Chicago Police are being sued after they executed a search warrant and interrupted a child’s birthday party. They busted the door down, charged in and in the process upended the kid’s birthday cake. Turns out the suspect they were searching for didn’t live there and hadn’t for five years. Lazy, sloppy and arrogant is a bad combination in any police unit.
Been there done that, got the tee shirt. The problem with dynamic entry search warrants is that there is no telling what is behind door #1. Treat an entry like you are going to Mr. Rodgers house and instead find Attila the Hun, a cop is gonna die. Go to the other extreme and act like Starsky and Hutch, watch the body count rise.
Dynamic entries are highly choreographed affairs that require discipline, teamwork and a lot of practice. There is more to it than fancy raid gear and yelling motherfucker a lot. The object of the exercise is to overcome potential resistance through speed, surprise and superior tactics. Once that goal is achieved then the next phase kicks in: the gathering of evidence and information.
The difference between a fairy tale and a war story is a fairy tale begins with: “Once upon a time…” A war story is prefaced with: “This is no shit…”
This is no shit. I once supervised a raid on a four-year-old’s birthday party. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but there you go. Nobody got hurt and the party continued after a momentary interruption. Here is what happened.
Bluto came to me with a search warrant application. All the I’s were dotted and T’s crossed, so he received my blessing. I should have paid a little more attention, my bad. Bluto is so named because he bears a resemblance to Popeye’s nemesis. He is a weightlifter gone to seed, with hair everywhere but on top of his head. Unlike Popeye’s Bluto, our version didn’t have a mean bone in his body.
An hour later the raid team is assembled in a parking lot behind a strip center. During the briefing Bluto reveals several items that would have been nice to know earlier in this adventure.
Bluto has received his information from two undercover officers that had purchased cocaine at the target location earlier in the day. Bluto didn’t get to meet the undercover guys because they were “too busy.” But he was able to get all the pertinent information from the incomplete case file. At least he drove by the apartment and could identify the proper door.
The second bit of information is that the apartment overlooked the favorite titty bar of members of the task force. Everybody, including our lone gay narc had stuffed countless dollar bills into numerous g-strings in an effort to keep San Antonio safe. Overt enforcement that close to the bar could compromise nascent investigations of the titty dancer threat.
It was a dispirited bunch of narcs that loaded up in the jump out van to make the trip to the target. We made one of the fastest approaches and breeches of the door known to narcs anywhere. Guys spent more time looking over their shoulder for stray titty dancers than concentrating on the approach.
I sensed a problem as I crossed the threshold. By then it was too late because I was part of the third element in the stack. Typically, the entry element yells: “Police,” and orders everybody to get, “Down on the floor!” They got the police out. The awe shit that followed was an ad lib.
Indication number one that things weren’t typical for a dope warrant entry were the decorations. It is almost mandatory for dopers to have a poster of Al Pacino as “Scarface” on the wall. Instead we were confronted with crepe paper streamers, balloons and banners wishing a “Happy Birthday”. Next were the three extremely pregnant mothers overseeing the antics of four little girls.
We had a saying at the task force, “Six to sixty, blind, crippled or crazy everybody goes down” (on the floor). I was left to deal with the women and children. The heroes ahead of me blazed right on past them with the excuse that they had to clear the rest of the apartment. They were now hiding in the bedrooms.
Fearing a tidal wave of amniotic fluid washing away the raid team I suspended the everybody down rule. Bluto, as case agent, took charge to explain the situation. Bluto was wearing a balaclava to hide his face. It did nothing to disguise his distinctive bulk.
The birthday girl challenged him, ” Why are you wearing the mask? Halloween isn’t for two more days.” Out of the mouths of babes.
Things weren’t done going south. The front door was standing open and nobody was guarding it. Titty dancers, you know. At this point the Domino’s Pizza guy showed up. He had pizzas to deliver and he wasn’t going to get stuck with them. Bluto, already feeling bad for interrupting the birthday party, bought the pizzas. He urged the party goers to carry on… don’t pay any attention to the six guys rummaging throughout the house.
The apartment was immaculate. This was both good news and bad news. Immaculate is not a term commonly associated with dopers. We took it as an indication that daddy had a hobby of which his wife was unaware. This meant that everything associated with dope dealing would be at a single location and not casually available. Playing the percentages we narrowed the search area considerably, thus allowing the party to continue.
We found the stash and declared victory. Our wrapping up the scene coincided with lighting the candles on the birthday cake. There was only one thing we could do. We gathered around the cake and delivered a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday! We didn’t get sued and never made the paper.
We didn’t do anything wrong, the search was authorized and experience dictated the tactics. The little girl resident and her mother were as innocent as one could be, married to a dope dealer. The difference between the Ants and Chicago PD is that we recognized that fact almost immediately and adjusted out attitudes and tactics almost immediately.
Acting like an asshole is a situational thing, not a full time occupation.