I write these many months later to thank you for reaching out to comfort my family and I after last summer’s terrifying SWAT attack of our home. The tremendous outpouring of support that we received from our friends, neighbors, and so many complete strangers sustained us through the worst of it, and I continued to find comfort in the kind words as I read the emails well into the fall.
Trinity and I continue to heal, and we always will miss Payton and Chase terribly. One thing that has helped is that we’ve adopted another black Labrador, Marshall. As you can see from the picture, Marshall has brought incredible joy to our lives.
After the incident drew international attention and outrage, Prince George’s County police finally exonerated my family and me of any wrong doing. However, they have refused to apologize and continue to defend their actions in my case.
Over the last several months, I have undergone a personal journey to try to understand how this terrible incident could happen. My initial reaction was that it was a terrible mistake. However, as I have learned more, I have come to understand that what my family and I experienced is part of a growing and troubling trend where law enforcement is relying on SWAT teams to perform duties once handled by ordinary police officers.
In our case, the police deployed a SWAT team without performing basic investigatory work and apparently without considering more measured approaches. Prince George’s County recently has acknowledged that it indiscriminately deploys SWAT teams to serve drug warrants. Preliminary estimates suggest that the county deployed SWAT teams as many as 700 times a year – that is twice a day! Other counties in Maryland also report hundreds of SWAT team deployments a year, and we have uncovered numerous other stories of botched and inappropriate raids, innocent families terrorized, and family dogs killed.
In fact, the inappropriate use of SWAT teams seems to be a national problem. The number of SWAT team deployments nationwide has grown exponentially from about 2,500 per year in the early 1980s to over 50,000 in 2005. SWAT teams used to be reserved for unusually dangerous situations such as the arrest of major criminals known to have hig h-powered weapons or hostage situations. However, many police forces are using them today against people they suspect of recreational drug use and other much smaller crimes.
The more I have learned, the more I feel obligated to do everything I can to rein in over-aggressive policing. I am working with Maryland lawmakers to pass legislation requiring the number of SWAT deployments and their outcomes to be regularly reported to civilian authorities. By shining a light on paramilitary police activities, law enforcement agencies should find it in their best interests to change their practices and limit the use of SWAT teams to situations where the charges are grave and a violent response can be reasonably anticipated. The Senate passed SB 447 unanimously yesterday, but we expect to run into more resistance in the House of Delegates. As soon as we enact this legislation in Maryland, I intend to work with lawmakers in other states to pass similar legislation. We are also considering actions that can be taken on a federal level.
To help in this effort, we have created a web site, www.protectourliberties.com, which tells the stories of a number of innocent victims of traumatizing SWAT raids. It also contains media clips of the coverage we’ve received and information about our legislative work. If you are interested in staying informed about this issue, please sign up for updates that I’ll send every month or so. Also, if you could volunteer for citizen advocacy or policy development work, I would really appreciate your help. Our next citizen advocacy project is a Lobby Night on Monday, March 23rd at the Maryland Capital.
Thank you, again, for your support and encouragement!
Make Maryland Great, Inc. P. O. Box 4343 Annapolis, MD 21403 (410) 757-2811
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