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Dec 14, 2008

Police tactics.

One of my regular reads is Radley Balko “The Agitator.” One of the commonest subjects he deals with is the police warrantless and no knock searches. These have led on too many occasions to tragedy for police and innocents who as result of fears of home invasions end up in shoot outs. A number of police have been killed as well as way too many residents who believed they were defending their homes against criminals, owing to the police not identifying themselves.

In many cases the police have gone to the wrong address.

In the inquest into the London subway shooting some witnesses dispute the claim by police that they had identified themselves prior to shooting he victim.

LONDON (AP) — A British jury decided Friday that a string of police failures caused the death of a Brazilian electrician shot by anti-terror police after being mistaken for a suicide bomber — a ruling that prompted his family to demand a new investigation.

The jury at a coroner's inquest rejected claims by London police that they lawfully killed Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old shot seven times at close range by police who followed him onto a subway car. ….

De Menezes was shot by police as he sat aboard a subway train on July 22, 2005, a day after terrorists tried to set off bombs on London's transit system and two weeks after four suicide bombers killed 52 bus and subway commuters.

The two officers who shot him testified that they believed de Menezes was one of the failed bombers who had tried to attack subway trains and a bus the day before. De Menezes had an apartment in the same building as Hussain Osman, a subway bombing suspect later convicted in the failed July 21 attack.

But in their verdict, the 10 jurors rejected several claims made by police during seven weeks of evidence.

The jurors, responding to questions from the coroner, said in their verdict that they didn't believe the claim by a firearms officer that he shouted "armed police" before opening fire at de Menezes. They also disputed a police claim that the Brazilian had walked toward officers before he was killed. ….

London's acting police chief Paul Stephenson said de Menezes' killing had been a "terrible mistake."

Another issue dealt with by the Agitator is the growing use of swat teams and the militarization of police forces. He draws attention to an entry in “Popular Mechanics,” dealing with this issue: -

Sometimes, homeowners are killed in these actions; other times, it’s the officers. When a narcotics task force raided a duplex apartment in Jefferson Davis County, Miss., in 2001, they arrested one tenant, then burst into the adjacent apartment of Cory Maye. Thinking a burglar had broken into the bedroom he shared with his toddler daughter. Maye shot the officer fatally. Maye was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, his sentencing was overturned, and a motion for a new trial is still pending.

And, in a case that is now drawing national attention, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who lived in a high-crime neighborhood of Atlanta, recently opened fire on police when they broke down her door while executing a drug warrant. They returned fire, killing her. It’s hard to believe any of this would have happened had the police taken a less aggressive approach in the first place.

One danger not usually dealt with in this is the issue that these tactics and the increasing lack of accountability, will create the situation where police forces attract more of the type of element who are attracted to the power, and lack of responsibility as well as the badges and guns. 

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