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Post article critiques reforms in laws governing police raids

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Washington Post

The Washington Post’s special section called “The Watch” featured an exclusive article by author Radley Balko. Balko wrote the book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces and blogs for the Post about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties.

The article titled “How to Reform (and How Not to Reform) Laws Governing Police Raids” discusses the legislatures of two conservative states considering new bills that would restrict the when and how of police work in regards to breaking into private homes.

The Georgia “Bou Bou’s Law” would require police to show probable cause that a suspect might destroy evidence or bring harm to others if they plan on forcing their way into a home. In the simplest of explanations, it raises the standard of evidence for no-knock raids from reasonable suspicion to probable cause.

The bill is named after a toddler who was serious injured during a raid last year. In the incident, the suspect no longer lived in the home and police found no drugs or weapons in the house. Because the law enforcement decided to use force to enter the home, Bounkham “Bou” Phonesavanh was badly burned by a flash grenade.

However, Balko wrote that proposed bill is meaningless. Since police can still force their way into homes, they can still administer dangerous drug raids that puts everyone involved in danger. The only difference is they would have to wait a little longer to do it, since the time required to wait is measured not by how long it take to answer a door, but by the amount of time it takes to flush the toilet and then answer the door.

On the other side, Balko feels that the reform bill just introduced by Utah is better. It eliminates the no-knock raids in the pursuit to preserve evidence. It would require police to show that a suspect poses a risk to their safety for any type of forced-entry raid and it raises the standard of evidence to probable cause. It would also require all officers involved in the raid to wear uniforms and a body camera.

In addition, Balko wrote that the Utah bill would override a previous Supreme Court decision that makes any evidence found during the search after forced entry admissible. Under the new bill, the evidence would be inadmissible in Utah.

Balko finishes his piece with an appropriate closing when he wrote, “Though the Georgia bill may be flawed, and the Utah bill is better but not quite ideal, it is encouraging that we’re having this discussion at all. It means that at least a handful of lawmakers are beginning to recognize the inherent danger in allowing police to violently raid homes to serve warrants for relatively low-level crimes — and consensual, nonviolent crimes at that. That in itself is progress.”

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