Billings, MT, police, investigating what they thought was a meth lab, tossed flash-bang grenade through the window of a house during a 6am “dynamic-entry” raid. A sleeping twelve-year-old girl suffered second-degree burns described by a newspaper reporter who saw a photograph as “black and red.”
The decision to use essentially military tactics was based on some sort of point-scoring system; no human being is taking any responsibility for that choice, or for the fact that the intelligence about the suspected drug law (no arrests were made after the raid) seems to have missed the presence of children. And there seems to have been more than a little bit of incompetence involved:
The grenade is commonly called a “flash-bang” and is used to disorient people with a bright flash, a loud bang and a concussive blast. It went off on the floor where the girl was sleeping. She was in her sister’s bedroom near the window the grenade came through, Fasching said.
A SWAT member attached it to a boomstick, a metal pole that detonates the grenade, and stuck it through the bedroom window. St. John [the police chief] said the grenade normally stays on the boomstick so it goes off in a controlled manner at a higher level.
However, the officer didn’t realize that there was a delay on the grenade when he tried to detonate it. He dropped it to move onto a new device, St. John said. The grenade fell to the floor and went off near the girl.
OK. Mistakes happen, and people get hurt. That’s life. In a more sensible world, the police chief would be horrified by what happened and would pledge to review the procedures to minimize the chance that it would happen again.
Instead, what we get is this stupid, heartless bureaucratic bumpf:
A claims process has already been started with the city. St. John said it’s not an overnight process, but it does determine if the Police Department needs to make restitution.
“If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if it determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.”
“If we’re wrong or made a mistake”? IF?????? Fool, someone on your payroll who hadn’t been properly trained in the handling of dangerous weapons severly burned a twelve-year-old girl who hadn’t been accused, and won’t be accused, of any crime. And you’re quibbling about whether you’re going to pay for her goddamned medical care?
Look, manufacturing meth is a nasty business, and some of the people in it don’t play nice. There will be times when dramatic tactics are actually necessary. But not often, and not on a point-score system. The problem with setting up SWAT teams everywhere is that none of them will be very good at what they do, and they’ll all want to do what they’re drilled to do whether it’s really necessary or not.
At some point, citizens need to get past the drug-war rhetoric and say “Enough!”