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Law Enforcement: Dog-Killing SWAT Raid Continues to Reverberate in Missouri College Town

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #636)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

The February SWAT team raid on Columbia, Missouri, resident Jonathan Whitworth and his family didn't start causing political tremors until video of the raid, in which one of the family's dogs was killed and another wounded, went viral on YouTube last month. But now, even after the Columbia Police Department has reined in SWAT with new policies, outrage and concern over the raid and the way the SWAT team has been used continues to reverberate.

That was evident at a city council meeting Monday night, where a citizens' group whose formation was inspired by the SWAT raid, CoMoCitizens, urged the council to go a step further and act to make permanent the reforms announced by Police Chief Ken Burton. According to its web site, the group opposes the use of SWAT and the use of search warrants in nonviolent cases, including drug possession and distribution.

"It goes without saying that it is policy that needs to be changed," Warren said in remarks reported by the University of Missouri newspaper The Maneater and the Columbia Missourian. "Chief Burton has made significant policy changes and I've come here to ask you to make these policy changes permanent. I would also like to request that you consider enacting a policy that prohibits execution of search warrants which are inherently violent for nonviolent offenses," said Warren. "This would ensure the public that there is at least less of a risk of an incident such as the February 11 SWAT raid occurring in our community."

Making the restrictions on SWAT and the execution of search warrants binding would reassure the public and keep law enforcement officers safer, Warren said. "The raid itself is what escalates the situation to out-of-control mode," he told the council before reading from Radley Balko's Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Policing in America. "These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors," Warren quoted Balko.

The council did not act on CoMoCitizens' requests, but the emergence of the group is yet another indicator that the February SWAT raid has roused Columbia's citizenry. And that is precisely what it will take to make police law enforcement rein in its aggressive tactics against the citizenry. Maybe something good is coming out of that misbegotten raid after all.

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.


rita (not verified)

"and keep law enforcement officers safer," while all the public deserves is to be "reassured." Will someone PLEASE explain to me at what point, exactly, were these so-called "law enforcement" officers in any danger?

What happened to protecting the public? What happened to upholding the law? Any idiot with a gun can "enforce" laws; it takes a certain amount of courage and honor to protect and uphold. And when armed soldiers knowingly attack unarmed civilians, courage and honor aren't any part of the picture.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:38pm Permalink
Anthony (not verified)

The cops in this country are out of control. I believe all Americans are fed up with this drug war crap. We want change and this is not it.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 2:12pm Permalink
Shoreline (not verified)

It is the duty of Law Enforcement not to create disorder, but to preserve it.

They're going to change SWAT policies to protect citizens? This is America, I thought protection from jack booted thugs was inherent to our system of government. Shouldn't someone in that law enforcement office be going to jail?

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 4:32pm Permalink
AnonymousBro (not verified)

One of the members of the ComoCitizens group wrote a paper on forfeiture money and Columbia police; you can read about it here:

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 9:20pm Permalink
Anonymous dog (not verified)

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. Every state that has had SWAT team raids ending in violence needs to join forces with CoMoCitizens and put an end to the nazi tactics these people are using against our citizens. A man's home is no longer his castle.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 9:28pm Permalink
Anonymous101 (not verified)

if it was my pet they be geting pay back js

Wed, 06/16/2010 - 5:24pm Permalink

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