COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department has concluded its investigation into a Feb. 11 SWAT raid that has gained worldwide attention over the Internet, Chief Ken Burton said in a Thursday afternoon news conference.
“Were the actions of the officers on scene appropriate, based on policy, law, and what they knew?” Burton asked. “Yes.”
The announcement was the result of an internal investigation of the raid, in which police with a search warrant for marijuana entered the home of Jonathan Whitworth while he, his wife and 7-year-old son were home. The officers shot a pit bull to death, wounded another dog and found paraphernalia and a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. Whitworth eventually was fined $300 for possession of paraphernalia.
Were the police actions appropriate? Hell no! But unfortunately, “based on policy, law, and what they knew,” the chief is right. The police had a warrant. SWAT raids on marijuana suspects are common. It is established protocol to shoot any aggressive dogs in order to secure the premises.
This is all completely legal and justified in the eyes of the law. Standard Operating Procedure. You, sitting there, smoking that joint on your couch, could be next. Jonathan Whitworth had his home burst into by armed invaders and his pet shot and killed based on the tips of anonymous informants (read: criminals getting a deal to squeal) and a few empty baggies in his trash. Many others have had their homes violated because of an incorrect address on a warrant or faulty information from a snitch.
This also occurred in a town that had voted to make marijuana enforcement the “lowest law-enforcement priority”. It didn’t distinguish between misdemeanor and felony, it just said “marijuana enforcement”. So the police sent in a SWAT team to enforce a marijuana law… does sending in your most expensive and dangerous tactical unit sound like a “low priority” to you?
Dan Viets, director of Missouri NORML and a member of the NORML Board of Directors, joins us on NORML SHOW LIVE this afternoon to discuss this story. Viets also has details from his discussion with the police chief, who, oddly enough, supports NORML’s mission and wishes he and other cops could “get out of the [marijuana enforcement] business”.