Columbia SWAT Officers Cleared
According to the Columbia Missourian, an internal investigation into the SWAT raid of Jonathan Whitworth’s home (which I have also covered here, here, here, and here) has cleared all the officers involved of any wrongdoing. Given my vociferous criticism of using SWAT tactics to serve search and arrest warrants for nonviolent crimes, you probably expect me to decry this decision as a miscarriage, but you would be wrong. From everything I know of the case, the officers did not violate any policies or statutes, whether federal, state, or local but that’s precisely the problem. We need stricter rules for SWAT raids because under the rules in place at the time, there was nothing technically wrong with the raid.
As Radley Balko puts it, “this wasn’t a ‘botched raid.’ It was a routine raid. The police got the correct house. They found the guy they were after. They arrested him. No one was killed. Most of these raids don’t turn up huge stashes of drugs or weapons. Most result in misdemeanor charges.”
There is some reason to hope that in Columbia, at least using SWAT teams for nonviolent crimes will become the exception rather than the rule. Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton concedes that the department has “utilized SWAT routinely in circumstances and situations where we should not,” and promises that new reforms should cause the number of SWAT raids to “plummet.” Those reforms should be strengthened and expanded statewide to help ensure that SWAT teams are used for the intended purposes and not to shock and awe nonviolent people.