Regular readers will remember my outrage at the critical injuries inflicted on two-year-old Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh by a SWAT raid in 2014, and the unbelievably inept, stupid, crass, dictatorial response of the Haversham county sheriff to the incident.
Now it's happened again.
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) - A 2-year-old child was burned by a flash-distraction device when Lakeland Police Department SWAT team members executed a search warrant on a home known for continuous drug activity on Thursday.
. . .
Officers entered the home and cleared the room, not seeing anyone inside.
The small room was cluttered with clothing and furniture items, including old mattresses leaning against a wall.
With no one in sight, a less lethal distraction device was deployed by an officer.
Officers used a noise-flash diversion product.
As the officer was backing out of the room, a 2-year-old child, who is believed to have been hiding in the mattresses, began walking toward the device as it was activated.
The officer immediately grabbed the child and took him outside to the SWAT team medic.
The child suffered third-degree burns and was taken to Lakeland Regional Health, then Tampa General Hospital.
There's more at the link.
The officer(s) concerned don't appear to have displayed quite as much arrogant, "I-can-do-what-I-like-and-get-away-with-it" insensitivity as the Haversham County Sheriff during the earlier one. Nevertheless, the officer(s) who made the decision to deploy that flash-bang without carefully searching the room for children should be held fully accountable. As far as I'm concerned, they displayed criminal negligence. For heaven's sake, when you're searching someone's home, and you know (or should know, from pre-raid intelligence-gathering) that the suspect's girlfriend has a baby that is sometimes present, why would you not search it carefully?
Some time after the Haversham incident, I wrote:
... distrust of law enforcement is widespread, and for good reason. Look at how many police officers have overstepped the bounds of what is properly considered 'law enforcement' and have become oppressors of the community, rather than its protectors. The 'Ferguson effect' didn't arise in a vacuum, but in a situation where police were seen as tools of an oppressive, discriminatory local government rather than impartial enforcers of the law. Similarly, all too many cases of police brutality, overreach and authoritarian disregard for Constitutional and legal principles have made many people (including myself) profoundly suspicious of law enforcement in general. Of course there are 'good cops' out there: I number several among my personal friends, and I'd trust any of them with my life or that of my wife. However, there appear to be more and more 'bad apples' in law enforcement that are rendering the entire profession suspect. The list of recent issues is almost endless. To name only a very few:
- Albuquerque, NM police are sued for millions following an illegal and medically invasive drug search;
- Homan Square in Chicago is the scene of countless police violations of rights and legal procedures, including widespread torture;
- Maryland police allegedly target out-of-state motorists for excessive and seemingly illegal searches on the basis of whether or not they hold concealed weapons permits in their home states;
- The widespread and sometimes out-of-control militarization of US law enforcement, exemplified by the proliferation and over-use of SWAT teams, which can sometimes lead to disastrous consequences such as the tragedy of Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh (and the unbelievably crass response of the Habersham County Sheriff);
- The allegedly excessive use of lethal force by police officers and agencies, for which very few officers are ever charged and even fewer convicted, despite statistical analysis that indicates prima facie that something's very far wrong;
- The widespread use of law enforcement agencies and personnel to raise funds, issuing tickets for violations and imposing charges not as a safety measure, but to raise revenue for their agencies and the municipalities and counties employing them;
- The use of Federal agencies (including their law enforcement arms) to enforce unpopular and sometimes allegedly illegal intrusions on the rights of citizens, exemplified by incidents such as the Bundy standoff, the alleged Federal 'land grab' along the Red River in Texas, the use of the IRS to intimidate political opponents of the present Administration, and so on.
I could go on for page after page after page detailing every such incident, but what's the point? The reality is that American law enforcement officers and agencies in general have to an ever-increasing extent forfeited the trust of the people they're supposed to 'protect and serve'. They are no longer seen as impartial and fair in their approach.
Again, more at the link.
The (entirely avoidable) injury to yet another toddler by law enforcement officers in the course of their duties will merely add to the forfeiture of the trust the public once had in them. It's as if they've taken Maslow's famous corollary to heart: "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail". That applies particularly to the over-deployment of SWAT teams and military weapons and tactics by law enforcement.
This has got to stop - or else our police will (justifiably) come to be regarded as at least as much of a threat to public safety as the criminals from whom they allegedly protect us.