Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jun 2010
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2010 Columbia Daily Tribune
Note: Prints the street address of LTE writers.
Author: Brennan David
Cited: Appeal document:


A California marijuana activist has filed a formal  appeal to the
Citizens Police Review Board regarding  Police Chief Ken Burton's
ruling that SWAT officers'  actions during a controversial February
raid were  appropriate.

The appeal is the first for the board, which has been  authorized to
accept appeals since Jan. 1.

The letter, dated June 10 and received by Columbia  police last
Tuesday, calls for an appeal of the  investigation into the actions of
an eight-member SWAT  squad that raided 1501 Kinloch Court in
southwest  Columbia and fired shots. Burton in May released the
findings of his monthslong internal investigation into  the raid,
which resulted in the shooting of two dogs,  one fatally, and the
discovery of a misdemeanor amount  of marijuana. A video of the raid
has been viewed more  than 1 million times online.

Investigators had believed a resident of the home,  Jonathan
Whitworth, was in possession of a large amount  of marijuana.

Review board members over the weekend received copies  of the internal
investigation to review, Chairwoman  Ellen LoCurto-Martinez said. The
topic will be  discussed at the board's July 14 meeting, and
witnesses, including SWAT officers and Whitworth, could  be called to
testify during the board's interview  sessions.

"Obviously, we are excited because this is why we were  created,"
LoCurto-Martinez said. "We have been  anticipating it, and now we have
it. It's time to do  our job aE& We need to investigate what happened
and  whether we agree with the chief's decision."

In his complaint, Ed Rosenthal of Piedmont, Calif.,  said the shooting
of a mixed-breed corgi during the  SWAT raid was unwarranted because
there is no evidence  the small dog was a threat. Burton said his
investigation found the corgi was accidentally shot  when officers
were attempting to shoot a pit bull,  which was killed in the raid.

Rosenthal also claims Whitworth complied with officers  and should not
have been "manhandled."

"If a civilian did this to another civilian, he would  be arrested for
battery or assault," said Rosenthal,  director of Green Aid, a medical
marijuana legal  defense and education fund. He also wrote that there
was no reason for a forced entry and questioned whether  the SWAT
procedure was "out of bounds of civil  procedure and should be

In his final point, Rosenthal wrote that he believes  Burton "knew his
officers were violating standard  procedure," and he also requested
that SWAT team  members be evaluated by an independent psychiatrist to
  determine whether they should be allowed to carry  weapons. "They are
a danger to society," he wrote.

Yesterday, Rosenthal said his organization would fund  independent
psychiatrists for the evaluations if  requested by Columbia police.
His organization also  might provide funding for a civil suit
Whitworth is  considering against the city. Whitworth's attorney,
Jeff Hilbrenner, could not be reached for comment.

Of the four points in Rosenthal's complaint, only his  concern over
the dog's shooting might be reviewable.  Burton's investigation only
concerned whether actions  were appropriate in the discharge of
weapons related to  officers' belief that the pit pull was aggressive.
  Burton's investigation did not include the  "manhandling" of the
suspect or the issue of forced  entry. LoCurto-Martinez said the board
is looking into  the matter.

Anyone can file an appeal to a citizen-generated  internal affairs
investigation. Rosenthal said although  he does not live in Columbia,
he thought it was his  duty as an American to file the appeal. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D