Mistaken Raid Wasn't So Unusual Society Is Appalled When Its Attack Dogs Bite a White Middle-Class Family

By Ryals, Stephen M. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 12, 1996 | Go to article overview

Mistaken Raid Wasn't So Unusual Society Is Appalled When Its Attack Dogs Bite a White Middle-Class Family


Ryals, Stephen M., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The words are familiar to all: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated." Yet the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution remains an abstraction to most.

It has been amusing and disturbing to observe the flurry of local media activity surrounding the raid on the St. Charles County residence by officers of the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department, the O'Fallon Police Department and one agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The reaction in my office and probably in the offices of all other attorneys who deal with police and constitutional issues has been, what is all the fuss about? What is it about this take down that has warranted several days of television, radio, talk show and print attention?

It can't be that the police raided a house where no contraband was found. That happens all the time. It can't be that the search warrant was issued on the word of an informant, the identity and reliability of whom was known only to the police. Confidential informants are routinely relied on by the police to secure warrants.

It can't be that the officers were arguably rude and heavy handed in their dealings with the occupants of the raided home. Their treatment was, according to the news accounts, comparatively mild and restrained. Was it the Ninja costumes, the late hour or the kicked-in door? No, no and nope. It was simply this. The police kicked in the door of a nice, white, middle-class family. The ultimate question then must be how could it happen to these people?

Believe it or not, in the final analysis the police are not to blame. We are. This raid is what we, the populous, the voters, the consumers of the law and things political, have wrought for ourselves. The rhetoric of politics uniformly calls for a governmental - a police - solution to the crime that is perceived to infect our community. Get tough on crime, lock up the bad guys, protect us. We don't care how you do it. Stop criminals from slipping through the system on the notorious "technicalities" that have turned our courts into revolving doors.

What escapes the rhetoric is that the "technicalities" are mostly protections of the Bill of Rights - restrictions on the power of the government. It is hard to watch an apparently guilty individual go free, even in the name of protecting the vitality of a constitutional protection. …

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