“Here’s the deal, Lou: my partner and I have knocked on this guy’s door a half-dozen times and sat in his living room for hours asking him questions about his daughter’s death and helping ourselves to his M&Ms. He knows us by our first names, but he probably thinks we’re Dumb and Dumber, and doubts we’ll ever solve this case. Why would I suddenly need a SWAT team to arrest him when I can knock on his door, be invited in, have some M&Ms and then give him the bad news?”
Do we Need a SWAT Team?
“I’m not saying that SWAT has to serve the warrant, but we’re supposed to notify them and run it past them. He’s a murder suspect.”
I rolled my eyes and called SWAT. The lieutenant who took my call was someone I knew. We had worked the jails together, gone to patrol at about the same time, though to different stations, and I considered him a friend. I said, “Pat, apparently I have to tell you about my plan to arrest a big dummy who shook his baby to death but has otherwise never committed so much as a parking violation. Do you care?”
“Should I care, Danny?”
“Well, according to policy and my lieutenant, yes. But no.”
Common sense prevailed and a big dumb baby killer was taken into custody after my partner and I took one more stab at trying to get him to tell us the truth in the comforts of his tidy apartment. And, without a SWAT team, I might add.
Enter the Roger Stone Arrest
I never intend to be political in this blog and I am only offering my commentary about the Stone arrest as a criticism of the tactics used—circus performance exhibited—by the FBI. The Famous But Incompetent.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations. Whether or not the actions taken and tactics deployed during the arrest of Stone were politically motivated, well, I’ll leave that for you to decide.
But before I begin badmouthing the feds, let me also just say that there are many great agents who serve in the FBI, and therefore their country, and they do so with the highest degree of integrity, and in many cases, valorously.
In the shaken baby case, the suspect had no police record, he was gainfully employed, and he had been cooperative throughout the several weeks that we had investigated his daughter’s death. Had he been a repeat offender with a history of violence, and if we considered him to be a threat, all appropriate precautions would have been taken.
What is the Point?
The point is, just because a man is wanted for murder doesn’t mean SWAT has to blow up his house and create a spectacle in order to make an arrest. Only violent offenders who pose an immediate threat should have their homes invaded by heavily armed tactical operators.
My SWAT friends and most street cops will readily agree that every tactical operation comes with significant risks, some of which is overlooked by those who haven’t gone through the doors of wanted men. A furtive movement can set off a chain of deadly events. Unfortunately, sometimes the intent of the subject is far different from what was perceived by the men and women who have placed themselves in great peril by pursuing dangerous criminals. Those types of situations—though rare—cause immeasurable damage to all involved. Psychologically and oftentimes legally.
It Could Have Gone Very Badly
What would have happened if Stone had done something foolish out of fear of seeing masked men with automatic weapons breeching his doorway, and they killed him? For lying to Congress. Something that a long line of others has done without so much as a bad headline in the mainstream media. Worse yet, what if the feds had opened fire and stray bullets killed his wife, or his neighbor’s daughter?
Actions have consequences.
If it were local law enforcement who used those same tactics on a white-collar, low-level criminal, and the situation turned deadly, the FBI would rain down on that agency and those officers with all of their federal powers and likely seek charges against all involved.
But when things go bad for the feds, there are never repercussions. Waco. Ruby Ridge . . .
A Big, Political Show
The show of force in the arrest of Roger Stone was unnecessary, ridiculous, and, quite frankly, an embarrassment to law enforcement. Stone had no weapons, and there is no evidence he has ever been violent or a physical threat to anyone. He is a white-collar senior citizen who would have appeared with an attorney if he were asked to submit himself for arrest.
Flight risk? It is said his passport is expired. The magistrate to whom he appeared released him that same day on his own recognizance. When law enforcement worries about someone being a flight risk, a surveillance team is utilized. Then, if the suspect attempts to flee, the surveillance team can take him down safely, in public, where he doesn’t have the home-field advantage, and would likely not have access to weapons, if he owned any.
What You Don’t Do
But what you don’t do is use twenty-some heavily armed tactical operators and SWAT members to raid his home in the predawn hours.
Which brings up another point: who is the judge who approved night service? Any warrant executed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. (in California) must have a “night service” endorsement. There are stringent criteria that must be met for any such endorsement to be made. This is for the protection of all involved, but it is also a very important part of our living in a country that is supposed to be free from tyranny.
This is America!
We each have the right to feel secure in our homes.
Too many men and women have died protecting that right for us to allow political hacks to take it away.
If I were employed by the FBI, I would honestly hang my head in shame. If anyone asked what I did for a living, I would tell them I played piano in a whorehouse.
I’m no tactician, and I never worked SWAT. But as a cop in Los Angeles for twenty-some years, I have been through numerous doors executing warrants. I have been present on scores of operations where SWAT personnel made entries and cleared locations so that we (investigators) could safely execute our warrants. I have been present during operations that went hot, where hundreds of rounds were exchanged with suspects. There are times when SWAT operations and tactics are deployed, and times when you knock on a door or make a phone call.
Maybe it’s just time that our federal branches of law enforcement returned to their design and stopped operating as political operatives.
And that’s as political as I will ever be on my blog.