Pubdate: Fri, 08 Feb 2008
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2008, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Terri Theodore, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's top police official wonders whether 
the courts want police to wait while criminals "lock and load" their 
weapons before officers move in to execute a search warrant.

The frustrated reaction from Solicitor-General John Les followed a 
B.C. Supreme Court judgment throwing out evidence of a marijuana grow 
operation because the Charter rights of the accused were violated.

"I really wonder, what do police have to do? They apparently knocked 
on the door, waited for several minutes," Mr. Les told reporters. 
"Are they supposed to wait longer to give people the opportunity to 
lock and load?"

Madam Justice Catherine Bruce of B.C. Supreme Court harshly 
criticized the RCMP drug squad's actions in a ruling this week, 
saying officers endangered their own lives and that of the accused 
when they smashed in the side door of a Surrey home with guns drawn. 
"The police created an extremely dangerous situation by forcing entry 
without any regard to the particular circumstances before them," 
Judge Bruce wrote.

She found that police didn't wait long enough after they knocked on 
the front door and announced themselves before a second team bashed 
down a garage door, entered the home and arrested the suspect at gunpoint.

"The abrupt and violent entry executed by police went well beyond 
what was necessary," she wrote.

The judge decided the evidence of 700 marijuana plants that police 
found in the basement of the home was inadmissible, forcing the Crown 
to drop charges against Van Dung Cao.

"I was profoundly disappointed," Mr. Les said. "We've been making 
good progress in terms of getting after grow operations."

The disappointment is echoed by Surrey RCMP spokesman Sergeant Roger Morrow.

"I found it, frankly, from a policing aspect, rather disconcerting."

Sgt. Morrow said police go into these situations with guns drawn 
because it's impossible to know what is inside homes with marijuana 
grow operations.

"It's very difficult to read these types of judgments and understand 
the thought process of these people making the rulings," he said.

Sgt. Morrow said the culture of grow operations means officers must 
assume high-powered weapons are involved and that the homes they're 
about to search may have been booby trapped.

Both Sgt. Morrow and Mr. Les said they hope the Crown will appeal the ruling.

Sgt. Morrow said he had read the ruling but wasn't sure whether any 
changes would or could be made to their search practices.

Judge Bruce pointed out in her ruling that the so-called "knock and 
announce" rule is not a mere formality for police.

"Moreover, this kind of violent and forceful entry with guns drawn 
appears to be standard practice for the Surrey RCMP," she noted.

Sgt. Morrow said the ruling left several of his fellow officers 
shaking their heads.

"We don't have the benefits of hindsight when we're going to have to 
take down a drug house," he said.

Mr. Les said he respects individual liberties but police obviously 
went in to the home apprehensive that there was a grow operation inside.

"You know we always seem to be fighting these battles with at least 
one hand tied behind our back."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom