Public sessions with four finalists for Little Rock police chief began last night and the first candidate won headlines all over for saying in response to a question that he “generally” didn’t think no-knock raids were necessary.
Todd Chamberlain, a retired Los Angeles police commander, said there were some limited uses such raids might be called for, to save a life for instance. He also spoke of
I hope the question on raids goes to the remaining candidates, including two deputy chiefs from the Little Rock Police Department — Hayward Finks and Alice Fulk. The LRPD has been under scrutiny for its heavy use of no-knock drug raids. Police seem to get easy approval in court for such raids and SWAT officers use explosive devices and military-style tactics in raids that have sometimes turned up empty, thanks to unreliable informants. The Washington Post’s Radley Balko reported in depth o questionable LRPD practices, a finding that only Mayor Frank Scott Jr. seems to have had
The discussion of LRPD practices continues today.
Attorneys in a lawsuit filed by a target of a no-knock raid that came up empty have a news conference today to talk about developments in their investigation. Ben Crump and Mike Laux said three more criminal cases arising from no-knock raids have been dismissed and they say they’ve uncovered evidence of a formal LRPD policy of “excessive and arbitrary no-knock SWAT raids authorized by the LRPD for all search warrants.”
More to come today.
The practice deserves a searching look At least one person was killed in a no-knock raid when he opened fire on police bursting through his door. That raid turned up no evidence of the cocaine activity being investigated. Two officers were shot in another raid.
UPDATE: Radley Balko has the scoop on today’s news conference. A piece of circumstantial evidence that militarized raids are a matter of LRPD policy. Wow, if true.
when I reviewed nearly 100 drug warrants from the past several years, I noticed that nearly all of them were for no-knock raids. To get a no-knock warrant, the police must provide specific evidence that the suspect is dangerous, or a threat to destroy evidence if police were to observe the knock-and-announce rule. The LRPD officers were offering no such evidence. Instead, they were using boilerplate language about how all drug suspects are dangerous and/or a threat to destroy evidence. The Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that such boilerplate language is not sufficient. Therefore, every one of these raids was illegal. Worse yet, Little Rock judges were signing off on these warrants, in spite of the law.
I’ll have a post soon laying out what has happened in Little Rock since we published that report. But over the weekend, I received a document that adds a bit more to the original story. It’s a page from a 2014 LRPD report about a drug raid. The raid in question was a no-knock raid that was served by the city’s SWAT team. In this particular case, the report says the suspect was known to have possessed firearms in the past, though it isn’t clear whether that information was conveyed in the search warrant. It also includes the broad statement that “many times guns and violence are associated with narcotics.”
But one line seems particularly significant: “It is a mandate from the Office of the Chief of Police that the SWAT team execute all search warrants.”
All search warrants. I emailed Little Rock city attorney Tom Carpenter on Monday about this alleged mandate, and asked if this is still LRPD policy, and have not received an answer to that question. It’s at least possible that the sergeant who wrote the report made a mistake. Perhaps he misstated the policy, or wrote “search warrants” when he meant “narcotics search warrants.” But a blanket policy does seem consistent with the more general manner with which LRPD has been carrying out warrant service — increasingly aggressively, and with increasing force. If it is still LRPD policy, that’s pretty significant. The mandate would also seem to conflict with the LRPD’s own written policy on SWAT. According to the department’s general orders, the SWAT team is to assist with “hazardous warrants” and to “resolve high-risk situations.” If every search warrant is considered “hazardous,” there would presumably be no reason to distinguish warrants that are hazardous from those that aren’t.
The former chief, Kenton Buckner, is gone. So there’s at least that.