If Police Don't Find Anything During a Drug Raid, Should They Have To Fix the Damage?

Submitted by smorgan on
On Tuesday, I discussed the latest botched drug raid, in which police in Troy, NY tore an innocent family's home apart, found nothing, and defiantly refused to clean up after themselves. They argue that the warrant was valid, based on probable cause and signed by a judge, thus they have no legal obligation to clean up the mess they made. It's technically correct, but still despicable, which led me to call for reforms to that policy.

Initially, it struck me as a no-brainer; here we have police trading leniency for information, then raiding homes based on the word of informants with a monumental incentive to lie. Officers should do the necessary footwork to verify such information, or else bear the cost. It's really the least we can do for the innocent victims of the drug war's rock-bottom evidentiary standards. If police don't want to help innocent people, then what are they for?

But ezrdyn, a commenter on this DrugWarRant post, responded with a chilling counterpoint: if police must clean up after unsuccessful drug raids, we're giving them an incentive to make sure, by any necessary means, that drugs are found no matter what. It's a terrible catch-22 that the same policies that might encourage police to be careful when planning a raid also encourage planting evidence against innocent people to avoid responsibility when they damage property and come up with nothing.

The real solution then is to reform our informant policies themselves, prohibiting police from raiding homes based on coerced testimony from criminal defendants. That is the common denominator, the unifying trait shared by so many of the worst botched drug raid disasters. Police will do anything to conceal their sources and shield from meaningful scrutiny the inherently corrupt process by which these decisions are made to begin with. That is the thread that must be pulled if we are to unravel and expose the questionable conditions under which these catastrophes continue to occur.

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Source URL: https://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy/2008/jul/10/if_police_dont_find_anything_dur