No-knock warrants are dangerous, lazy, and stupid. The usual excuse for them is they are necessary to protect the arresting officers. Of course, we know this to be a lame excuse. In civilized parts of the world police will often phone the suspect telling him he is surrounded and to come out of the house. In less civilized parts of the world, like Afghanistan, bull horns are used instead of phones. In America the police prefer to just bash the door down while pretending to be special forces troops.
The real reason for the no-knock warrant is, in the case of drug raids, that it takes the place of an investigation. The raid is the investigation and all of the evidence needed for the trial will be gathered as a result of the raid. It’s much easier and more efficient to just act on any tips you get and immediately raid the house to see if there was any truth to the tip. You can’t phone the dangerous criminals asking them to come out since that gives them time to flush the evidence down the toilet. Since there was no investigation other than the raid, you need to go in guns blazing so the suspect doesn’t have time to get rid of the only evidence the police will get. Lazy, because it replaces a complex investigation of allegations, dangerous, because the situation becomes chaotic and unpredictable, and stupid because there are better ways to deal with the situation.
What, however, is the reason for no-knock gambling warrants? Last week, in South Carolina, a raid on a two-bit poker game went bad and two people were shot. From the sound of it, this happens regularly. The reason for the warrent is obvious; the police want to sieze the money (in the case cited the police netted about $2,500! Woo Hoo!). But why the no-knock warrant? Were the suspects going to flush the poker machines and chips down the toilet?
Maybe I need to give this some more thought. Right now the only reason I can think for such an action is that the police just get a kick out of conducting no-knock raids, playing John Rambo, pretending to be a Green Beret. I’m genunily open to other suggestions here. It’s not to keep officers safe, and it’s obviously not to keep suspects safe. If anyone else has some experience here, please do enlighten me.
(Hat tip: Ed Brayton)