Dear PG County: You Don’t Shoot Puppies

DANGEROUS ATTACK DOG!Last summer I read about a disturbing story from Berwyn Heights, Maryland, where the mayor’s dogs were murdered in a SWAT raid gone bad. Some criminal on the west coast mailed a large package of marijuana to a random address–which turned out to be the mayor’s house–and when the mayor’s mother-in-law received the package, SWAT (without notifying local law enforcement) busted in guns blazing. The mayor’s two black labs were killed, and the mayor and his mother-in-law were held handcuffed for hours until the whole mess was sorted out. It was a major black eye for the Prince George’s County police.

Radley Balko, who was indispensable when the story first broke, has provided an update. The county sheriff’s department cleared its officers of any wrongdoing. Balko writes, “Police and county officials…stubbornly refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing, such as not doing the least bit of investigation before sending the SWAT team to take down Calvo’s door, not knocking and announcing before entering, or slaughtering Calvo’s two Labrador retrievers. In fact, Prince George’s County officials have been stunningly callous about it all, at various points praising the officers for their ‘restraint,’ and commenting that everyone involved in the investigation and raid ‘deserves a pat on the back.’” An internal investigation reportedly found that deputies had acted in a “professional and acceptable manner” by shooting the labs because they had posed a threat (from what, licking?).

It’s not surprising county police would close ranks to protect their own. Correspondingly, I read in The Examiner that Mayor Calvo is suing PG County for damages and to ask the courts to rewrite law enforcement policy, because of the county police’s apparent inability to reign themselves in. The police department reported that SWAT teams were used in 400 incidents in 2008, and Calvo’s suit alleges that “the county police and sheriff’s office frequently break the law by having SWAT teams enter innocent people’s houses without a proper warrant and ‘randomly and routinely’ kill family pets.”

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