Arkansas Police Department Has Been Engaging In Illegal Drug Raids For Years

from the bogus-narratives-and-boilerplate dept

The War on Drugs seems to bring out the worst in law enforcement. Wiretap abuse, asset forfeiture, flashbang grenades tossed into toddlers’ cribs, internal corruption… these are all aspects of law enforcement’s drug-related police work.

Radley Balko has uncovered more abuse and Constitutional violations, this time stemming from the Little Rock PD’s anti-drug efforts. The wrongs detailed in Balko’s investigation include false statements on warrant requests, abuse of no-knock warrants, “reliable” confidential informants who are anything but reliable, and a handful of destroyed lives left in its wake.

It opens with the story of Roderick Talley, whose apartment was raided by a Little Rock (AR) SWAT team. The team used explosives to remove his door, sending it flying onto the couch where Talley was sleeping. The raid was predicated on an informant’s supposed controlled buy. But Talley’s own security cameras — which also captured the raid itself — showed the informant didn’t do what police said he did.

The outside camera had recorded two odd incidents. First, a man whom Talley didn’t know approached the apartment while Talley wasn’t home. Looking anxious, the man knocked, waited a few moments and then left. A few days later, the camera picked up a police officer outside the door. The officer looked around, snapped a photo of Talley’s door with his cellphone, and left.

According to the search warrant affidavit, the CI had purchased drugs from Talley, with the swearing officer claiming he had actually witnessed this (nonexistent) purchase take place.

The detective wrote that he and two other detectives then watched as the informant approached Talley’s apartment. Importantly, the detective wrote that the officers “observed the door open” and witnessed the informant have “a conversation with someone inside the apartment.” Immediately after, they met up with the informant at a prearranged location. The informant said he had just purchased $100 worth of cocaine from two men in the apartment. One man took his money at the door, then an inside man handed the door man a small bag of cocaine.

If it hadn’t been for his own cameras, it would have been Talley’s word against the Little Rock PD’s. The only drugs found during the no-knock raid was a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. Talley was then kicked out of his apartment by his landlord and billed for the damages caused by the SWAT team.

Talley isn’t alone. Balko details a couple of other questionable raids that can be traced back to the same questionable informant.

Talley says the informant did speak to him, and when he confronted him about his own case, the informant admitted that he never bought cocaine that day. Furthermore, “his girlfriend told me that he’d get paid for each bust, so he’d just take the cops to the places of people he knew or had heard about, knock on the door, and then he’d just make small talk for a few minutes,” Talley says. “Then he’d go tell the cops that he’d bought whatever drug they were looking for.”

That jibes with the accounts of two other people who say they were recently raided because of the informant. Derrick Davis says that on Sept. 2, 2017, a few weeks after the raid on Talley, a strange man knocked on his door. “I’d never seen the guy before,” Davis says. “He just comes up, knocks and walks right in. Then he starts asking weird questions about my apartment, like whether I like living there, and how much the rent is. He stayed for a few minutes, then he thanked me and left. It was weird.”

Two weeks later, an LRPD raid team blew down Davis’s door. “I saw the video of what they did to Mr. Talley. It was exactly what they did to me,” he says. “They used explosives. It blew the door clean off. Then about 10 guys came in, all decked out in SWAT gear.”

What’s most concerning about the LRPD’s tactics is its reliance on “no knock” warrants. These warrants are supposed to be limited to cases where officers can demonstrate a sufficient need to enter a private residence unannounced. There’s a higher bar than regular search warrants and are meant to the rare exception to the rule. For the Little Rock PD, the exception is the rule.

Of the 105 warrants, LRPD officers requested a no-knock raid in 103. Of those 103, Little Rock’s criminal court judges granted the request in at least 101. (The other two search warrants were missing the page that included the judge’s instructions on how the warrant should be served.)

The”neutral magistrate” — the check against government power — was, in these cases, the rubber stamp applied to PD boilerplate. Only eight warrant requests contained any specific details about the sought suspect. The other 90+ warrant requests were copy-pasted assertions about drug dealers and danger. As Balko points out, this isn’t just lazy police work (and lazy adjudicating), it’s actually illegal.

Some police agencies adapted to the Wilson ruling [on no-knock warrants] by simply deciding that all drug cases involve violent suspects and easily destroyable evidence. The Supreme Court rejected this approach two years later in the 1997 case Richards v. Wisconsin. The court ruled that to obtain a no-knock warrant, law enforcement officers must demonstrate specific exigent circumstances for each suspect for whom they’re trying to obtain a no-knock warrant. They can’t simply state that an entire class of crimes, such as drug crimes, presents de facto exigent circumstances.

The Little Rock PD has been engaged in unconstitutional policing for who knows how many years. It just took a set of personal security cameras to catch them in the act. The resulting paper trail has exposed an assembly line for illegal SWAT raids and it’s unlikely this Arkansas law enforcement agency is the only one in the nation using the War on Drugs as an excuse for violent behavior and rights violations.

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Comments on “Arkansas Police Department Has Been Engaging In Illegal Drug Raids For Years”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Security cameras needed to combat police corruption

Sadly in 2018, it pays to invest in some security cameras to cover all approaches to your residence. I use front and rear dash cams in my vehicles and have shared interesting things it has caught with my family. Being able to dispute the account of the police is a nice side benefit that really should be needed in this day and age. Police should be recording 100% of their observations or they should not be believed any more than any other citizen is believed without evidence.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Security cameras needed to combat police corruption

And as those sorts of cameras become more common, expect police to add tampering to the recordings to their warrant service checklist.

Sending the video off-site can be blocked by police cutting off the internet, phone lines or power before the raid. You’d almost need a hidden HDD somewhere — and maybe more than one, so the police can find one and stop searching.

Twenty years ago, this was outright paranoia. Now? It’s merely borderline. Give it ten years, and it will likely be best practices.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Security cameras needed to combat police corruption

You’d almost need a hidden HDD somewhere — and maybe more than one, so the police can find one and stop searching

How do you figure “almost”?

It has been three years since link [2015 techdirt article] the cops got caught because they disabled only the visible security cameras and stole only the visible computers doing the recording. By now the news should have reached even the most benighted hinterlands: have a second, less visible system, so you have something left after the cops are done stealing.

And, yes, this “markdown” stuff appears to be a crock, not sure why HTML got broken. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time.

ECA (profile) says:

And you wonder...

And is there any Strange reasoning??(who makes the money?)
How many of these cases were thrown out??(all these people and NO DRUGS??)
How many Different Judges were involved??(who do we Fire)
An informant that gets paid by the HIT?? Not the amounts of drugs?? WOW, I like that system..( I know a person in a High value area with LOTS of TV’s, that the cops would Love to Forfeiture)

JoeCool (profile) says:

CI statement doesn't make sense

CI: I went up to the door, spoke to two guys, paid one $100, and the other gave me the drugs.

Cop: Great! Give us the drugs and you can go.

CI: Uhhhhh – I don’t have them anymore. I – uhhhhh – tossed them in the trash.

Cop: Well, that’s good enough for us! See again next week!

Now, what’s is wrong with the above scenario?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: CI statement doesn't make sense

You left out the part where the cop went to the trash, picked up the drugs, took them home, and either used them or resold them.

There are other possibilities, I guess. The fact that said drug deal took place merely in the imaginations of the cops, who then probably testified that they actually saw what was merely in their imaginations makes one wonder if they are actually that deluded because they used the drugs, or because they have institutionalized fabricating evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: CI statement doesn't make sense

We already have precedent that the feds can lock you up for years based on ‘imaginary drug house robberies’ where the charges are based on the amount of drugs the cops SAID were in the house (when in reality there were zero drugs in the house and it was just a sting to bust a stupid crook who couldn’t afford his own gun, get away vehicle, or blindfold…)

So should we be surprised that we now have continued the ‘imaginary drugs’ as a basis for police robbing citizens (what other ‘motivation’ could there be than to seize as much money as they can from law abiding citizens?) It’s not like they are actually interested in stopping real crime, only whatever their little criminal minds can think up (yes the SWAT team are the criminals in this county).

Whoever says:

Judges: do your job!

It’s the judicial branch that is leading the country into fascism.

Judges have a job to do. They have utterly failed to do this, with made up rights for the police (“qualified immunity”), relying on utterly implausible statements made under oath, without calling out the BS, etc..

The judicial branch has utterly failed this country.

That One Guy (profile) says:

It's good to have a badge

Dishonest informant who will give you all the justification you need to blow up a door or two.

Spineless(at best) judge who will stamp ‘Approved’ on anything put in front of them as long as the one doing so has a badge.

All the toys they could possibly desire to play ‘Who’s life can we ruin today?’

Truly, they are living the (sociopath’s) dream.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is just more reason to end the war on drugs and just make it all LEGAL!!!

Put it this way, we have all these people that say what you do to your own body is a-OK, so abort away and kill an innocent life, that’s OK, but taking drugs that really only hurt YOU, oh no, we can’t have that.

You can drink alcohol, that’s just fine which can be worse than drugs,. but Drugs, NOOOOOOO.

So many innocent people have been affected by POlice raids, going so far as waking up in bed only to be shot and killed by the police, and Ops wrong address. No one goes to jail over that.

This is getting rediculous. As this point, I’d believe what comes out of a criminals mouth that that of lying police. They’ll lie to get you to do anything they want. They’ll lie to cover each others butt. If they get caught, oh well, the unions protect them. It’s pretty rare anything happens to any of them.

Ron says:

Arkansas Police Department Has Been Engaging In Illegal Drug

In my (personal) view, THE most important fact (that doesn’t appear to have been pursued here) is the matter of the PERJURY committed by the police officers who stated (under oath) that they had observed their confidential informant (CI) purchasing drugs at someones door. In the case outlined here, the (alleged) drug dealer wasn’t even home at the time, and his own home surveillance camera proves it. The poilce officers who lied (under oath) on the search warrant application should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If aperjury conviction means that they can never effectively work again as a law enforcement officer (I mean really, what future court should ever believe the future testimony of a convicted perjuror), then they have only themselves to blaim.

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