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MD: Anne Arundel County Police Refuse FOIA Request on SWAT Raids

Anne Arundel County participates in required reporting in Maryland, part of Governor O’Malley’s StateStat initiative.   SB 447, signed into law  in 2009, requires certain reporting from jurisdictions with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams.
What is a SWAT team?  The guys in the tactical gear that serve no-knock warrants.
Since the county reports this information to the state, every six months, I requested it from Anne Arundel County in electronic format – that request was refused.  Furthermore, I requested the fees be waived since all but a couple questions were straight from the state level StateStat report – they refused, charged $20, and didn’t answer those questions, anyway.
Each reporting agency is required to provide:
  • The number of times the SWAT Team was “activated and deployed;”
  • The location where SWAT Team deployed (e.g., zip code);
  • The legal authority for each activation and deployment (i.e., Arrest Warrant, Search Warrant, Barricade, Exigent Circumstances, or Other);
  • The reason for each activation and deployment (i.e., Part I Crime, Part II Crime, Emergency Petition, Suicidal, or Other); and
  • The result or outcome of each deployment (i.e., forcible entry used; property or contraband seized; weapon  discharge by a SWAT Team member; the number of arrests; person or animal injury or death by a SWAT Team member; injury to SWAT Officer).
In Anne Arundel County calendar year 2012, there were 94 SWAT raids:  1.81 per week.  Anne Arundel County ranks as one of the  top 5 jurisdictions in the state that conducts SWAT raids.
Raids are for two types of statutory crimes:  Part I; Part II. Part I crimes are homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, larceny/theft motor vehicle theft, and arson.  Part II crimes are essentially all drug related. Here are some stats for Anne Arundel:
  • 68 percent of raids were for drugs/drug related
  • 37 percent of raids used forcible entry
  • 18 percent of raids seized property (no further information given)
  • 30 percent of raids had 0 arrests
  • 45 percent of raids had 1 arrest
  • 9 raids were without warrant
  • 0 raids had a weapon discharged
For all of this activity, the total budget is $2,716,900, which breaks down to a cost of $28,903 per raid.
The Anne Arundel County police refused to provide details regarding property seizure, dollar value of drugs seized, and similar information.  Following are data from random Anne Arundel Co. press releases over the last few years:
  • 17.47 grams of suspected marijuana with an estimated street value of $260.
  • 21.41 grams of suspected marijuana with an estimated street value of $215.
  • 14.23 grams of suspected crack cocaine with an estimated street value of $1,280.70.
  • .51 grams of heroin (total approximate street value $150), $324 in U.S. currency
  • 3.89 grams of crack cocaine (street value approx $419), five Percocet pills (street value approx $25), $835 in U.S. currency, a 1999 Pontiac Van.
  • 2.94 grams of marijuana, a trace amount of heroin, trace amount of crack cocaine, $2,453 in U.S. currency.
  • 15.96 grams of crack cocaine (total approximate street value $1,755), 10.95 grams of heroin (total  approximate street value $312), $2,590 in U.S. Currency.
  • 33 capsules of suspected heroin or 12.43 grams with an estimated street value of $430, 16 suspected Hydrocodone pills with an estimated street value of $80, $322 in U.S. Currency and CDS paraphernalia.

Given that 75 percent of raids net 0 – 1 arrests, is using a SWAT team to serve a search warrant truly the militarization of police?  Are these warrants more appropriately served by a couple of sheriffs deputies?  Are these raids, with this level of force, truly protecting our safety?

Not only do police raid the residence and confiscate drugs, they often confiscate money and sometimes, vehicles.  This is a practice called, “civil asset forfeiture” (asset forfeiture is not limited to SWAT raids).  Part of the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney’s mission statement reads:

…a civil unit within the office operates to forfeit property obtained through illegal drug activity among other tasks….

Why is the State’s Attorney involved?  Per the Anne Arundel County Police policy:

It is the policy of the Police Department to seize all conveyances including aircraft, vehicles and vessels; all money, coin, currency, and weapons; and other personal property used in violation of the provisions of the Controlled Dangerous Substance Title as set forth in the Criminal Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland (CR 5-101 et seq.). Once assets are seized, and it is determined by appropriate investigation that they are subject to forfeiture pursuant to Title 12 of the Criminal Procedure Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, they then shall fall under the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the Office of the State’s Attorney.

Just what is civil asset forfeiture?  The Institute for Justice opines that for the government to take property:

the government must merely prove it is more likely than not that the property was involved in a crime, a far lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt….To contest a seizure, the property owner must prove that the property was wrongfully seized or that the owner did not have actual knowledge of the conduct.

In other words, the property owner must prove a negative.  Let’s say your boyfriend was dealing drugs out of your house while you visited Mom.  When you came back, your found your front door busted in, home ransacked, $500 missing, and your car gone.  Now, you must prove that you did not know your boyfriend dealt drugs in order to have your car and money returned.  Stay tuned for a more in depth article on asset forfeiture.

Also, compare the information received by the Baltimore Sun in 2009 vs. the answer received, above.

Being, “tough on crime” can bring myriad unwanted consequences.  Good government is accountable to the People, it does not terrorize them.

PS Check out the spelling of “Arundel” on the receipt I received from the Anne Arundel County Police (click the receipt for a full view) – seems they may want to revisit their register’s programming:

Anne Arundel County Police Receipt
 

 

Elizabeth Myers

Elizabeth Myers is a grassroots activist, certified Constitutionist (US and Maryland Constitutions, Institute on the Constitution), and fed up Marylander. Maryland Legislative Watch was started out of this frustration and the goal is to alert fellow Marylanders to bad (and a few good) bills that normally pass under the radar. Any writing on Watchdog Wire is my opinion only.

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Categories: Citizen Journalism, Criminal Justice, Government Transparency, Must Read, Open Government, Policy, Transparency
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