Rise Of The Warrior Cop by Radley Balko

“The recognition of exceptions to great principles always creates, of course, the hazard that the exceptions will devour the rule.”

Those words, written by Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, have unfortunately proven prophetic. The rule that was devoured: the Castle Doctrine, which was enshrined in America via the 4th Amendment. The exception: so-called “exigent circumstances” that allow police to enter a home without knocking and announcing their presence.

Radley Balko’s first book, Rise Of The Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, provides a history of law enforcement, then shows the consequences to American civil liberties now that the Castle Doctrine has essentially disappeared.

There is not a single incident, or a single piece of legislation, that led to a “battlefield approach” by law enforcement that seemingly values punishment over the oath to “serve and protect.” Examples Balko cites in his book that, over time, have brought us to this point include (but are not limited to):

-Court rulings, such as Ker v. California, which triggered Justice Brennan’s decent quoted above, gave law enforcement leeway to enter homes, and additional rulings that weakened the Exclusionary Rule.

-The proliferated use of SWAT teams, mostly in relation to victimless drug crimes.

-“Tough on crime” policies advocated by politicians looking to exploit fears on crime. These policies include legalizing no-knock raids, expanding asset forfeiture, providing federal money to local jurisdictions (with the money prioritizing drug enforcement over other crimes), providing a pipeline for military gear to flow to local jurisdictions, and so on.

-Qualified immunity and the “Blue Code of Silence” which make police accountability very difficult to attain, regardless of how volatile and overboard their tactics are.

-Judicial deference to law enforcement.

-A police culture that promotes ass-kicking over true community policing.

So why should we care? It’s not just hardcore criminals that feel the brunt of heavy-handed law enforcement. Balko cites NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly from 2003, stating 10% of New York City’s no-knock raids are served on the wrong address. So approximately ten percent of New Yorkers (including children) that have to endure these raids are subjected to flash-bang grenades, verbal and physical torment, guns pointed at their heads, the ransacking of their homes, the shootings of their dogs, and whatever other tactics are deployed. And they endure this BY MISTAKE! That assumes Commissioner Kelly wasn’t UNDER-stating the problem. And Kelly was stating this statistic to SUPPORT the continued use of no-knock raids.

After reading Rise Of The Warrior Cop, an uninitiated reader might still conclude the raids on innocent people (or people whose crimes don’t seem to elicit the need for these raids) are just not that common. While Balko’s book provides examples of innocent people and nonviolent offenders subjected to these raids, I’d also recommend his Cato report Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids In America, which contains over 30 pages of “isolated incidents”, some of which end fatally (including officer fatalities).

It’s time policy makers are awakened to just what is going on in this country. Let’s hope this book serves as that catalyst. Highest recommendation.

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One Response to “Rise Of The Warrior Cop by Radley Balko”

  1. John Stossel’s NSA Apathy | The Blog For Truth, Justice, & The Josh Way Says:

    […] Drug War, as Radley Balko’s new book and long-time reporting show, has the amount of collateral damage attached to it in large part […]

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