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SWAT raids

Balko on SWAT raids

by Kieran Healy on July 18, 2006

Radley Balko’s study of the increase in paramilitary police raids by SWAT teams “is now available”: from Cato. They’ve also produced a “map of botched raids”:, using Google Maps, to show the distribution of raids that involved some kind of serious error. I’d like to see a table of that data as well (or, because I’m greedy, the whose dataset). There are a lot of things one could do with the data beyond just plotting the incidents on a map, though this is certainly an effective way to draw attention to the issue. The “monograph itself”: contains summaries of a large number of the botched raids. The rise of paramilitary policing is a serious problem in itself — just on the very narrow grounds that mistakes are common — but is also clearly bound up with larger questions of criminal justice policy in the United States, and America’s “astonishingly high”: rate of incarceration.

SWAT Teams and Cory Maye Again

by Kieran Healy on March 21, 2006

The BBC are running a story about “SWAT raids”: The hook is the case of Dr Salvatore Culosoi, a Virginia doctor who was under investigation for illegal gambling. Culosi was unarmed, had no history of violent behavior, and threatened no-one during the raid. He was shot dead by a police officer. A striking statistic from the article is that the number of SWAT raids per year has increased from 3,000 in the 1980s to “at least 40,000 per year” now. Seems like a straightforward “garbage-can”: process at the organizational level, or a “neoinstitutionalist”: story at the field level: SWAT teams are effective in certain situations. Initially, it’s cutting-edge departments who have them. They also get a lot of press. The gear makes a nice recruiting tool, too. Pretty soon, you need one if you want to be seen as a respectable police department. Once you have one, it’s a solution sitting around waiting for problems to apply itself to. Seeing as your podunk town is unlikely to have a hostage crisis, the bar for its application gets lowered way, way down. Voila, the police force is now militarized.

The story led me back to “Radley Balko’s”: outstanding coverage of the “Cory Maye case”:, which I wrote about “late last year”: It’s to Balko’s great credit that he’s been following up on this miscarriage of justice. He’s working on a magazine article about the case, which I sincerely hope appears where people will see it. Right now the Maye case shows that a lot of blogger agitation (about a nonpartisan issue, no less) can just sink without a trace unless it gets picked up by the media.

American Criminal Justice System B0rken, Film at 11

by Belle Waring on December 13, 2011

This excellent article from Mother Jones’ Beth Schwartzapfel details how a guilty rapist tried repeatedly to confess to a crime of which another man had been convicted, only to succeed after the innocent man had died. The ensuing exoneration was so complete that then-Governor Rick Perry had to issue a pardon to the dead man, not something Texas governors are generally inclined to do. Rick Perry’s faith in Texas’ system, however, remains serenely unshaken.

A string of devastating stories has put Texas justice, in particular, under a cloud. In addition to Cole’s postmortem exoneration and the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, chronicled in The New Yorker in 2009, there is also the case of Anthony Graves, who served 18 years for a gruesome murder while the true killer confessed again and again. Graves was finally freed in 2010 following a Texas Monthly exposé.

Cole, Willingham, and Graves were all convicted under prior Texas governors. But Perry has done little to improve the state’s criminal-justice system, which has almost a million people in its grip. In 2001, he vetoed a bill banning the execution of the mentally disabled. In 2003, he cut the prison system’s budget by $230 million, slashing education programs, drug treatment, and food; when an independent auditor warned that was untenable, Perry cut the auditor’s office too. In 2007, his administration backed a bill making some child sex offenders eligible for the death penalty. While Perry has signed legislative reforms covering eyewitness identification and access to DNA testing, the system still offers scant options for the many people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

Radley Balko’s blog The Agitator remains an indispensable source of information on cases like these, as well as the uncountable cases in which the War on [Some People Who Use Some Kinds] of Drugs* has metastasized into a cancer that gets untrained local law enforcement rolling out in surplus military gear to perform ill-advised and pointless SWAT-style raids. (With tanks. No, really.) And shoot everybody’s dog when they get there. And maybe their grandmother. Seriously, don’t read the blog if you don’t want to hear about the cops shooting someone’s dog every goddamn day. His recent coverage of the OWS movement has been…how shall I say this…not all I would have hoped from a lover of liberty, but no one’s obliged to agree with me all the time, and it’s not as though it’s rendered the blog unreadable or something.
*Courtesy of Lawyers, Guns and Money. Like Sadly No!, we are aware of all internet traditions.

Knock Knock, Bang Bang

by Kieran Healy on December 12, 2005

“Jim Henley”: points us to “Radley Balko’s”: extensive coverage of the astonishing case of “Cory Maye”: Here is “Radley’s initial post”: on the case; and here are a series of posts of his updating and clarifying the details — “1”: “2”: “3”: “4”: “5”: “6”: “7”: and “8”: (the first and last will tell you a lot). He’s been talking to a lot of people involved in the case. Here’s a link to “a lot of commentary”: by others.

_Update_: I’ve updated this summary to better reflect the facts of the case as I understand them.

I’ll put the details below the fold. I urge you to read them. The guts of it is that Cory Maye is a black man on death row for shooting a white police officer dead. The officer was part of a paramilitary no-knock drug raid which broke down the door of Maye’s apartment at 11:30pm, when he and his young daughter were sleeping. The building was a duplex and the officers had a warrant for Jamie Smith, the person who lived in the other half, and for “occupants unknown” in Maye’s half. It’s not clear that the officers expected anyone to be in that half of the duplex. There’s no evidence that Maye had anything to do with Smith, and Maye did not have a criminal record. When the officers broke in, Maye woke up, took his gun and ran to his daughter’s room. When Officer Ron Jones entered the room, Maye shot him. Jones later died. There is disagreement about whether the officers announced they were the police as they broke in, and what the exact sequence of events was once they were in there. (I don’t think it’s in dispute that Maye really had no reason to expect the police would come breaking down his door at midnight.) Jones was (1) first into the apartment but (2) not part of the SWAT team — he was invited along because he tipped off the Narcotics Task Force about the suspected dealer in the other half of the duplex. He was also (3) the son of a local police chief. Mayes was tried, apparently was not well-represented, and was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

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