Raids: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

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LastWeekTonight

John Oliver explains how raids became a favorite tool of police, how few guardrails there are on their use, and what we should do about that. Connect with Last Week Tonight online... Subscribe to the Last Week Tonight YouTube channel for more almost news as it almost happens: www.youtube.com/lastweektonight Find Last Week Tonight on Facebook like your mom would: www.facebook.com/lastweektonight Follow us on Twitter for news about jokes and jokes about news: www.twitter.com/lastweektonight Visit our official site for all that other stuff at once: www.hbo.com/lastweektonight

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Video Transcript:

Moving on our main story tonight concerns policing it's one of tv's favorite subjects from hill street blues through law and order through this [Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] now you're probably just currently shouting what Increasingly loudly so let me quickly explain that is a scene from cop rock a very real musical cop show that premiered on abc in 1990 and lasted exactly 11 episodes think of it like if pitch perfect crashed into the wire and there were absolutely no survivors now i'd say that was the best worst thing that i've ever seen on tv but the thing is i have seen more cop rock there's a subplot about child selling and if You're wondering does the child seller sing yep [Music] just a week or two [Music] that song is three minutes long and they never do anything else that couple just stands there while a man informs them that he's the baby merchant for three human minutes that show was on television In america but as long as we've been questioning on tv whether policing has and i apologize for even attempting this racial overtures we've made very little progress towards actually addressing that issue as we've discussed on the show before the past and present of policing in america is very much tied up with racism and we want to focus on one area of policing in particular tonight police raids it's a practice that Attracted a lot of attention last year in the wake of the brianna taylor okay she was killed after officers broke down her door in the middle of the night and fired 32 shots into her home a year later none of these officers have been indicted for charges relating to her death and if it is somehow nobody's fault that an innocent woman was killed in the middle of the night in her own Home there might be an issue with police raids now data on them is pretty scarce so it is hard to say exactly how many take place in america but estimates put it in the tens of thousands per year and they can be carried out by almost anyone in law enforcement from federal agents to swat teams within police departments to detectives and patrol officers while these tactics were initially intended For life or death scenarios like active shooters or hostage situations one analysis found that only seven percent of swot deployments met that criteria while more than 60 percent of the cases involved searches for drugs and that shift was the result of intentional policy choices police raids were supercharged by the war on drugs and the tactic became so popular that geraldo rivera Even produced a special where he showed you raids happen in real time this is real life the first in a series of raids we'll be showing you this evening in this one members of the san diego california police department are raising a simple crack house where pushers sell cocaine to people in this neighborhood for the past six months we have covered the street cops whose job it is to rip And tear and pound their way into the nation's crack houses and shooting galleries and we have gone undercover to expose the pushers who profit from this dirty business wow they all seem to be having a lot of fun there from the officer's mad dash like it's black friday and walmart has a sale on marijuana to geraldo's ridiculous disguise which was like the pringles guy auditioning for miami vice although We'll say that is still better than his current look which answered the question what if every single batman joker were rolled into one and raids can obviously have dire consequences a times investigation found that from 2010 to 2016 at least 81 civilians were killed in them and these tactics are rarely proportional to the alleged crimes being targeted in louisville Brianna taylor's home a year and a half before the raid that killed her this happened this police body camera video shows lmpd swa officers breaking into dougherty and burr's house on west chestnut street the couple and their three children who were under the age of 16 at the time claimed they were held at gunpoint the morning of october 26 2018. 17 swat officers burst in because a detective smelled marijuana coming From the family's home he smelled marijuana come on if you just smell marijuana you don't show up with loaded assault rifles like you're in call of duty you show up with settlers of catan and 50 worth of cookies from subway don't be such squares and the thing is absurdly disproportionate and dangerous responses are basically par for the course when it comes to police raids so tonight Let's talk about them why they are such a favored tool of police why they really shouldn't be and what we should do about that and let's start with what you probably know already which is that not all of us are at equal danger of being raided when cbs2 in chicago did an investigation of several years worth of search warrants they found that certain neighborhoods tended to be hit a lot more often than Others inglewood had 872 search warrants also in the top five neighborhoods are austin with 668 north lawndale 455 garfield park 442 and humboldt park with 3.76 census data shows these neighborhoods are all nearly 90 percent or more black and latino we found only a small percentage happen in white neighborhoods and none listed for edison park printers row wrigleyville museum campus and Magnificent mile yeah that's about as as you'd expect although i will say you didn't actually have to tell me that those neighborhoods are predominantly white because edison park museum campus and magnificent mile are some of the whitest sounding place names i've ever heard right up there with alabaster prim spf 50ville and vermont and that racial Disparity has been found again and again in louisville an examination found search warrants disproportionately targeted black residents and a study of one year of warrants in washington dc found they were almost exclusively executed in black communities and police have been given tools to carry out those warrants with increasing force police departments have become heavily Militarized after either purchasing or just being handed military equipment and some don't even try to hide how much they enjoy using it just listen to this officer introduce one of his toys in a career day live stream for kids we call this the big bad wolf because with enough force i can take this ram on the front of this vehicle and i can put it against a brick house and i can go right through that brick And i'd come right in your house if i need to not your house because all of you are good kids we only do it for the bad kids oh you do do you well that's reassuring we've certainly got no reason not to trust you to determine who's a good kid and a bad kid you're just a nice talkative guy who apparently roots for the wolf in the story of the three little pigs if only the wolf had possessed Military-grade equipment you say as you tuck your children in at night fortunately your god-like father has no such limitations on his powers sleep tight good kids now there are important questions over whether or not police officers really need access to that kind of equipment just as there are questions over what messages they take away from some of the training they receive Take a look at one particularly extreme exercise for swat team members the cult leader realizes that they got an armored vehicle gonna start he goes okay let's pull the trigger sends out the rpg and then they start executing people oh my god it's really a mass suicide but in fact it's really a murder suicide none of the scenarios we saw left much room for non-violent solutions and then back in here the cult leader is Basically systematically executing babies when the amount of hours you spend at the shooting range outnumber the number of hours you spend learning conflict resolution and by you know 10 or 15 to 1 you're going to be more likely to use the tool that you've trained more with yeah no because look i'm not saying that they shouldn't be prepared for cult leader baby murder but how many cult Leader baby murders do they think they're going to be called to every year i don't know what you're thinking here but john if there is a baby murder cult how are we going to replace all those babies well don't worry i'm pretty sure i know a guy who can help i'm the baby merchant seriously it's three minutes long it's so weird I'm not saying you should seek it out i'm just saying you do need to know that it exists now the obvious danger of fostering a militarized police culture that trains and equips officers like that the lead in an action movie is that it can encourage them to then act that way take a look at a raid that took place in little rock here the police blow open the door of the apartment belonging to a man named Roderick talley because they falsely believed he was selling cocaine but despite not finding any when they realized he had a home security camera they asked him what he was still cuffed to a chair if they could re-watch the footage of their raid so they could see how it looked that's awesome i'ma record that real quick [Music] yeah don't worry we're not laughing at You we're just high-fiving ourselves for how cool it looked when we blew your door in but you get it you were there by the way thanks for being such a good sport about this even though we do all have guns so you kind of have to be this job is fun and police might point to the fact that they don't just use guns they also have supposedly non-lethal tools at their disposal but even then there can be issues Take flashbang grenades in theory they just stun and disorient people but they can generate heat in excess of 2 000 degrees so you'd hope officers would be really careful with them certainly a lot more careful than this we heard a loud a loud noise which was busting through the door then came a flash grenade right into the two-year-old's bed You can see by this picture how badly it was damaged and i kept begging the officer you know give me my son just let me hold him he's scared he needs me the officer told me to shut up and go sit down police were looking for drugs but found nothing yeah the police threw a flashbang grenade into a crib and look i'm no policeman i haven't studied all the bylaws i don't Have a phd in grenadology but purely as a layperson the police should not have thrown that grenade into a crib and if the police are truly incapable of knowing whether they're throwing a grenade into a crib maybe they shouldn't have grenades here is another quick rule that applies to both horseshoes and hand grenades if you throw either of them into a crib Even one time guess what you don't get to play with them anymore now thankfully that couple's baby survived but it is hard to believe the police didn't realize there were children in the house given that the family had lived at that address for two months and there was a minivan with four car seats in the driveway and when they did find the man that they were actually looking for at a different House he surrendered peacefully when officers knocked on his door so in hindsight grenading a baby might not have been necessary and again they were looking for drugs and again they didn't find what they were looking for this happens all the time and troublingly police don't have to work very hard to get a warrant to blow someone's door Open judges have to sign off on warrants and ideally they would function as a check here but in practice they often don't spend much time scrutinizing police justification an investigation in utah of more than 10 000 electronically submitted warrants found that half the time judges approved warrants in less than three minutes with hundreds signed off in less than 30 seconds That is absurd even the cases on chrissy's court were longer than 30 seconds and it was a show on quibby a platform we all collectively fever-dreamed and the bar for getting a judge to sign off on a search warrant is pretty low all you need is probable cause or a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime will be found in the place you want to search and that Belief can come from anywhere whether it's the smell of marijuana or very often the word of a confidential informant who might be trading tips for money or leniency and a lot of those tips turn out to be complete to get the search warrant that led to the raid on roderick talley's home police told a judge that a confidential informant had bought cocaine from him And that they'd observed the interaction but luckily tally had a doorbell cam that showed the informant walking up to the door alone standing there and then walking away and look normally i'm not a big fan of doorbell cams all they do is record me giving myself a five minute pep talk before i enter any party but in this instance i'm really glad he had one And police have sometimes been caught making informants up giving misleading information in their warrant application or failing to do even the most basic checking to see if their suspect is actually in the home they're raiding or somewhere else that they probably should have known about jolanda blassinggame says it was utterly terrifying chicago police allegedly breaking her door down in north lawndale Pointing rifles at her children in what's being called a colossal police blunder they did not bother to perform the simplest most routine verification the target of the warrant mr bell was at that time serving a 20-year prison sentence for a murder conviction 200 miles away in hill correctional center in galesburg illinois Well that's pretty embarrassing but i guess it's kind of like when you turn your home upside down looking for your keys only to discover they were in your pocket the whole time only in this case the keys are a man the home isn't yours and your pocket is a medium security prison in another zip code so when you have bad police work on the front end and minimal judicial oversight on the back end it becomes far Too easy to get a search warrant and once police have one there really aren't a lot of limits on what they can do just about every search warrant gives officers permission to break down a door to conduct a search and i know there's a lot of talk right now specifically about no knock rates but it's worth noting that the line between knock and no knock is very very thin thanks to a series of court rulings like This the u.s supreme court ruled today police do not have to wait more than 20 seconds before breaking into a drug suspect's home the anonymous ruling said waiting any longer would let suspects flush evidence down the toilet yeah the ruling there was giving you 20 seconds to answer your door is reasonable because you might flush evidence down the toilet which does raise the obvious question here Why the are we raiding people's homes for an amount of evidence that can be flushed away in 20 seconds unless someone is accused of trafficking smurfs or stealing the world's most valuable goldfish maybe we should be finding a different way to do this and police really aren't incentivized to give you any seconds to answer your door because in 2006 the supreme court ruled that Even when they violate the rules requiring them to knock announce and wait the prosecution can still use the evidence obtained during that search so there is often no meaningful consequences to busting right through your door and decisions like that mean the distinction between a no knock raid and a knock and announce raid Is barely there as a judge in georgia put it either the door comes in and people are yelling sheriff's office or people yell sheriff's office and the door comes in and that is fundamentally the same it's like comparing bryce dallas howard and jessica chastain are they different nominally sure although not in any way that really means anything now if you do actually need to tell them Apart bryce dallas howard is the one who looks slightly more like jessica chastain and on top of all of this there is just case after case of the police messing up the execution of a raid that ranged from the horrific to the almost cartoonishly idiotic like this video of them looking for a suspected drug dealer but instead raising the home of his neighbor henry Norris a 78 year old with heart problems who thankfully survived despite the police making one mistake after another how did deputies end up hitting a house with a different color a separate driveway its own mailbox and another address missed missed it first the tactical team got lost following instructions from a gps app on a phone Then as soon as they got to the correct address deputies were immediately confused where's the house where's the house they walked right past the target house without clearing it and headed through the tree line to the next house on the street even then deputies were unsure this house this house looking back and forth at the two houses it was too Late the entry team was already forcing its way into henri's home oh for sake it is humiliating to watch a train tactical unit outfitted with military hardware get so completely stumped by the mystery of more than one house and you might be thinking oh come on i'm sure that's just a one-off but the thing is mistakes like that happen all the time it was a total nightmare for this family When cops burst into their home which turned out to be the wrong address that is the wrong apartment and that is the one that the swat team went inside sean and his wife who both work full time live here the people the police were looking for live here the dea is apologizing for bursting into the rink family home with the bradley county swat team only Later finding out that it was the wrong home that's not a mistake to make like you have i mean hell you could have looked at the mailbox yeah exactly and the police hitting the wrong address is just completely unacceptable when the stakes are so high even edible arrangements manages to deliver to the correct address and that business is just pure chaotic evil Happy anniversary please enjoy this flavorless crucified melon now amazingly there often aren't consequences for cases like those officers are rarely criminally charged and even more rarely convicted botched raids usually aren't even investigated unless someone is killed the media gets involved or there's a lawsuit and even when they happen police officers are protected from civil Liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity as for their departments they aren't even responsible for paying to repair a broken front door or compensating residents for any other losses or damages even when they raise the wrong residence which is just absurd look this is obviously incredibly dangerous and not just for the people whose homes are raided For the police too that same investigation that found 81 civilians have been killed in raids found that 13 police officers had died as well which really shouldn't be that surprising these raids are by design highly disorienting and for the people who are woken up in the middle of the night to the sounds of an armed invasion they have to make a split-second decision whether or not to defend Themselves that is something everyone can understand in georgia a republican state senator got in trouble for saying if police raided his home in a no-knock raid he would shoot them dead and when he was pushed on that he did not back down if somebody kicks down my door unannounced they will meet with resistance i guarantee you but if it's law enforcement they would Be there how am i supposed to know at three o'clock in the morning somebody shows up in black outfits they can say they're law enforcement maybe they're not they've got a gun pointed at me what are you gonna do dale yeah dale what are you gonna do now i know that guy looks like a bit of a belligerent but the thing is this country is full of belligerent arseholes and lots Of them have guns and while it is easy for a white state senator to fantasize about himself or indeed dale mounting a hypothetical armed resistance to a police raid for those who actually do get raided there are real consequences to those actions if not death then serious criminal charges just a few hours after brianna taylor was killed her boyfriend kenneth walker who believed the police were intruders Was charged with attempted murder for firing his gun during the raid and allegedly injuring an officer in the leg those charges were dropped but only because he had national attention and a good lawyer meanwhile 18 year old tyler harrell was sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison after he injured a police officer during a surprise drug raid at his home even though a jury found no proof that He knew he was shooting at police lives are getting destroyed through police raids and even if nobody gets physically hurt that does not mean that no damage is done having your home violated is a traumatizing experience often exacerbated by how targets of raids are treated take angenette young a social worker in chicago whose home was raided And who fought hard to get the body camera footage released to the public even though it's incredibly difficult to watch you see them running up to the apartment complex with the battering ram in their hand it was so traumatic to hear the way the thing was hitting the door and it happened so fast i didn't have time to put on clothes And she was right they were in the wrong house we found they simply took the word of an informant who gave them angenette young's address the informant claimed a 23 year old man who was a known felon had a gun and ammo inside i don't know who that person is i've been living here for four years and nobody lives here but me okay Yeah it is they broke into her home having done next to no due diligence and handcuffed her completely naked before eventually throwing a blanket over her while she was still handcuffed and then they said you don't have to shout shouting is not the drastic measure being taken here people shout for many reasons because they want peanuts because they Don't want to get up or just because the song told them to when you are handcuffed naked in your own home because the police screwed up a search warrant shouting should be in your miranda rights and when you treat people like that it is clear you have no interest in forging a healthy relationship with the community you're supposed to be serving instead the community has to live with The knowledge that no space is truly secure from the threat of police violence that is a message that is received loud and clear from a very young age so what do we do about this well i would argue that small changes just aren't going to cut it here because yeah it would be better if search warrants were harder to get and Officers were required to verify information from confidential informants and that we didn't give military grade equipment to people who can't be trusted not to throw it into a crib but that is just not nearly enough and even reforms that appear sweeping can be pretty limited after brianna taylor's death no knock warrants were banned in among other places Louisville and virginia which initially sounds good the thing is as you've seen tonight the difference between no knock and knock is basically no difference at all and i'd argue that there's a big solution here that's actually staring us right in the face and that is stop doing drug raids just stop it and if that sounds extreme you might want to know the former chairman of the national tactical officers Association recommends that raids never be used to serve narcotics warrants saying why would you run into a gunfight you definitely don't go in and risk your life for drugs and he's right drug raids just have to stop and raids in general should only be used as a last resort to save lives that are in immediate danger because busting into someone's home is never Going to be safe for anyone involved and right now raids are being used far too widely and are destroying lives both for the individuals who are killed injured or traumatized and all the black and brown people who have no choice but to internalize the lessons of that trauma they deserve the respect and consideration of a police force that's supposed to protect them Not one that merely sees their lives as an opportunity for action movie cosplay a thrilling tv special or the reenactment of a misremembered nursery rhyme with a souped-up battering ram and maybe just maybe if we can do the right thing here and climb down from our current wild overuse of raids then and only then we'd have a police story legitimately Worth singing about that's our show thank you so much for watching we'll see you next week good night

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