Pubdate: Fri, 27 Oct 2006
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Copyright: 2006 Roanoke Times
Note: First priority is to those letter-writers who live in circulation area.
Note: The Cato Institute report 'Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary 
Police Raids in America' is available on line at
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)


Law enforcement officials in Bedford and Pittsylvania counties need to
accept the blame.

Law enforcement authorities refused Wednesday to take reporters'
questions during a news conference in Bedford about an outrageously
botched child pornography raid that targeted an innocent family in
Pittsylvania County. Officials read a statement and then scurried out
a nearby door. Are they embarrassed? They should be.

Instead of coming clean about investigators' roles in the egregious
foul-up, an officer with the Bedford County Sheriff's Department
blamed an Internet provider he said reported the wrong address in
Gretna for a subscriber suspected of storing child pornography on a
computer. Internet-savvy surfers and reporters know it's risky to
trust sole-source information. If investigators relied solely, or even
primarily, on FairPoint Communications to identify their suspect's
address, their error looms even larger than Deputy Shaquille O'Neal --
yes, that Shaq -- who accompanied the raid. Authorities should count
their blessings in that no one died during their guns-drawn assault of
an innocent household.

Such deaths occur all too frequently.

In July, the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, released an
alarming report about the rise nationwide of paramilitary-style police

Through case studies, the report detailed the risks for tragedy when
armed officers terrorize wrongly targeted civilians. "And [such raids]
have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of
[non-violent] drug offenders, but also of police officers, children,
bystanders and innocent suspects." Innocent victims have died because
of raid-triggered heart attacks, house fires started by flash bang
grenades, accidental shootings and other causes. During Wednesday's
news conference, the Bedford County sheriff's office apologized for
"any inconvenience" caused by the errant raid. Inconvenience? It's
inconvenient when the corner store runs out of milk. It's
inconceivable when law enforcement officials conducting an
investigation haven't nailed down, in advance of a terror-inducing
raid, the address of a target suspect. Bedford County's Operation Blue
Ridge Thunder, the department's Internet Crimes Against Children task
force, has scored impressive arrests.

An arrest ultimately occurred in this case, but the task force's
reputation has been sullied. Answering questions about the raid would
not undo what's been done. But candor could help restore the task
force's reputation and prevent a similar, and potentially deadly,
misadventure as the operation continues its important work.
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