Kansas City Cops Tell Man They'll Kill His Dogs And Destroy His Home If Forced To Obtain A Search Warrant

from the i-keep-a-gun-holstered,-but-only-on-the-right-side,-that's-the-cop-side dept

Good news, citizens! You have the right to refuse a warrantless search of your premises. It’s a right that’s guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. But that right won’t protect you from the consequences of your failure to roll over for law enforcement. Nope, the right to not be subjected to a warrantless search can actually be held against you — not in a court of law, mind you — but by the police themselves.

Eric Crinnian, an attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, says police came to his door looking for parole violators, and got upset when he refused them permission to tramp through his house and paw through his possessions. In fact, he claims, one cop went so far as to threaten to shoot his dogs if he made them abide by the requirements of the law by getting a search warrant to look through his home.

Here’s the direct quote from the news article:

“If we have to get a warrant, we’re going to come back when you’re not expecting it, we’re going to park in front of your house, where all your neighbors can see, we’re gonna bust in your door with a battering ram, we’re gonna shoot and kill your dogs […] and then we’re going to ransack your house looking for these people.”

This sounds suspiciously like a threat (several threats, actually). This is the classic “you can do this the easy way or the hard way” persuasion technique that’s been deployed by law enforcement since there’s been law enforcement. Even when not spoken out loud, the “or else” always hangs in the air when LEOs “ask nicely” for permission to do things they can’t legally do without your consent.

Rarely is this threat spoken with such clarity and detail, however. As both Reason and the Volokh Conspiracy note, the threat delivered by a KCPD officer may not actually be illegal.

John Hamilton, an associate professor of criminal justice administration at Park University and a retired Major with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, told the news station that the officers’ threats may not be illegal, though they’re inappropriate and it’s possible they violate department policy. He also pointed to the matter of appearances, saying that such behavior “makes it tenuous when you appear in front of the court in a case like that.”

Not exactly illegal, but not very helpful should this incident result in a lawsuit. In fact, Missouri’s laws give police officers leeway to make threats such as these without repercussion, as Reason’s J.D. Tucille notes.

Missouri has a statute that defines a “credible threat… against the life of, or a threat to cause physical injury to, or the kidnapping of, the person, the person’s family, or the person’s household members or domestic animals or livestock” as aggravated stalking and might fit the bill in this situation. However, that law explicitly exempts law enforcement officers “conducting investigations of violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law,” which is more than a little disturbing.

In all likelihood, the citizen who exercised his Fourth Amendment rights will be the only one who is punished (in one fashion or another) for the officer’s threats. Making these allegations public will decrease the likelihood of the KCPD following through on its offer to tear apart Crinnian’s home and shoot his pets. Of course, this could just as easily go the other way. The PD has already promised to retaliate for his refusal to permit an unconstitutional search. It may up its level of retribution in the wake of this public embarrassment.

There’s also this to consider. While the officer’s words may sound like a threat, what he’s saying may not be a threat. It may just be a simple observation of what doing this the “hard way” will entail.

Some people have hypothesized that the police officer was merely describing the normal warrant execution process rather than threatening to retaliate by causing gratuitous property damage. I think it’s worth noting that these are not inconsistent. It would not surprise me to learn that the police routinely retaliate against people who make their lives difficult by causing gratuitous damage during the warrant execution process.

No-knock warrants are always more damaging than those announced by a knock on the door. Police use different tactics depending on their perception of the person they’re serving the warrant to. People with the power and money to retaliate in court are often handled with more respect (and less collateral damage) than those that are perceived to be powerless (yet somehow more dangerous). Note how an arrest of celebrity is carried out much differently than arrests of millions of nobodies.

“We’ll come back with a warrant, but we’ll make you wish you had consented earlier.” It’s almost extortion and yet, it’s almost certainly not punishable under Missouri law. Gotta love that Fourth Amendment protection, which grants you the right to turn down a warrantless search, but instead subjects you to a violent, noisy, destructive search of your house once the proper paperwork is secured.

Hopefully, Crinnian’s public complaint will either a) force the KCPD to conduct an orderly, non-dog-shooting search of his premises or b) move any judge asked to sign this warrant makes sure the KCPD has dotted every evidentiary “i” and crossed every reasonably suspicious “t.” Better yet, let’s hope it convinces the PD to drop its apparently errant investigation of Crinnian.

But the underlying message is both terrible and crystal clear. You are protected from illegal searches, but not from petty retaliation conducted under the color of law. The system has checks and balances, but these are essentially meaningless when the balance of power has shifted this far out of whack.

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Comments on “Kansas City Cops Tell Man They'll Kill His Dogs And Destroy His Home If Forced To Obtain A Search Warrant”

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52 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Call up your friends in Homeland security, give them the name of the police officer in question and tell them he is a member of AQ. Within an hour they will be storming his house and carting his wife, children, parents and pets off to Gitmo where they can experience firsthand the dubious joys of being waterboarded, tazed and beaten to death.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

In modern usage, it’s not blackmail (the threat of revealing damaging information unless you do what they want), it’s extortion (the threat of harm to your person or property unless you do what they want).

Even worse, it is extortion under the color of authority to attempt to illegally deprive someone’s Constitutional rights. IANAL, but certainly 42 USC 1983 would work here (but they would have to sue the officer for violation of their 4th amendment rights.)

The Real Michael says:

The residents of KC should ban together and throw these gestapo out, by force if necessary. Law enforcement shouldn’t be given carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want just because they wear a badge, nor because of an unjust legal precedent. Americans don’t have to stand for this shit treatment. Show ’em who’s really boss.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

In my opinion, we’re still a long way from revolution being a necessary course of action, but I don’t think TRM was jumping to that right off (“with force if necessary“).

I’m 100% with him about the need for people — not just in KC — to get more muscular in opposing this type of abuse, though. Until that happens, this stuff will continue.

There’s an old quote from I-don’t-remember-who, but it is absolutely accurate: people will get exactly the amount of oppression that they will tolerate.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“United we stand, divided we fall.” When the state is intent on stepping on a citizen’s rights, such as the above, and the people around him act with indifference, there’s no way he can take on an entire corrupt system alone — police will use their usual numbers game and he will lose. Therefore, the people must be willing to play the same game against this rogue, bullying police force if they want to put an end to this unchecked aggression against their rights. This isn’t some third-world dump where the state can just step all over the people’s rights without repurcussions.

Maybe now people will realize why they’re so hellbent on gun control, which is really a euphemism for people control.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

Pacifism doesn’t seem to be working. Things are going from bad to worse at an alarming rate. Show me just one instance where due to protests (which BTW the government is doing all it can to try and outlaw) they’ve been forced to do away with bad policies. While politicans will pay lip service to reign in on this crap, nothing ever comes to show for it. It’s a bunch of hot air.

Anonymous Coward says:

Same old same old.

This kind of stuff has been going on for a long time. I once knew somebody who had their vehicle “totaled” right on the side of the road because they had the audacity to ask the cops to get a warrant before searching it. And then the insurance company wouldn’t cover it because it wasn’t the result of an accident or other covered cause. It was an expensive car too, before the cops and their sledge hammers got through with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

shoot the dogs

ransacking the house and killing the dogs? hell put me on this guys jury. if killing animals for the hell of it is his idea of justice i whould want to have his ass in happy farms asylum before the day ends.

apparently this cop looked at gta 5 and thought the police there were accurate portrayals of good police work

Greevar (profile) says:

4th Amendment?

Cops should absolutely not have the leeway to punish people for exercising their 4th amendment rights. The whole idea of the 4th amendment was to avoid abuse like this. They’re nothing but thugs with too much power. They should all be at the workforce center looking for new employers and banned from public safety service. Their job is to protect the civil rights of the people and instead they wipe their asses with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Need Escalation

Clearly I think some serious escalation is required to in this case in some case to make the lesson clear to the cops that they won’t even think about pulling this shit. Since clearly being civilized won’t get it through to those shitheads.

Whether it comes from defunding their whole police department (“Guess what everyone you’re all fucking fired.”), legally barring the police from carrying guns on the job without a case by case warrant, juries start letting off cop killers on the grounds that clearly the pig had it coming (like the ones making the threat), or outright killing of all officers involved this shit cannot stand. There cannot be a drastic enough solution.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Consent

A citizen consenting to a search by law enforcement is like a 14-year-old girl consenting to sex with a 24-year-old man.

It’s time the law recognized this power imbalance and required that law enforcement get a warrant to perform any search, period. The owner of the premises “consenting” is not enough any more, if it ever was, as a safeguard of Constitutional rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

The police there probably would come back with The Rook (armored critical incident vehicle) to tear his home down.

I hope those police officers die and Westboro Baptist Church shows up to protest there.

This crap is not acceptable, this is maybe one of the very few instances I would look the other way if those people got hurt or killed.

Justin (profile) says:

Of course they cannot do this. Read the Constitution. No person under any circumstances nor jurisdiction may do this to any US citizen. It’s codified within the Constitution. It’s when people begin to say, “Oh my gosh! Can they really ?!?!?!” where this kind of crap begins to be tolerated. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that judges, district attorneys, police officers, etc don’t violate your rights – I know that they do. The point is, when folks start saying, “Oh well there’s the case law where they ‘can’ violate your 4th Amendment rights” that starts allowing this kind of crap to take place.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

Anti-bullying laws are inherently unconstitutional — you cannot have individual liberty while judicial activists in black robes are attempting to punish thought crimes.

Shame them? They had no qualms about threatening to shoot this guy’s dog and smash up his place the next time he’s away from the house. ‘Shameless’ doesn’t even begin to describe them.

Piggy McMUTT says:

Fuck the police!

The Irish Catholics fled Europe to escape persecution and bigotry. The first thing they did in the U.S.A. is create a NAZI like pig force. The IRISH Catholics are the most dominate ethnic group,in the national police gangs.Now I know why the KKK in the 1920s HATED the Irish, they’re a bunch of crooked pigs!The “police” are scum and if they break down your door SHOOT at them and explain in court if you survive that they’re CRIMINALS and you treated them as such.

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