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Drug Raids: Maryland Sheriff Clears Department in SWAT Assault on Mayor's Home -- Mayor Sues Sheriff, Seeks Restrictions on SWAT

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #591)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

The Prince Georges County, Maryland, Sheriff's Department has finished its investigation into a drug raid last summer in which deputies charged into the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights and killed two family dogs. Not surprisingly, the department cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

PolitickerMD cartoon about the raid on the Calvo home
Equally unsurprisingly, Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, one of the victims of the raid, disagrees. He said in a Monday press conference he was would file a lawsuit in Prince Georges County Circuit Court against officials in the sheriff's office and police department. Calvo said he will seek to force the county to change its policies for deploying SWAT teams, adding that he believes there are problems with how the force serves search warrants, treats animals, and detains people.

PG Sheriff Michael Jackson doesn't see it that way. The departmental review of the raid was "consistent with what I've felt all along: My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities," he said at a news conference last Friday as he announced the whitewash.

The raid drew national attention when SWAT team members tracking a package of marijuana delivered to the Calvo home without the residents' knowledge burst into the house, shot and killed the family's two Labrador retrievers, and detained Calvo and his mother-in-law for several hours. One dog was shot four times by the front door. The other was shot twice as it ran from officers. The sheriff's office later admitted that the Calvos had nothing to do with the drug delivery, which was a ruse by traffickers to avoid shipping to their own locations (and avoiding SWAT raids like the one the Calvos endured).

"I'm sorry for the loss of their family pets," Jackson said. "But this is the unfortunate result of the scourge of drugs in our community. Lost in this whole incident was the criminal element... In the sense that we kept these drugs from reaching our streets, this operation was a success."

Again, Calvo disagreed. "It's outrageous," he said. "Not only is he not admitting any wrongdoing, but he's saying this went down the way it was supposed to and he's actually commending his police officers for what they did."

The botched raid has already led to a new Maryland law imposing strict reporting requirements on SWAT teams. Now, given the instransigence of the sheriff's office, it may result in even more changes in gung-ho policing, at least in Prince Georges County.

[Ed: Sheriff Jackson was not entirely straightforward with the public during his press conference last week. First, when he said they were successful in the sense that they "kept these drugs from reaching our streets," that was flat out not true. The package was intercepted by police in Arizona. It was disguised members of Sheriff Jackson's force who delivered the package to the home, before they staked it out waiting for someone to come back and bring it inside. Maybe they just couldn't think of any of the obvious alternatives to doing a SWAT raid in this situation, but Sheriff Jackson at a minimum should be able to distinguish between his police officers and the drug agents in Arizona -- not the same people.

Secondly, Jackson claimed that they were justified in storming the home, rather than doing a standard knock and announce, because Mayor Calvo's mother-in-law had seen them and screamed -- the officers were "compromised," he said, because their presence was already known to the people inside the house. But that makes no sense at all, because knock and announce raids inform the people inside that the police are calling, by definition. By Jackson's line of reasoning, any knock and announce raid automatically compromises the police officers carrying it out -- but knock and announce is the standard way of serving a warrant.

No doubt Jackson's lies and distortions will come back to haunt him in court as the mayor's lawsuit moves forward. -DB]

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Rusty (not verified)

Say it with me - "they're not waging war on drugs......they're waging war on the American people". Now, write you "leaders" and say it to them.

Fri, 06/26/2009 - 1:02pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Is it common practice for Sheriff Departments when raiding a house to murder the family pets? I remember in 1995 reading about a case where police allowed a commercially shipped package that contained marijuana allegedly sent from California, to be delivered to a woman at her ranch where her teenagers lived. Immediately after the woman signed for the package she opened the box. Inside the box she found a written phone number and a note stating, “call police.” Before the woman could do anything police crashed into her home and arrested her. The woman was sent to prison because she "signed for the package" and police seized her $600,000 ranch because that is where the package with illegal drugs was delivered. Of great concern, anyone with a grudge against someone can too easily cause police to raid a home, cause an innocent person’s arrest or injury by police, simply by mailing a homeowner illegal-drugs in a manner, sure to be discovered by drug agents.

When the U.S. Supreme Court lowered the legal requirement for "no knock warrants" and reduced the time police must wait to smash down a door, it opened the door for SWAT TEAMS to arbitrarily attack U.S. Citizens. Historically, police-military styled raids when not brought under control to protect the public, have incrementally moved forward to target innocent Citizens not just or alleged crime but for their political speech, for attending an assembly or because a person wrote something that offended the police or a politician. It is imperative Americans NEVER accept SWAT TEAM misconduct. Never allow U.S. Police to mirror the abusive raids Northern Irish police made on Irish homes between 1980-1996.

Fri, 06/26/2009 - 4:30pm Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

Are we expected to kiss Sheriff Jackson’s ring because he claims he kept a few pounds of pot from reaching the marketplace?

A few pounds of pot is nothing.  It’s a drop in a vast ocean made up of tens-of-millions of pounds of marijuana that are consumed every year in the U.S. and abroad.  Despite the interception of the contraband package at the point of transit, there can be no doubt that no cannabis consumer in the country detected so much as a blip in the market availability of their favorite smokable.

Patting oneself on one’s own back for accomplishing nothing is one thing.  Doing this much damage to an innocent family while coming across as some kind of incompetent and unrepentant storm trooper is another.

Had anyone including the Calvos actually been guilty of knowingly receiving cannabis in the mail, no American, no matter how guilty they may be of such a violation, deserves to be treated this way by their own government.


Mon, 06/29/2009 - 12:37am Permalink

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