August 8, 2008

ANOTHER NO-KNOCK RAID GONE BAD:

When the shooting stopped, two dogs lay dead. A mayor sat in his boxers, hands bound behind his back. His handcuffed mother-in-law was sprawled on the kitchen floor, lying beside the body of one of the family pets that police had killed before her eyes.

After the raid, Prince George’s County police officials who burst into the home of Berwyn Heights’ mayor last week seized the same unopened package of marijuana that an undercover officer had delivered an hour earlier.

What police left behind was a house stained with blood and a trail of questions about their conduct. No other evidence of illegal activity was found, and no one was arrested at Mayor Cheye Calvo’s home in this small bedroom community near College Park.

This week Prince George’s police arrested two men for orchestrating a plot to deliver marijuana to the addresses of unsuspecting recipients — among them, Calvo’s wife, Trinity Tomsic.

Yet neither county Police Chief Melvin C. High nor Sheriff Michael A. Jackson have apologized to him, his wife or her mother, Georgia Porter, for the raid that traumatized the family and killed their black Labrador retrievers, Payton and Chase.

Thursday, Calvo called on the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate the raid and other similar actions by Prince George’s law enforcement. He said officers burst into his house without knocking or announcing themselves, in violation of the warrant they had.

We need federal civil rights legislation stripping officials of immunity in cases like this. Maybe now that they’re raiding politicians’ houses, we’ll see some action.

UPDATE: Radley Balko has much more. Plus this: “I guess I’d just add that the national media coverage of the Berwyn Heights raid seems to be predicated on the assumption that the most troubling aspects of the raid—the killing of the dogs, the violent tactics, the lax investigation, the likely innocent victims, and the police obstinacy after the fact—are unusual. They aren’t. The only thing unusual about this raid is that its victim happened to be an elected politician.”

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