Not about Ryan Frederick’s fate, that is his attorney’s job, but this trial has left us all at far greater risk than before.
Instead of learning form the experience, the police, if their FOP leadership is typical, feel vindicated in their dangerous tactics. The precedent established by this jury’s verdict will not likely be limited to those who are involved with drugs, so everyone will be inhibited in their willingness to aggressively defend their homes. Criminals engaged in home invasions will be emboldened by the knowledge that those upon whom they prey will have to consider the risk of prosecution if they do not allow criminals to enter their homes before resisting. So, what do we do to set things right?
On the local level, we, as citizens, must reestablish our oversight over the police and demand that their actions be guided by a sense of proportion, that the tactics they employ in enforcing the law are not a greater danger to the public than the crimes they fight.
The first step in this process will be to hold accountable our elected officials. Our city council sets policy on our behalf, so it is through them that citizen oversight must be imposed. To that end, the Tidewater Libertarian Party has authorized me to present the following request at the February 17th, 2009, meeting:
In the months since the tragic death of Det. Jarrod Shivers in the course of serving a search warrant at the home of Ryan Frederick, many questions have arisen regarding procedures of the Chesapeake Police Department. These questions have gone unanswered by the department. The Tidewater Libertarian Party asserts that because all powers granted government to use force on the behalf of the people reside ultimately with the people, it is unacceptable for the agents of government force, the police, to deny the people explanations for their actions when there are legitimate questions as to whether that force has been used with due caution and within the powers granted by the people through our Constitution and law.
- The tragic and avoidable death of a law enforcement officer.
- The use of Confidential Informants is an unfortunate necessity in criminal investigations, and particularly so in drug cases, but we question whether it is good public policy to request or issue search warrants based on the unsupported and unsworn allegations of Confidential Informants without some corroboration through independent investigation.
- Forcible entries in serving search warrants are acceptable police practice only when there is evidence subject to rapid destruction, hostages are in peril, or known, armed, and dangerous criminals are judged to be most safely taken by surprise. The recent trial of Chesapeake resident Ryan Frederick has revealed such forced entries to be the standard practice in serving all drug search warrants in Chesapeake. The Chesapeake Police Department has provided no acceptable explanation for choosing an exceptionally dangerous method of serving a warrant on a citizen with no criminal record over numerous safer and more Constitutionally acceptable methods.
- We are further concerned by the lack of transparency and consistency on the part of the Chesapeake Police leadership regarding what policy changes might be made to avoid future tragedy. Because we believe the police have taken the position that they need not explain their actions to the public, we hold this that is unacceptable in a free society.
This is the City of Chesapeake, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. The police are answerable to the people, not only to themselves. Our military and our police are subject to civilian control and review. Citizens are owed the truth. The proper first level of that oversight is through our local elected representatives on city council.
We understand that it may be necessary to withhold some tactical policy from the public at large for the protection of police officers, but what information can and cannot be made public is properly the choice of civilian authority, with expert guidance, and not that of those being overseen.
The Tidewater Libertarian Party therefore requests the City of Chesapeake establish a citizen review board consisting of trustworthy citizens chosen by council, but with no connection to the Police Department or city government, to investigate this matter. This citizen review board should have full access to all evidence, record, reviews, and testimony, and report to the City Council, and ultimately, with council approval of sensitive content, to the public, in order to restore the lost trust of the citizens in our police department and to ensure that our police officers and citizens are no longer placed in unnecessary danger.
At the State Level, we need new legislation to strictly limit the circumstances under which forced entry may be used in serving search warrants. Lacking such limits, it has become clear local police forces will escalate the level of force used until tragedy occurs. I would suggest something along the lines of:
Service of a Search Warrant on an occupied dwelling by forced entry shall be deemed reasonable and valid only if the occupants are provided adequate time and opportunity to confirm the officers executing the search are sworn police officers with a lawful warrant unless:
- The judge or magistrate issuing the warrant authorizes expedited forced entry due to special circumstances limited to - the suspected presence of easily destroyed evidence, hostages or others in the dwelling in peril, or armed and dangerous criminals reasonably believed to represent a danger to officers or the public if not taken by surprise. The special circumstances must be supported by the requesting officer in his affidavit and entered into the warrant.
- If exigent circumstances require forced entry not so authorized, an affidavit explaining that change shall be delivered to the issuing judge or magistrate within 48 hours and those affidavits will be made available for public review.
Any warrant served contrary to these rules shall be invalid and all evidence thus obtained shall be excluded.
Such changes will no doubt be resisted by law enforcement, but it is our duty as citizens to place limits on the exercise of government power.
Finally, Virginia needs a Castle Doctrine law enacted. Though in theory, Castle Doctrine exists in Virginia through common law, its application is inconsistent and mounting a defense based on that principle can be crushingly expensive even when successful.
If we accept the jurors’ notion that we cannot resist an invader smashing our door in until after he (or they) have gained entry, so we can get a good look at them, then why bother having a door in the first place? It is unnacceptable that citizens be required to place themselves at such a disadvantage to home invaders. A person forcing entry to an occupied dwelling should be legally presumed to have malicious intent, unless they have confirmed their identity to the inhabitants as police exercising their duties. Anyone can claim to be the police, and home invaders are known to do so in their assaults. Once they have gained entry, your tactical advantage in defending your home has been lost and you, your spouse and your children are the criminals playthings.