By Bill Logal
The lights and TV are off and the stillness of the night at 3:00AM is broken as the front door splinters and men armed with machine guns, dressed in military combat uniforms rush through the entranceway. The occupant is a 93 year old woman who unfortunately not knowing who, what or where, reaches for a gun and manages to fire off one round from her bed. A quick burst of fire from the H&K embeds three 9mm slugs into her upper torso instantly killing her while lying in her own bed. The front page of the newspaper exhibits a photograph of men bedecked in camouflage uniforms wearing flak vests, Kevlar helmets and cradling weapons usually associated with war zones stand idly around their armored vehicle and black clad figures with police stenciled on their backs stare back at the photographer’s camera. The story that accompanies the headline reports that the woman was killed when the police raided her home.
Unfortunately they had the wrong information and the wrong address on their no knock warrant, and if she hadn’t fired at the officers she would still be alive. Terrible mistake, terrible mistake and the police officials are terribly sorry that this very senior citizen is dead from friendly fire but after all one can not be held accountable for collateral damage. It is a story that is becoming more and more common in these United States, as police SWAT teams from sea to shinning sea compile a lengthy record of deaths of innocent civilians along with the injury and deaths of police officers from friendly fire. We should also point to the deaths of nonviolent offenders, raids on innocent suspects and the often unnecessary raids on doctor’s offices and cannabis clinics.
We, in Western New York bear witness to police actions that have resulted in death and serious injury to a number of State Police Officers the most recent officer being killed by one of his own fellow officers. At the conclusion of the Bucky Philips saga the president of the State Police PBA called for an investigation into the management of the six week manhunt by what appears to be an inept and bumbling operation by the entire NYS Police Administration. Civil and constitutional rights were trampled on and entire populations of Southern Tier counties were subjected to all manner of indignities as a mental midget made the elite resemble something from the Keystone Kops.
A recent policy paper by The Cato Institute contains a map of the United States and is titled Botched Paramilitary Police Raids-An Epidemic of “Isolated Incidents.” The study and map can be obtained by accessing www.cato.org/raidmap/. It becomes eye opening as you scan the map and count the number of horrible mistakes made by these various SWAT units throughout the country. The incidence rises dramatically as the police become more and more militarized and even little Podunk villages and towns are availing themselves of federal funds buying armor and weapons of war.
Where is the moral outrage or the calls for accountability like those issued by Trooper DeFredrics after Trooper Longanbardo and Baker were shot by Bucky Philipps. Should we just accept the consoling euphemism terrible mistake, friendly fire and just move along as if nothing occurred and after all we gave the victim a lovely funeral as in the death of Trooper Brinkerhoff?
Ruby Ridge, Waco, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle all made the headlines and yet the police throughout the country became more and more militarized and complacently we sat and still sit not demanding that the police get back to doing community police work instead of seeking to become special ops troops to war against the citizenry of these United States. For the men and women wishing to join these elite police units I would remind them that the real military is looking for a lot of good men and women and have several areas of the world where their Special Weapons and Tactics training could be put to a real test on a daily basis.
Governor Eliot Spitzer should be encouraged to appoint a citizens commission to investigate both the shortcomings of the New York State Police and the continued militarization of police departments throughout the state. The appointees should not be specifically police officials or politicians. In lieu of this the New York State Attorney General’s office should begin a thorough investigation and issue a public report on continued police militarization and to fix responsibility and accountability when police overstep their authority and violate the constitution.
We do not live in a perfect world and while it is human to err it is also human to demand responsibility and accountability from those in charge and control of events that may lead to loss of life and our freedoms. The daily drudgery of police work and the occasional crises are usually diffused by applying common sense and some acting skills along with varied methods suited for problem solving. When these methods fail and force is required it should be commensurate with the infraction and reviewable by all concerned.