Tag Archives: Citizens Police Review Board

Dan Viets on search warrants and violence in Columbia, Missouri

Dan Viets Attorney and Counselor

15 NORTH TENTH STREET COLUMBIA, MISSOURI  65201 (573) 443-6866/FAX (573) 443-1413

Dear Friends:

As most of you are probably aware, the Columbia Citizens Police Review Board has agreed to take up the appeal of our complaints regarding the Kinloch Court incident this Wednesday evening, August 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in the new addition to the Daniel Boone Building.

Last week, the complainants were not allowed to speak before the commission.  The Chairwoman had told me that this may or may not change at this meeting.  It is likely there will be an opportunity for us to speak, but it may be after the Board has made its decision.

I know of no reason to expect that the Board will change its position.  The Board voted four to three last week to accept the decision and report of the police chief.  However, if the Human Rights Commission has replaced the member who recently resigned from the CPRB, that could change the outcome.

At any rate, it is my recommendation that we ask the CPRB to agree to investigate the question of whether search warrants should ever be used in the investigation of non-violent crime.  The CPRB is focused on the technical question of whether the complaint against the individual police officers has been properly handled.  I recommend that we ask them instead to look at the broader policy question and consider making recommendations for a change in the policy.

The execution of search warrants is an inherently potentially violent process.  The execution of a search warrant involves a home invasion.  Whenever a home is invaded, there is a real risk that the occupants of the home may respond with violence before they even realize that it is police officers who are invading their home.  The occupants of the home invariably are truly terrorized by people battering their door open, pointing firearms at them and screaming at the top of their lungs.  Frequently concussion grenades, referred to by police as “flash bangs”, are thrown near or inside of the home for the purpose of further disorienting the occupants.

There are alternative means for investigating such matters.  There is almost always a claim of an anonymous or confidential informer in the application for such search warrants.  That individual should be required to make a controlled buy of marijuana, either under surveillance or with recording or transmitting equipment.  This is commonly done and involves far less risk to the police and the occupants of the home.

I look forward to seeing you this evening.

Sincerely,

Dan Viets

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A question of voice and not of standing

Over at the Columbia Missourian, Abby Rogers covers a complaint made by Ed Rosenthal, a California citizen, who challenged the exoneration of officers involved in a SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri, back in February. Here is the video of the raid if you haven’t seen it:

There has been some pushback by the Police Department and people sympathetic to the notion that police should serve non-violent search warrants with overwhelming force that Ed does not have standing to file a complaint. I strongly disagree, and here is the content of a comment I posted to the Missourian’s comment boards on the subject:

The standing issue in Ed’s complaint presumes several unfair things. Ed does have long-standing relationships with members of this community, and it is unfair and unjust to presume otherwise out of ignorance. It is also unfair to stipulate who may file a complaint; this is an open and free land, and we conduct commerce and the varied activities of life in all other parts of this country, bound by the common laws. In a very direct sense any American who may conceivably conduct business in Columbia, or visit family, or for pleasure, has a direct and vested interest in not being in the wrong house at the wrong night and be the victim of overwhelming force in a community where voters have expressed their clear intent to relegate these offenses to the lowest law enforcement priority.

The other major issue is not of standing, but of voice. Overwhelming violence is used to capture offenders who are non-violent and may be acquired in much more peaceful ways. After being victimized, families are terrified of voicing complaint; they have already been violently attacked, and fear retaliation from a police force that does retaliate.

Reference particularly the case of the young man who publicly complained that his rights were violated and his complaint stymied by Columbia’s Internal Affairs department. A police officer posting under the cover of anonymity retaliated by illegally disclosing closed records of this young man’s juvenile history. There was an investigation, but the officer remains on the force. There is no way for this community to trust that someone who has once violated the awesome trust that comes with wielding the power of the state will not violate that trust again.

The tone of these incidents brings a chill to those who are convinced that their exercise of their free speech may yet again be violated with force or other retaliation. To cut off their access to voices from outside the community is to silence the voices that have real complaints and risk real retaliation from voicing their petition.

I have worked with Ed and represent dozens of Columbia residents who support what Ed has done in defense of our civil liberties. There was no need to serve the Kinloch warrant late and with violence; with simple forethought, they could have served the warrant safely and without harm to dogs.

And there was no reason to kick a subdued man, for whom there was no arrest warrant, while he was down and cuffed.

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