorn under that live oak that I had set up under that night. The next morning, the tactical guys set upon the bad guy as he stepped out of the motel, and arrested him peacefully. Like pros.

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9 Comments:

At Saturday, June 07, 2014 3:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The premier SWAT unit in the United States has traditionally been the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). They have a very difficult and specialized job, which they are trained to do really well."

If they (Lon Horiuchi and the organizational culture that enabled him) are the best there are, scrap the entire concept.

 
At Sunday, June 08, 2014 8:36:00 AM, Blogger Gaffer said...

Beautifully written and a great statement of personal probity. It's too bad that the politicians and the political leadership of can't follow the your reasoning.
As Marko says "Matt G is a peace officer"

 
At Sunday, June 08, 2014 10:46:00 AM, Blogger perlhaqr said...

I am definitively not a cop. Frankly, I don't even generally like cops all the much. I got harassed for "walking with funny colored hair" too much as a teen for that. (I'm just stating that up front so that my knowledge and bias are clear at the outset.)

I have heard it said that a big part of why SWAT and SWAT-like tactics are used so much is due to a "use it or lose it" issue regarding funding. SWAT teams are expensive, and while they're what you want to have in a serious hostage situation, how many of those do you really get? So, since you A.) don't want those guys to get rusty, and B.) don't want that line item in your budget for something you only use maybe twice in a really bad year, they end up getting called out for stuff that's way outside the scope of practice.

Another side of the story would seem to be as follows: I'm a gun guy, and a general car nut. I like cool toys. I suspect a lot of other people like cool toys too. And the Feds are handing out a lot of very cool toys to police departments, and telling them to go use them for drug warrant service. It seems not impossible to me that unless you sit down and spend some time thinking about why you shouldn't use that Lenco Bearcat to go knock down the drug-dealer's house, you might think to yourself "Man, that would be really cool."

*shrug* But as I say, I certainly don't know. Thoughts?

 
At Sunday, June 08, 2014 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Chris Mallory said...

You come close, but not far enough. Unless you are rescuing a hostage, stopping an active shooter, or providing emergency medical care, no matter if you have a warrant or not, you have no business going in any citizen's home without them opening the door and letting you in. "Drugs and a pistol" don't cut it. You should have been held personally responsible for repairing the door you opened with a sledge hammer. You should be personally responsible for returning a citizen's property to the condition you found it before you searched. PERIOD. Dumping drawers, overturning furniture, destroying vehicles has all got to stop. Until then, don't claim to be a "good guy".

 
At Sunday, June 08, 2014 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Friends and neighbors, Chris Mallory doesn't think that I can claim to be a good guy. Okay.

Personally responsible? (Shrug. I was second in the stack, and didn't swing it, but I was on the scene and never called for him to stop, so I'll accept some responsibility.) Mr. Mallory, sometimes, when you're issued an order by a judge to search a property and take a suspect into custody, your suspect doesn't open the door. The order calls for entering the premises. We complied. Mr. Drug Dealer never asked us to repair his door. We probably would have considered it. As it was, the property maintenance guy fixed it when we left.

But Chris, if I get a warrant for a felony, and announce myself, and am in uniform with a copy of the warrant present, and am a LEO in my jurisdiction serving that felony warrant, I have met the standards of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and I the suspect claiming "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" by barricading himself in the house doesn't cut it. Sometimes, we have to go in and get them. I'm sorry if you disagree.

 
At Sunday, June 08, 2014 9:22:00 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Well said. Proud to consider you a friend

 
At Monday, June 09, 2014 10:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt G., you're wrong you know your wrong in your heart and you likely refuse to admit it. Its impossible for you to consider yourself a "good guy" until you repent and correct your error..
Its Ollie , Ollie,, allin free....Everything else you posted I agree with.

"if I get a warrant for a felony, and announce myself, and am in uniform with a copy of the warrant present, and am a LEO in my jurisdiction serving that felony warrant, I have met the standards of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution "

Keep holding the rope. Be safe.

 
At Monday, June 09, 2014 11:03:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Matt, I understand where you're coming from, and that is probably true(r) for small departments. In the big city/metro departments, SWAT is always available to do no-knocks and it helps boost the department(s) use of the Tommy Tactical stuff they get from the Fed. Friend of mine just retired after 31 years as an LEO, Captain, former SWAT because he didn't like what he was seeing. One of your key points is- "We need these guys. We also need to keep them in check, and check their influence on standard. Often, the tactical commanders have a good handle on when and when not to use force and surprise, but they will be misunderstood and misquoted by others."

They also need to be reined in on 'every' call is a SWAT call, cause we need 'X' from the Feds...

 
At Monday, June 09, 2014 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Zack said...

"Unless you are rescuing a hostage, stopping an active shooter, or providing emergency medical care, no matter if you have a warrant or not, you have no business going in any citizen's home without them opening the door and letting you in."

@chris : So sexual assault, murder, aggravated assault don't qualify? Certainly there are many felonies that are committed where a peace officer would secure a search warrant to recover evidence of the crime where the suspect might not answer the door. Knock and announce your presence as uniformed peace officers with a valid warrant. If the individual chooses not to respond, eventually you'll have to go in.

I have a suspicion that your comment was made solely in light of the "drugs and a pistol" nature of the scenario. You think the drug war is misguided, so do I, but these tools cover a whole range of situations that you are ignoring.

 

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