Thursday, May 2, 2019

When Exceptions to Our Rights Become The Norm

Source: KATV Little Rock News

What happened to Roderick Talley was not an isolated incident. The Little Rock narcotics unit served approximately 1,600 warrants over the past decade. Nearly all of them were no knock warrants. The Little Rock narcotics unit requested no knock warrants in all but 80 cases, and it appears they had a slight racial bias; 67% of the suspects targeted were black men. For comparison, black males only make up about 20% of the population of Little Rock. In Roderick Talley’s case, the no knock warrant was based on false information from a police informant. Talley did not have any cocaine on him, as alleged by police, but they still tried to drag him through the court system and it is very likely that others suffered a similar fate. Even though the Supreme Court requires individualized language in search warrants and probable cause affidavits, nearly every affidavit and warrant contained language justifying their exemption to the knock and announce common law standard, recognized in Wilson v. Arkansas, that had been copied from previous affidavits and warrants. None of the affidavits mentioned the individual suspect’s ability to destroy evidence or history of violence and only 23 of them even mentioned the suspect’s access to firearms. To add injury to insult, less than five percent of the suspects targeted in these no knock raids ended up in jail. The majority of no knock raids resulted in probation time for the suspects and many more resulted in no charges at all. Innocent people targeted in no knock raids do not go unscathed. Talley was relatively lucky to only suffer minor bruises from having his apartment door blown on top of him, many others were not as lucky. Babies have been maimed by SWAT teams indiscriminately using explosives. Innocent men, fathers who were only guilty of trying to protect their family from people they thought were burglars, have been killed by police in no knock raids. Like all wars, the drug war has produced a lot of collateral damage, mainly our constitutional rights and the innocent men, women and children that it was supposedly intended to protect from drug dealers.

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