by John Boch
Right out of the gate: I support the rule of law and law-and-order. I’m an even bigger advocate of individual civil rights. When it comes to police misconduct, Qualified Immunity needs to be reformed, perhaps radically. Alternatively, states could pass legislation to allow victims of police misconduct to sue rogue, oath-breaking cops and the departments who employ them without overcoming QI claims by the officers involved.
Fortunately, most cops are good cops. They’re just like you and me, putting on their pants one leg at a time and doing the right thing in at-times difficult conditions.
However, there are some bad cops out there and they successfully hide behind QI in addition to hopping from one department to another. Especially in this time when departments are practically begging for applicants, especially those with experience.
Want to see some examples from Illinois?
Right here, in Normal, IL:
LAWSUIT SERVED: Normal Police batter, then arrest innocent ISU student, illegally seize student’s phone
We are very pro-police and pro-law-and-order at Guns Save Life. At the same time we have no patience for police misconduct, when LEOs run roughshod over the constitutional rights of innocent people. Especially when it comes to gun rights.
Big city departments too often foster an “us vs. them” mentality where some officers cut corners when it comes to “serving” the population. In fact, a Department of Justice study shows just that as department with 1000 or more sworn officers had almost twice the rate of use of force citizen complaints (7.7 per year on average) compared to 4.2 (per 100 officers) per year for agencies with 100-249 officers.
Enter Normal, IL, home of Illinois State University.
One doesn’t expect unprofessional policing in a liberal college town (of 53,000). To the contrary, one would expect the highest levels of professionalism and respect for the rights of locals in a liberal college town that’s home to Illinois’ oldest university. It would be the last place one would expect oath-breaking thugs who use poor judgement, poor tactics and delivering piss poor service to the community. And that goes double for tuition-paying students who support about 5,000+ Illinois State University employees and ten thousand or more additional jobs the university supports within in the community and beyond.
After all, moms and dads – including police officer parents – don’t send their sons (and especially daughters) off to college so they can get battered and charged with a felony, handcuffed and taken to jail and strip searched only to be released two hours later. All because some oath-breaking thug cop decided she wanted to illegally seize the student’s phone without reasonable suspicion of wrong-doing or a warrant.
That video alone has 1.4 million views. Here’s a link to one with a lot fewer redactions and pixelations.
I had a bad experience with a Chicago Police Sergeant a few years ago. He singled me out because I “wasn’t from the neighborhood” which sounded a lot like, “you’re white and not especially welcome here.”
And meet Sgt. Dickerson, the guy picking up a box full of guns. Sgt. Dickerson stopped the process when he overheard that I had eleven guns. He pulled me outside and said, and I quote, “This event is for the neighborhood, not outsiders.”
Oh, you mean like white folk aren’t wanted or especially welcome? Remember, he didn’t know my name or where I lived. However, as a white person I’ll admit I looked like an outsider in the very poor, African-American neighborhood.
He continued: “We’ll take two of those, but you’re gonna have to take the rest back to your car. Or you can take them all home with you.”
So I got my two $100 VISA cards. As I walked out, I stopped to take a photo of the table where they worked to identify make, model, caliber and serial numbers of the guns turned in. Sgt. Dickerson didn’t like that.
“YOU! Come with me!” he barked.
We walked outside. He explained that I could not take photos inside.
I replied: “But this is a public place and a public event. Nobody has a reasonable expectation of privacy here.”
“No, this is a private event and the people in there don’t want their pictures taken,” he gruffly shot back at me.
“So what about the TV cameras?” I asked calmly.
“They have permission! Look. You cannot come back to one of these ever again. Don’t ever let me catch you coming back again,” Sgt. Dickerson said sternly. I wondered if this is what black folks felt like back when cops explained their local Sundown laws to them.
The look on my face must have expressed my thoughts clearly, or Sgt. Dickerson had ESP. “Or what?” I thought.
After a pause, he continued: “If I catch you at one of these events again, you will be turned away.”
“You mean like last time when I got turned away because I was white?” I thought to myself.
I tried not to even grin. “Yes, sir,” I said solemnly. “Am I free to go?”
And he sent me on my way. He didn’t even ask for my name!
Trivial compared to finding myself on the bottom of a dogpile and having my phone ripped out of my hand and seized without a warrant, I know. Nevertheless, I took action. I took a day and went up to the Chicago Police Headquarters, and swore out an Internal Affairs complaint against Sgt. Dickerson.
While Sgt. Dickerson was a very bad apple gone rogue at Chicago PD, my experience going through the Internal Affairs process led me to meet a *LOT* of kind and outstanding people working at Chicago Police trying to make life better for the residents of that city. Truly kind, selfless people working a very thankless job. As I wrote, “It’s really a shame how an officer like Dickerson can cast a cloud over Chicago’s finest. The rest don’t deserve that one bit. Not one little bit.”
I later learned that Sgt. Dickerson opted to retire abruptly rather than face my complaint, which means he lost the ability to carry a gun as a retired LEO because he left with an unresolved “beef” hanging over his head. Purrrfect. I was happy with that bit of justice.
But again, both of those incidents are trivial compared to what happened in Elyria, OH in recent days. Yes, I invite you to saunter over the Elyria, OH.
Cornell Law defines Qualified Immunity as this:
Qualified immunity is a type of legal immunity that protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff‘s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right. “Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” See: Pearson v. Callahan.
When determining whether a right was “clearly established,” courts consider whether a hypothetical reasonable official would have known that the defendant’s conduct violated the plaintiff’s rights. Courts conducting this analysis apply the law that was in force at the time of the alleged violation, not the law in effect when the court considers the case.
Usually, in qualified immunity cases, a plaintiff will first bring a suit under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Section 1983) against a public official. The public official will then raise a qualified immunity defense that protects the official from all but clear incompetence or knowing violations of the law if the official acted in a reasonable but mistaken way.
Qualified immunity is not immunity from having to pay money damages, but rather immunity from having to go through the costs of a trial at all. Accordingly, courts must resolve qualified immunity issues as early in a case as possible, preferably before discovery.
High profile cases like these cry out for legislation reforming QI for police.
Good cops will have little to worry about. Less conscientious cops will have a lot more on the line to make sure their training is up-to-date and that they paid attention in their continuing education coursework. They will put more effort into double-checking things before they take action. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll raise their hand and refuse to join two dozen fellow cops seeking to flashbang a house with a new set of tenants looking for a 14-year-old punk that lived there a year before.
Or maybe they’ll decline the invite to employ those same flash bangs and batter down the door of a FOID holder who might not have registered his naughty gun.
And the really bad cops? They, not taxpayers, will be first “on the hook” when their misconduct merits judgements in a court of law.
“Oh no! You can’t do that? What’s wrong with you, John? Are you insane? This will cripple law enforcement,” you say. Or maybe scream as you’re reading these words in disbelief.
New Mexico gutted QI protections for police in 2021. It has not caused nearly the chaos that QI defenders predicted. Why? Because good cops – the vast majority of cops in New Mexico like most places – continue to work as good cops. Other cops have been forced to put their egos in check before they go hands-on. Or worse yet, use grossly excessive force.
And some of the bad cops? They’ve moved to other states.
Who else has passed QI reforms? Both Colorado and Connecticut have as well. And given some of the First Amendment Audit videos out of Connecticut, it would seem that the state police there haven’t gotten the memo that their QI protections have been curtailed.
Here’s a recent story from The Rutherford Institute, republished at ZeroHedge. Read it and tell me if reforming QI wouldn’t help reduce the already small number of police misconduct cases to near zero. And while a “small number of misconduct cases” is good, that doesn’t help if you’re on the receiving end of police misconduct.
– Peter Christ, retired police officer
Sometimes ten seconds is all the warning you get.
Sometimes you don’t get a warning before all hell breaks loose.
Imagine it, if you will: It’s the middle of the night. Your neighborhood is in darkness. Your household is asleep. Suddenly, you’re awakened by a loud noise.
Barely ten seconds later, someone or an army of someones has crashed through your front door.
The intruders are in your home.
Your heart begins racing. Your stomach is tied in knots. The adrenaline is pumping through you.
You’re not just afraid. You’re terrified.
Desperate to protect yourself and your loved ones from whatever threat has invaded your home, you scramble to lay hold of something—anything—that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, a baseball bat, or that licensed and registered gun you thought you’d never need.
You brace for the confrontation.
Shadowy figures appear at the doorway, screaming orders, threatening violence, launching flash bang grenades.
You stand frozen, your hands gripping whatever means of self-defense you could find.
Just that simple act—of standing frozen in fear and self-defense—is enough to spell your doom.
The assailants open fire, sending a hail of bullets in your direction.
In your final moments, you get a good look at your assassins: it’s the police.
Brace yourself, because this hair-raising, heart-pounding, jarring account of a SWAT team raid is what passes for court-sanctioned policing in America today, and it could happen to any one of us or our loved ones.
Nationwide, SWAT teams routinely invade homes, break down doors, kill family pets (they always shoot the dogs first), damage furnishings, terrorize families, and wound or kill those unlucky enough to be present during a raid.
No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters such as serving a search warrant, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day.
SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of so-called criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling.
Police have also raided homes on the basis of mistaking the presence or scent of legal substances for drugs. Incredibly, these substances have included tomatoes, sunflowers, fish, elderberry bushes, kenaf plants, hibiscus, and ragweed. In some instances, SWAT teams are even employed, in full armament, to perform routine patrols.
These raids, which might be more aptly referred to as “knock-and-shoot” policing, have become a thinly veiled, court-sanctioned means of giving heavily armed police the green light to crash through doors in the middle of the night.
No-knock raids, a subset of the violent, terror-inducing raids carried out by police SWAT teams on unsuspecting households, differ in one significant respect: they are carried out without police even having to announce themselves.
Warning or not, to the unsuspecting homeowner woken from sleep by the sounds of a violent entry, there is no way of distinguishing between a home invasion by criminals as opposed to a police mob. In many instances, there is little real difference.
According to an in-depth investigative report by The Washington Post, “police carry out tens of thousands of no-knock raids every year nationwide.”
While the Fourth Amendment requires that police obtain a warrant based on probable cause before they can enter one’s home, search and seize one’s property, or violate one’s privacy, SWAT teams are granted “no-knock” warrants at high rates such that the warrants themselves are rendered practically meaningless.
In addition to the terror brought on by these raids, general incompetence, collateral damage (fatalities, property damage, etc.) and botched raids are also characteristic of these SWAT team raids.
In some cases, officers misread the address on the warrant. In others, they simply barge into the wrong house or even the wrong building. In another subset of cases, SWAT teams have conducted multiple, sequential raids on wrong addresses; executed search warrants despite the fact that the suspect is already in police custody; or conducted a search of a building where the suspect no longer resides.
That appeared to be the case in Ohio, when a botched SWAT team raid in pursuit of stolen guns at a home where the suspects no longer resided resulted in a 17-month-old baby with a heart defect and a breathing disorder ending up in the ICU with burns around the eyes, chest and neck. In that Jan. 10, 2024, incident, police waited all of six seconds after knocking on the door before using a battering ram to break in and simultaneously launch two flash-bang grenades into the home. The baby’s mother, having lived in the house for a week, barely had time to approach the door before she was grabbed at gunpoint, handcuffed and hustled outside. Only later did police allow her to enter the home to check on the baby, who had been hooked up to a ventilator near the window that police shattered before deploying the flash grenades.
Aiyana Jones is dead because of a SWAT raid gone awry. The 7-year-old was killed after a Detroit SWAT team—searching for a suspect—launched a flash-bang grenade into her family’s apartment, broke through the door and opened fire, hitting the little girl who was asleep on the living room couch. The cops weren’t even in the right apartment.
Exhibiting a similar lack of basic concern for public safety, a Georgia SWAT team launched a flash-bang grenade into the house in which Baby Bou Bou, his three sisters and his parents were staying. The grenade landed in the 2-year-old’s crib, burning a hole in his chest and leaving him with scarring that a lifetime of surgeries will not be able to easily undo.
The horror stories have become legion in which homeowners are injured or killed simply because they mistook a SWAT team raid by police for a home invasion by criminals.
That’s exactly what happened to a 16-year-old Alabama boy. Mistaking a pre-dawn SWAT team raid for a home invasion, the boy grabbed a gun to protect his family only to be gunned down by police attempting to execute a search warrant for drugs. The boy’s brother, not home at the time of the raid, was later arrested with 8 grams of marijuana.
Then there was Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine who was killed after a SWAT team kicked open the door of his Arizona home during a drug raid and opened fire. According to news reports, Guerena, 26 years old and the father of two young children, grabbed a gun in response to the forced invasion but never fired. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. Police officers were not as restrained. The young Iraqi war veteran was allegedly fired upon 71 times. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.
All too often, botched SWAT team raids have resulted in one tragedy after another for those targeted with little consequences for law enforcement.
The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”
A study by a political scientist at Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams “provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction.” The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that “police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed.”
SWAT teams, designed to defuse dangerous situations such as those involving hostages, were never meant to be used for routine police work targeting nonviolent suspects, yet they have become intrinsic parts of federal and local law enforcement operations.
There are few communities without a SWAT team today.
In 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the US.
Incredibly, that number has since grown to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year, often for routine law enforcement tasks.
In the state of Maryland alone, 92 percent of 8200 SWAT missions were used to execute search or arrest warrants.
Police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games.
A Connecticut SWAT team swarmed a bar suspected of serving alcohol to underage individuals.
In Arizona, a SWAT team was used to break up an alleged cockfighting ring.
An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.
And then there are the SWAT team raids arising from red flag gun laws, which gives police the authority to preemptively raid homes of people “suspected” of being threats who might be in possession of a gun, legal or otherwise.
With more states adding red flag gun laws to their books, what happened to Duncan Lemp—who was gunned down in his bedroom during an early morning, no-knock SWAT team raid on his family’s home—could very well happen to more people.
At 4:30 a.m. on March 12, 2020, in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that had most of the country under a partial lockdown and sheltering at home, a masked SWAT team—deployed to execute a “high risk” search warrant for unauthorized firearms—stormed the suburban house where 21-year-old Duncan lived with his parents and 19-year-old brother. The entire household, including Lemp and his girlfriend, was reportedly asleep when the SWAT team directed flash bang grenades and gunfire through Lemp’s bedroom window. Lemp was killed and his girlfriend injured.
No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, had a criminal record.
No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, was considered an “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public, at least not according to the search warrant.
So, what was so urgent that militarized police felt compelled to employ battlefield tactics in the pre-dawn hours of a day when most people are asleep in bed, not to mention stuck at home as part of a nationwide lockdown?
According to police, they were tipped off that Lemp was in possession of “firearms.”
Thus, rather than approaching the house by the front door at a reasonable hour in order to investigate this complaint—which is what the Fourth Amendment requires—police instead strapped on their guns, loaded up their flash bang grenades and acted like battle-crazed warriors.
This is what happens when you use SWAT teams to carry out routine search warrants.
These incidents underscore a dangerous mindset in which the citizenry (often unarmed and defenseless) not only have less rights than militarized police, but also one in which the safety of the citizenry is treated as a lower priority than the safety of their police counterparts (who are armed to the hilt with an array of lethal and nonlethal weapons).
Yet it wasn’t always this way.
There was a time in America when a person’s home was a sanctuary, safe and secure from the threat of invasion by government agents, who were held at bay by the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, which protects American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Fourth Amendment, in turn, was added to the U.S. Constitution by colonists still smarting from the abuses they had been forced to endure while under British rule, among these home invasions by the military under the guise of “writs of assistance.” These writs gave British soldiers blanket authority to raid homes, damage property and wreak havoc for any reason whatsoever, without any expectation of probable cause.
We have come full circle to a time before the American Revolution when government agents—with the blessing of the courts—could force their way into a citizen’s home, with seemingly little concern for lives lost and property damaged in the process.
If these aggressive, excessive police tactics have also become troublingly commonplace, it is in large part due to judges who largely rubberstamp the warrant requests based only on the word of police; police who have been known to lie or fabricate the facts in order to justify their claims of “reasonable suspicion” (as opposed to the higher standard of probable cause, which is required by the Constitution before any government official can search an individual or his property); and software that allows judges to remotely approve requests using computers, cellphones or tablets.
This sorry state of affairs is made even worse by the U.S. Supreme Court, which tends to shield police under the guise of qualified immunity. As Reuters concluded, “the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense.”
Rubber-stamped, court-issued warrants for no-knock SWAT team raids have become the modern-day equivalent of colonial-era writs of assistance.
Given President Biden’s determination to expand law enforcement and so-called crime prevention at taxpayer expense, our privacy, property and security may be in even greater danger from government intrusion.
Be warned: as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the American police state has become a powder keg waiting for a lit match.