Tag Archives: Radley Balko

Small, Homey College Towns: Columbus, Ohio and Columbia, Mo Have Armies? But Why?

This post originally aired at The College Fix.

We should be asking the Columbia, Mo City Council why it feels the need to militarize its police force. Hopefully the University of Missouri refrains from purchasing an “urban assault vehicle.” But who knows. Those college students can be a rowdy bunch. Maybe a gun turret blast into their dorm rooms will quite them down.

While some universities, in attempts to keep a lookout for lone-wolf shooters, have spent millions of dollars on a vast array of campus security cameras, other campuses have considerably beefed up their police force tools with urban-warfare tanks—in effect creating little armies.

Ohio State University and Columbia, Mo., home of the University of Missouri, are two such examples.

The Daily Caller reported that the Ohio State University campus police recently obtained what appears to be a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle to add to their security detail. Critics of campus security ask why such a tank-like vehicle, built primarily for urban warfare, would ever be needed in a small college town, let alone on a campus.

The massive vehicle is capable of holding 10 passengers within its bulky frame. It is also armed with a turret, gun ports and a battering ram for those hard-to-get-into dorm rooms. Needless to say, that is a lot of artillery for a small town police department tasked with the unenviable job of corralling young college students.

Not to be outdone, Columbia, Mo.—a small town compared to most other expansive cities with large SWAT forces–picked up its own $200,000, ground-pounding behemoth this past April. The vehicle is called a “Bearcat” which is an acronym for “Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.”

To that point, universities and college towns are, under the guise of safety, taking security several steps further, opting to step up the full militarization of their police forces; it remains to be seen whether or not the increasing militarization of the police is an effective tool to use to combat episodic shooting tragedies.

The Daily Caller contacted OSU media director Gary Lewis who bragged that “OSU’s campus cops are the first agency in the state to acquire such a vehicle.”

The vehicle may be used for officer rescues, hostage scenarios, bomb evaluations or campus shootings, according to campus officials.

After Lewis’ comments, and Reason Magazine’s investigations on the story, OSU and its PR department shut out all media inquiries, admitting to reporters only that the university has borrowed other law enforcement vehicles in the past. The admission appears to contradict Lewis’ claim that the OSU campus police were the first in the state to own an urban assault vehicle.

In the same vein, Lt. Geoff Jones of Columbia, Mo., SWAT told The Fix that the Bearcat was meant to replace the police department’s older armored response vehicle that had become aged and worn-out. “The vehicle needed to be replaced,” Jones said. He refused to justify why the police department needed an armored vehicle at all, only saying that it can be used in hostage situations and to break up riots.

As if the “Bearcat” was not enough to keep the crime in check, the Columbia city council in early September filled out a purchase order for more than 40 M4 Semi-Automatic rifles and a set of 25 night vision goggles, according to City Council documents. Again, the purchasing of the rifles and an armored vehicle prompted some to question the city council’s decision to arm to the teeth the city’s police department.

After the 2007 Texas Tech shootings, many universities have acted quickly, and, some say, too hastily to protect their students from episodic acts of violence—forgetting that schools are schools, not warzones.

One of the most outspoken critics of the militarization of all police forces, not just campus police departments, is former Reason Magazine editor Radley Balko.

Balko told The Fix that “schools and police officials will cite Virginia Tech or Columbine as reason for needing SWAT teams or armored vehicles, but the average campus can expect to see a homicide once every several thousand years.” Moreover, Balko said, once these Columbine/VT incidents do not transpire, which they rarely ever do, they then can use these militaristic vehicles for more mundane purposes.

In short, police departments appear to use the public’s fear of lone shooters as a way to acquire armored toys.

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Puppycide in Fulton, MO

A few days ago, SWAT officers of the Fulton (Missouri) Police Department shot and killed a dog while serving a “narcotics” search warrant. The residents of the house asked if they could cage the dog. The officers denied the request, ordering that the dog to be chained to a tree. The dog got loose and was then shot eight times, the first six shots wounding the dog and the last two point-blank, shotgun blasts killing it. After finishing off the first dog, the officers first maced and then turned their guns on caged puppies only stopping when confronted by concerned neighbors. 

After kicking in doors, killing a family pet, pepper-spraying and attempting to kill two caged puppies, and generally terrorizing a neighborhood, the only charge filed against the Fulton man was misdemeanor marijuana possession. He was released the same day. Par for the course in the War on Drugs. We’ve certainly seen plenty of similar dog executions here in Columbia. We’ve interviewed grieving dog owners and shown proof that the dogs were shot while running away from officers. And don’t forget the infamous SWAT raid that made Columbia, MO the dog shooting capital of the world. A guess Fulton wants in on the action.

http://www.komu.com/news/update-fulton-dog-died-man-arrested-in-a-drug-search/

*Puppycide is a term coined by Radley Balko

 

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CPD SWAT Killed Two Retreating Dogs in 2008 — Video

 

This is a video of the Columbia, MO SWAT team serving a search warrant for marijuana on 03.07.2008 at the home of Mr. Jonathan March.
 
According to Attorney Dan Viets, “Mr. March had no prior felony convictions” at the time of the raid and he did “possess firearms which were absolutely legal and constitutionally protected.”
 
During the raid, 5 concussion grenades were exploded in and around the home. One of the grenades exploded near the feet of the young lady visitor, seen in the video, who, at the time, was seated on the couch. Two additional grenades were exploded subsequent to the arrest on the premise that the CPD needed to prove that the previous 5 grenades had done no damage. The grenades left clear charred remains on the carpet and other areas of the home.
 
During sworn testimony taken by Viets, the SWAT officers who executed this raid acknowledged that they had shot to death two dogs with their machine guns. Both dogs were shot in the back while retreating. One of the dogs is shot at around the 6:30 mark in the video as an officer tops the stairs, passes a suspect on the floor, and steps into a bedroom. You can see a glimpse of the dead dog as the officer stands in the doorway. The dog is obviously facing away from the officer. At 6:55 you can see another injured dog struggling in the hall.
 
It is important to note that this raid took place before Chief Ken Burton accepted his position with the CPD. Due to the overwhelming public outcry stemming from a more recent yet similar raid under his command, Chief Burton has, for the time being,  reigned in the use of his SWAT team to serve search warrants for non-violent crimes and criminals.
 
While the prevalence of violent, paramilitary raids has waned in Columbia, this type of raid is happening somewhere in the United States right now. Please speak out against this government sanctioned domestic terrorism.
 
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It’s Link Time

Check out this interesting blog post and video put together by Larry and Carl over at United For Missouri. It seems reasonable to me that the City of St. Louis should have control of their own police department. The state controls their police now and their police aren’t doing a great job fighting crime. But wait, it’s all about the cop pensions. Who cares if you get murdered?

Why do cities continue to spend our tax dollars paying bad cops? Radley Balko takes on the question in this interesting piece at Reason.com.

Columbia’s own Citizen Police Review Board has agreed to hold a public meeting to discuss the local police policyon serving search warrants. In little ol’ Columbia, every search warrant is served by the SWAT team who kicks in the door wearing Kevlar ninja suits and swinging MP5 sub machine guns. That might be alright when searching for an armed murderer, but what about folks who are suspected of non-violent crimes? John Payne of the Show-Me Institute has already agreed to address the board. Getting Radley Balko here to talk to the board might be a game changer. If anything, the board members should all read Balko’s white paper on the use of SWAT, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

Keep Columbia Free wholeheartedly endorses Mitch Richards as a candidate for Columbia’s First Ward City Council seat. Check out the local coverage of the first candidate forum of the season.  The Missourian coverage seems to be a bit more in depth than The Tribune, but The Trib has been known post their stories early and update throughout the day.

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New Columbia Police SWAT Video

Our friends at The Show-Me Institute obtained this video of a Columbia Police Department S.W.A.T. raid that took place in 2008. This raid took place before the era of Police Chief Ken Burton and the S.W.A.T. reforms he instituted following the famous botched raid on Kinloch Ct.

The first four minutes is footage of the police driving to the location of the raid, so hang on. 

 

A couple of things stand out.

Chief Burton admitted that mistakes were made during the lead up to the famous Feb. 2009 Kinloch Ct raid. Those mistakes included a lack of surveillance that would have alerted the officers to the presence of a young child in the home. 

In this new video, several young children are present. Was a lack of surveillance to ensure the safety of children standard operating procedure and not a “mistake” for the CPD prior to Chief Burton’s policy changes?

There is a very telling statement made at the 7:30 mark in the video. The officer is in the bathroom with an extremely docile and confused elderly woman when he says, “We’re just going to put you in handcuffs for right now just so we can control you.”  He then handcuffs the old woman.

I’m not suggesting that this officer violated any policy, but handcuffing an innocent old woman simply to “control” her sends chills up my spine.

Thankfully, Chief Burton has taken some baby steps toward S.W.A.T. reform, but paramilitary police raids on family homes take place all over the country, every day. In that context, his baby-steps seem giant.

I recommend you read Radley Balko’s white paper, “Overkill.”  Balko is the nation’s foremost expert on paramilitary S.W.A.T. raids.

Thanks to the folks over at Americans for Forfeiture Reform for their help with this video.

Mark Flakne

***UPDATE***

Erica Warren over at COMOCITIZENS has located the warrant and the accompanying Tribune story regarding this raid. This was a narcotics search warrant served at 1002 Madison, Columbia.

Here is a picture of the address from Google.

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