Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why no-knock warrants are a bad idea

Imagine this scenario: you're at home, watching TV, and your front door is open (just the storm door is closed)--and the next thing you know an armed police SWAT team is breaking down the door and throwing flash-bang grenades:

Dressed in full protective gear, police broke the storm door of the home at 616 East Powell Ave. — the Milans’ front door was already open on the hot summer day. They also broke a front window. They tossed a flashbang stun grenade into the living room that made a deafening blast. A short distance away, a local television crew’s cameras were rolling. The police had invited the station to videotape the forced entry of the residence.

Stephanie Milan said she managed to remain calm because she knew her family hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, she was stunned and confused.

After speaking to Milan and her grandmother, Louise, police determined those inside the house had nothing to do with their investigation.

Police were executing a search warrant for computer equipment, which they said was used to make anonymous and specific online threats against police and their families on the website topix.com. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Police still haven't figured out if somebody hijacked the wifi signal or how the threatening posts appeared to have been coming from the Milan's address. But surely there could have been a bit more investigating before the police decided to storm into an innocent family's home, armed to the teeth and ready to take down the occupants?

A commenter below the news article had the best point of all, which is this: if someone threatens or harasses you on the Internet, the police will listen to your story, make a report and start an investigation file. They won't burst fully armed into the home of the person who has been making the threats. At least, not yet.