Monday, May 24, 2010

“Officer Safety” Puts Children at Risk

Will Grigg -

The SWAT stormtroopers who invaded the Columbia, Missouri home of Jonathan Whitworth on February 11 knew a seven-year-old child lived there. This didn’t stop them from invading the home late in the evening, when the child would be put at risk. Nor did the invaders see anything amiss in shooting at two dogs that presented a “tactical obstacle” to the raid, even though the first shot missed the target.

Had things turned out just a bit differently, Whitworth’s child could easily have been murdered by the police through depraved indifference, as was the case with Detroit resident Aiyana Jones, the 7-year-old who was burned and shot to death during a May 16 SWAT raid on her duplex.

Perhaps the nastiest aspect of the raid — the video of which has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube — was the fact that Whitworth was charged with “child endangerment” because of the actions of the goons who conducted a military raid on his home that eventually netted a misdemeanor amount of marijuana.

In a May 20 news conference, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton announced — and wasn’t the suspense terrific? — that the department had exonerated itself of misconduct in the February 11 raid. He admitted that “The officers knew a child was present,” despite solemn assurances to the contrary that had been issued earlier.

Burton also stated that the decision to shoot the dogs was “based on the safety priorities [SWAT operators] are taught to adhere to.”

Whatever the official policy might be, in practice the “priorities” alluded to by Burton dictate that “officer safety” is — at all times, and in all circumstances — the most important consideration. This means that if a dog presents “either a threat to the officers or a substantial tactical obstacle,” it can and should be shot — despite the fact that while armor-clad SWAT heroes can survive a dog attack, an errant round can easily kill a defenseless 7-year-old.

Read all of it.