A Hennepin County (Minn.) drug squad — known as the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) — conducted a pre-dawn no-knock raid on a house in North Minneapolis one morning in November 2015. They were looking for Walter Power, who they suspected of being a marijuana dealer. To search the home they believed Power to be sleeping in, they brought a force of between 28-32 officers, most clad in riot gear and carrying rifles, accompanied by a sniper seated atop a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response (BEAR) vehicle.
Why did law enforcement officials feel they needed to display a show of overwhelming force that would be intense even in a foreign occupied city? Because the primary resident of the house, Michael Delgado, was a registered gun-owner with a license to carry.
Convinced of the potential danger posed to officers when raiding a house with an armed occupant, Hennepin County District Judge Tanya Bransford signed off on the no-knock raid, but later told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she did not know a platoon of up to 32 officers would be deployed to search the house, or that they’d throw flash bang grenades through the windows in addition to knocking down doors.
The raid resulted in the arrest of Power — the suspected marijuana dealer — for “fifth-degree drug possession,” the lowest possible drug charges on the books. Even this modest charge would be dropped after Judge Bransford declared the raid unconstitutional in a ruling last summer, arguing that Delgado and Power had been subject to unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Bransford wrote in her ruling “that the types of militarized actions used in this case seem to be a matter of customary business practice,” which she found troubling.
Like most of the U.S., Hennepin County has increasingly relied on SWAT teams to serve warrants. According to the Star-Tribune, its ESU deployed 71 times last year, which is more than double its annual usage from a decade prior. A 2014 study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that on a national basis, SWAT teams were only used “for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios” in seven percent of all deployments, while 62 percent of SWAT raids were to search for drugs.
The executive director of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, Jim Franklin, was quoted by the Star-Tribune as saying of Bransford’s ruling, “My question to her is: Are you going to attend the dead cop’s funeral?” Franklin’s argument is essentially that without the use of such violent and destructive tactics, officers’ lives would be at risk.
Why didn’t uniformed officers go up to the door in the day time and knock? Oh yea. They wanted that “evidence.” Okay, so why didn’t they stake out the home and wait until he left, go into the home to get their evidence, and then arrest him in the driveway?
Because they wanted to be all tacticool and bad ass. They wanted to play soldier-boy without the commitment. As for the judge, she knew. She knew everything. She’s throwing a red herring in your face now because it looks bad. She could have asked the same questions I’m asking. It makes no difference whether they used 30 officers or three. They conducted an armed invasion of another man’s home and are at a minimum guilty of breaking and entering, as well as reckless endangerment.
Jim Franklin is also lying. If he was concerned about officer safety, he wouldn’t be advocating these kinds of ridiculous raids to begin with. He would be advocating exactly what I did, i.e., stake the home out and arrest him in the driveway.
Both judge Bransford and Jim Franklin are liars.