Nomination For A Hero Badge

J Edgar Hoover has been dead a long time, but his spirit lives on in today’s FBI

During the bank robber era of the 30’s J Edgar Hoover was notorious for stage managing arrests. At times, arrests would be delayed so that he could make the scene. The press was present to document J Edgar’s involvement. He has been gone a long time but his legacy lives on.

To the uninitiated, this raid may look impressive. Any “real police” that have ever kicked a door would disagree. Here are some things that I see. This was a PR exercise and a poorly done one, at that.

Federal rules for search warrant execution limit service to a period between dawn and dusk. Nighttime service requires specific circumstances be set out in the search warrant affidavit and approved by the Magistrate. Yeah, I know it is still dark. The Feds follow the same rules as deer hunters. Dawn is one half hour before sunrise and one half hour after sunset. The Feds like these dawn raids. We always maintained it was because they were afraid of the dark.

Basic operational security says that the time and place of execution is closely held. This is a safety issue. One that most agencies take seriously.

We had an incident where an agent alerted the press prior to a raid. We found out because the reporter told us. It was such a deviation from the norm, that even a reporter couldn’t ignore it . The agent didn’t finish his shift. We sent him back to his agency and his Chief fired him when he reported back.

The fact that the press was there two hours ahead of time says that the FBI told them about the operation. This would seem to indicate there were no concerns that their suspect would flee or pose any danger to agents.

If there were no safety concerns, there was no need for the FBI SWAT team. Watch the video. Some agents are in full SWAT regalia and some are wearing blue windbreakers with FBI emblazoned in yellow letters (raid jackets). Raid jackets are typically worn by agents, not assigned to SWAT. This could have been handled with five blue jacketed agents.

To be fair, some jurisdictions rely on SWAT for all search warrant service, while others do not. We used SWAT very rarely. I can think of only three times in fifteen years. I think on two occasions it was more a training exercise for SWAT rather than an operational necessity.

Look at the organization and body language of the SWAT team as they approach the residence. There doesn’t appear to be a sense of urgency. The team ambles up to the house like a mob.

Compare and Contrast

Watch the video. On the right is a SWAT stack. This is a team preparing for a dynamic entry. On the left is a mob about to make entry into Frankenstein’s Castle. Any doubt as to which tactic the FBI went with?

I don’t know, but I’m going to guess that the FBI had a search warrant. The evidence to be seized, along with the suspect to be arrested, impact the tactics used to execute a search warrant. A potential armed suspect and easily disposable evidence calls for a dynamic entry. This is to minimize the loss of evidence and limit the potential for violence.

The indictment was for “process crimes,” basically white collar crimes. The evidence was likely documents, day planners, computers, and storage devices. None of these items were likely to go down the toilet or be destroyed.

I have no problem with this guy getting the full crook experience. I like perp walks. I take issue with how the FBI went about it. There was nothing “professional” about their handling of the entry. This is a good example of a bad example, how not to do things.

What do I know? I’m just a broken down old narc. The fact that I planned, participated, or supervised over a 1000 search warrants is neither here nor there. My raid jacket was yellow and didn’t say FBI.

If the FBI was determined to use SWAT, then use SWAT tactics. That means establishing a perimeter, instilling discipline in the approach, and effecting an entry consistent with the circumstances. If Stone had come out shooting there would have been dead FBI agents and little puddles of shit all over the front yard.

If law enforcement is going to take a defendant’s freedom away, they owe him their best effort. Stone got screwed.

Every time the team goes out the application of good tactics sets the team up for future success. Bad tactics or good tactics badly applied are a recipe for failure.

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”

― Richard Marcinko, Rogue Warrior
I’m retired now, so I can sit on the front porch and bloviate with great abandon.