DEA Aplogizes for Raiding Wrong New York House

| by Reason Foundation

By Radley Balko

The DEA has apologized for the wrong door raid in the Hudson Valley that I blogged about last week. Sort of.

John P. Gilbride, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, issued a statement Friday clearing Spring Valley resident David McKay and his family of anything to do with the series of drug raids that took place early Thursday in Westchester and Rockland counties.

"We sincerely regret that while attempting to execute an arrest warrant for a member of this drug trafficking organization, the innocent McKay family was inadvertently affected by this enforcement operation," Gilbride said.

"Though we take many precautions to prevent this type of incident from happening, drug investigations are very complex and involve many fluid factors," Gilbride said. "DEA will continue to pursue these criminal organizations to protect the public from the scourge of drug trafficking."

So . . . sorry McKay family. You're just more collateral damage. Gilbride's statement is also another wonderfully elusive use of the passive voice. (The DEA originally said the McKay family invited them in.) And to think we libertarians say government has a hard time admitting when it's wrong. The apology was also issued not to the McKay family themselves, but through a press release.

A few other items of note:

First, Journal News reporter Jane Lerner actually looked into some of those precautions the DEA claims to take before launching these drug raids. For example, she was able to determine that David McKay actually works for the local government, and that the McKay family is listed in property records as owners of the home. They've owned the place since 1998. She also found that the McKays are foster parents, which required them to complete an application process that included fingerprinting and a background check. These would be the sorts of easily findable, publicly-available clues that should have tipped the DEA off to their pending mistake, and that you'd think a federal agency would have taken the time to look for before going ahead with a volatile, violent drug raid.

Second, there's still the matter of threatening to kill the McKay family's dogs. According to McKay, the threat was because the dogs were barking, after the house was secured. Which means this wasn't even a case of cops dubiously claiming the poodle presented a mortal threat. The threat to shoot the family pets was pure intimidation. Again, this isn't how you treat citizens with rights. It's how you treat enemy combatants in a war zone. You terrify them, intimidate them, put the fear of God into them. You threaten to kill their pets right in front of them. That attitude also explains why, even after it was clear they had made a mistake, the police rebuffed David McKay when he asked for an explanation, telling him, "You'll read about it in the paper tomorrow."

Third, if there's a bright spot in all of this, it's the way local media is starting to cover these raids. Lerner did some more research, and was able to find documentation for a number of other mistaken raids in the area. (As often as I write about these raids here, I don't believe I've written about any of the other incidents that Lerner found.)

I now get a phone call every few weeks from a local reporter covering a botched raid. (I'm quoted in the story linked above.) They're seeking out critics, and they're starting to view the cops' after-the-fact excuses and explanations with more skepticism. That's a start.