Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thinking Again About Para-Military Raids

Not a very nice ending here.

FBI agent, Samuel Hicks, was killed this week in Pittsburgh while serving an arrest warrant in a botched drug raid. He was 33. After the agent knocked on the suspect’s door and announced his intention, the suspect apparently proceeded to flush his stash of cocaine down the toilet. After the suspect didn’t answer, they were shot by the suspect’s wife when they came through the threshold.

May he rest in peace. He did his job and gave his life doing it.

But that should raise some questions, and The Agitator (a libertarian who thinks drug laws should be changed) essays on it.

It’s the paramilitary tactics that are the problem. These tactics carry a very low margin for error, on the part of both the police and the suspects they’re raiding. You’re waking people up, and while they’re groggy and fearful, you’re forcing them to process and evaluate an armed confrontation. I don’t care how much force you bring, that’s a needlessly dangerous situation, not just for suspects and innocent bystanders, but for police officers. And even if all of these raids went down exactly as planned, there’s the broader question of whether the image of armed men dressed as soldiers battering down American citizens’ doors some 40-50,000 per year, mostly for consensual crimes, is one that’s consistent with a free society. I’d argue it isn’t

This paramilitary stuff began (IIRC) during the Clinton Administration, in no small part because that Administration was handing out money for this like candy...

It was Korbe’s wife who shot and killed Agent Hicks. Christina Korbe had no prior criminal record. She had a legal permit for the gun she used. She was upstairs with her two children, ages 10 and 4, when the police tore down the door at 6 am. She plausibly says she had no idea they were police

...She says she didn’t hear the announcement, and thought her home was being robbed—not an unreasonable assumption. She says she fired at the men invading her home because she feared they might hurt her kids. More to the point, she was on the phone with a 911 operator during the raid. Now I’ll admit that I can’t easily assume the mindset of a cold-blooded cop killer, but it’s hard to imagine one who would knowingly kill a raiding police officer, then call the police to come investigate.

It remains to be seen whether Ms. Korbe is indicted and prosecuted for shooting the FBI agent.

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