The title comes from Jello Biafra's final line in the classic Lard song "Drug Raid at 4 AM." The musical stylings of Lard may not be your cup of tea, but this is one of the best War on Drugs songs around. It's at once subtle and completely unsubtle with its anti-anti-drug message.

The element of black humor in the song comes from the fact that police in this era of No-Knock Warrants and battering rams through front doors do end up saying "Whoops! Wrong house!" with regularity that can only be described as alarming. The Cato Institute – I know, strange bedfellows – has an interactive map of how often these "isolated incidents" and "tragic mistakes" occur.

It turns out that sloppy police work extends beyond the zealous enforcement of drug laws (to say nothing of municipal governments' enthusiasm for civil forfeiture) and that using Maximum Overkill levels of force has become standard operating procedure in the most pedestrian matters.

A few weeks ago, police in Leander, TX raided the home of James and Renata Simmons and ended up shooting their dog before realizing that the person named on the warrant, one Bradley Simpson, doesn't even live in the same town let alone at that address. Simmons, Simpson, close enough. Guns out!

The warrant was for an unpaid vehicle registration.

The saddest part is that the raw incompetence and stupidity of most police is only like 4th on the list of things about them that are terrifying, behind the corruption, violence, and racism.

33 thoughts on “WHOOPS! SORRY. WRONG HOUSE.”

  • From the linked articles:

    "During this shooting, the Simmons’s terminally ill six-year-old grandchild was playing just around the corner. Renata worries what would have happened if the child had gotten in the path of the bullets. Police claim not to have seen the child."

    "The City has denied their claim for reimbursement and legal representatives through the Texas Municipal League, saying 'the officer had a legal right to be on the property since he was trying to serve a warrant, even if it was the wrong address.'"

    Glad to hear that the dog survived, but on the serious: time to burn this shit down and start all over again.

  • What pisses me off when I read these things is its usually anal pores at the Cato and similar ilk who agitate for tougher drug laws, unless it's a white person who's accidentally shot.

    Then — and only then — is it all about government overreach or out of control government.

    So Cato stfu!

  • "The saddest part is that the raw incompetence and stupidity of most police is only like 4th on the list of things about them that are terrifying, behind the corruption, violence, and racism."

    Yeah, it makes them almost, but not quite, as incompetent as the average Congressman. But they have a much smaller support staff.

  • Maybe I'm feckin' nuts – and believe me, maybe I am at this point (and if I am, it's not my fault, because I once used to be very sane, but this country drove me feckin' crAAAAAAAAAAAAAzy!!!!!) – but I suspect that The Powers-that-be militarized our police for a reason.

    They realized that while they're trying to destroy this country and it's middle class, one of their Plutocrats might have a "Well, then, let them eat cake!" moment, and us plebe's might start building tumbrel's and guillotines from whatever's left in our homes, or under the overpass where we now live.

    And in anticipation of the moment when some entitled obnoxious rich asshole acts like an entitled obnoxious rich asshole, they allowed the cops to have the militaries hand-me-downs to keep the "peace" and hunt down trouble-makers – until the real military could be called out to put the kibosh on any nascent revolution.

    And then, the Plutocrats could all feel secure again and return from their overseas mansions to their gated communities here, where only former SEAL security guards, and lawn maintenance, cooks, and other servants can enter – but only after background and physical screenings that would make what Homeland Security does at airports seem like a quick interview and a mild pat-down before you start your minimum-wage job flipping burgers.

    Like I said, maybe I'm feckin' nuts.
    But it's really NOT my fault!

  • @Xynzee – the Cato Institute is a lot of things, but 'agitating for tougher drug laws' isn't one of them. They are pretty consistently vocal against our shitty drug policy and police militarization and overreach.

    They are also a bunch of libertarian numb-nuts who hate seatbelt laws and like climate change deniers. There's plenty to hate them for without making stuff up.

    Also, as fun as it is to bat around our ideological opponents, the fact that what pops into your mind when you read this post is "Cato is racist" and not "wow, the cops are fucked up" is in itself rather fucked up.

  • I don't know whether c u n d gulag is feckin' nuts or not, but I think his analysis has more than a grain of truth. For too long Americans have assumed that "capitalism" meant the kind of middle class capitalism that we concocted here – and didn't notice that "capitalism" also meant the kinds of dystopias that Latin America and Africa were specializing in the 1970s where plutocracies, militaries and police ruled over impoverished and malcontented populations. Well, every step taken for the last 30 years has been toward that kind of capitalism, so don't be shocked that the police aren't your friends.

  • @Strange: on Cato, I stand corrected. Thank you

    The police being f***ed up, is more symptomatic of the past 90yrs of drug enforcement (including Prohibition) that has intensified into the more extreme policing and enforcement that allows and encourages such behaviours. When the courts turn a blind eye to personal injury/death and destruction of personal property because of negligent behaviour by the police, then the problem is far, far deeper.

    As an aside, the irony of conservative groups getting shirty over things like seatbelt laws is ironic. The big push for seatbelts, child capsules etc. did not come from concerned citizens. The whole campaign was bankrolled by insurance companies wanting to protect their profits. It's cheaper to legislate and have the state enforce it than to pay for a lifetime of head trauma.

  • @Anubis: well said. In the Great Southern Land we just voted in some yayhoo, that wants to really take it to the working classes. Given that the only "growth industry" is in services they now want to cut shift and penalty rates. So working at night, or working Sunday = day rates.

    People don't get that at that end of the scale the extra $15/hr you get even on that one shift a week means a lot. Whenever, I hear someone say wages are too high I say, "You first. If you're not prepared to take the paycut, don't ask someone else to."

    The tldr version: Whatever it is that America has, it's fucking contagious!!

  • Don't forget the first rule of policing: make it home for dinner. When in doubt, shoot. Because officer safety comes first, even if it means maiming or injuring a completely innocent person.

    I personally never call the police unless a situation is so bad that the addition of a few police officers couldn't possibly make it worse. Also, they're not there to help, necessarily-they're there to collect evidence and enforce the law. Be careful.

  • It is important to keep in mind, at all times, that police officers are not manufactured in factories at the local police department. They are people, just like the rest of us — which means that they are just as stupid and incompetent as the average American. Often times even worse.

    Why would one choose a career in law enforcement? If they wanted to be involved with law, why not be a lawyer and make boatloads more money with FAR less personal danger? Why not do any of a host of other jobs that make much more bank without 'get shot at' appearing in the job description?

    Turns out that a whole lot of people (not all, but a lot) go into LE for the same reason a whole lot of people go into the military: They've got no other prospects, no hope for a decent job, and having power and a gun and a license to use it on other people suits their meat-headedness just fine.

    Think of The Average American. Remember that half of them are dumber than that. Now keep in mind that the cops are drawn from that pool.

    Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about them having complete legal immunity for busting into your house, eh?

  • I'm sure you just meant to be hyperbolic when you referred to police and stupidity in the same context, but at least in the region covered by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals it's okay to ban smart people from applying to the police academy. Apparently the thinking is that if cops are too smart they'll get bored too easily and go look for other work, thus wasting the public dollars spent on their training. Personally, I think they believe that if cops are too smart they'll start questioning orders from the Powers that Be, and they don't want that–not from the public, and not least of all from those who are walking around with loaded guns.

  • @Gunstar you can sometimes make more money as a cop, depending.

    NYPD pays peanuts, but right next door in Nassau County the cops make bank.

    Let's say you're interested in law enforcement and you want to live/work in Nassau County. Do you spend six figures on a law school education to start making $50k as an ADA?

    Starting salary for a Nassau cop is lower but you have more job security. As an ADA you serve at the pleasure of the District Attorney. As a cop, you're unionized. Think about it.

  • A good friend of mine once told me how a drug raid was executed on her place of residence (in a large midwestern college town… NOT bloomington. Slightly northerner and westerrer and beerier and cheesier…) in the 90s, which was, a place where twenty somethings live as they tend to do in college towns and whatnot. Apparently the cops were too fucking stupid to check the freezer where all of the acid was actually being kept. Anyways, the image that stuck in her mind most was not the drawn, loaded, safety-off, standard issue cop handgun dangerously close to her person, but instead the obvious raging hard-on that the same cop was sporting…

  • The militarization of the police forces goes hand in hand with both mandatory minimums and (purposely?) turning our jails into something out of Dante's Inferno.

    I've had many conversations about the purpose of incarceration with otherwise intelligent people who believe prison is for revenge punishment. Sweet reason says eventually these people get out of prison with no prospects for a normal life, having learned what? How to prey on the helpless?

    I'll say this… Current police tactics and the conditions of incarceration keep me from active protests. Personal experience shows me that Disturbing the Peace is a charge that can be brought weeks later.

  • Good points c u n d gulag, but you meant a second Revolution didn't you?

    Corporations and the richest one per cent have staged the first one already.

  • @ Dave Dell

    It's frightening. It's one area where I'm with the libertarians (though the smart ones, not the ones who just say lol just replace cops with private security durrrr).

    Cops should not be jackbooted. Period. They need to accept more risk in their jobs, not pass the risk onto the general public in the form of militarization and shooting first and asking questions later.

    And midnight SWAT raids for piddly bullshit. It's unacceptable. Unless you're going after Ted Bundy or Osama bin Laden or fucking Pablo Escobar, do you need a midnight paramilitary raid? No. It's creating *extreme* danger for the public for the benefit of officer safety. It's disgusting.

  • If you can bear to wait that long, the way the .1% run the economy, it's gonna' crash hard enough to take them down to.

  • And making felons ineligible for basic social services, ones necessary to survival like housing and food stamps, is fucking barbaric. These people are already barely capable of getting legitimate jobs due to their felony status, you're just marginalizing them even more.

    I'm pretty sure the EEOC bars discrimination based on felony status, but no one gives a shit. I actually heard an old boss of mine saying he wasn't going to hire a guy who was otherwise qualified because of his felony status. I get that they have to insulate themselves, but we don't have a universal basic income. You need to work to live.

  • I mean, maybe a convicted murdered or rapist shouldn't work around children, and a white collar criminal shouldn't work in a capacity where he has access to any financial stuff, obviously. But in general we need more post-incarceration employment support. We might as well just lock people up and throw away the key if we're not going to help them out when we release them.

  • The problem I'd have with the revolution we bandy about as a solution to all of this corruption is that I'm almost certain to be a casualty of it–if it comes from the right, I'm smart, privileged, educated, progressive, and not nearly Christian enough. If it comes from the left, I'm white, straight, male, and come from money (though I haven't any of my own.)

    So, if only out of a sense of self-preservation, I would urge us to find a solution that does not involve violence, as delicious as it is to imagine sealing the Koch brothers into a single room until one of them is driven mad enough to kill and eat the other, or placing Grover Norquist on a spike, allowing his own body weight to slowly impale him.

    The problem with racist cops is that, these days, only racists would want the job, since the bulk of law enforcement involves enforcing the laws that victimize the poor–drug laws, thievery, the violence systemic in any class with no stake in the status quo–and a disproportionate number of the poor are minorities–so basically, your job is built around abusing minorities–and as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved, this situation will bring out the monster in anyone. (I'm not excusing the behavior, any more than one would 'excuse' cancer–but you can't cure either without diagnosis.)

    You can't solve racist and authority gone amok without addressing the helplessness of the victims of both–the cops are a symptom of a much larger problem. Ending the War on Drugs would, for instance, be a much better start to fixing the problem than targeting abusive officers, even though, yes, we need to do that too.

  • One thing I learned from my father growing up – the police are there primarily to protect stuff. The more stuff you have (money,business, real estate), the more on your side they're going to be. The less you have. . . well, I could figure that out on my own.

  • Here in Toronto the Good, my 20 year old white shaven-headed son was arrested and charged with attempted vandalism, because he happened to be wearing a basketball shirt (Celtics 33) same as someone who was seen trying to break into a car 4 blocks away.

    The someone was described by witness as 15-16, 5'5 or 6", Asian or Filipino with dreadlocks.

    Yes, he was arrested going to a convenience store 1/2 block from his home.

    Yes, he was kept in jail overnight. Yes, the case went all the way to trial when the witness did not show and the Crown was compelled to withdraw the case. They were sworn to destroy his fingerprints etc but I bet they didn't.

    In related news, I hear Lamar Odom is negotiating a trade to the Toronto Raptors. Mayor Rob Ford has said he would be a great addition to the community.

  • If I, or you, dare I say, was involved in something and a dog was killed not while attacking a child or senior, I would be massively remorseful and do what I could to make it good. No hiding behind statutory walls. Whatever it is that's missing in these cops that they don't do that, whatever is there in place of that…….makes them bad cops. The kind who cut corners running laps in junior high 'cause they can get away with it. But wait…..it's the same thing that we see in banks, credit card and insurance companies and a zillion others that has them fall back on policy instead of making things right. There's a smugness there, some justified fu attitude born of fear and alienation and the comfort of some element of power.
    We need something that makes it painful to be an asshat.
    Broad brush: wanna bet these cops go to church, coach soccer and keep their lawns up and collect toys for tots. Somewhere, maybe too far down to get recognized, these cops know they're wrong. A couple decades of that life and the tea party is just not strong enough and they go full blown sovereign citizen. Abuse of power is the gateway drug to tyranny if you believe in that sort of thing. And I love cops, just not the copinish part.

  • guttedleafsfan says:

    @well mostly, I hear you. Nobody loves good cops more than I do, my brother in law was one (in Glasgow, which takes some doing|), my husband's best friend was one and my son's best friend is one… but there just are not enough of them. And I know too much of the cop culture and those who have been destroyed by it, to hope that the ratio of good to bad will rise much in my time.

  • I once did nine days in LA County for 'Unpaid Vehicle Registration' (which, due to a bureaucratic snafu, turned into a failure-to-appear rap — I moved around a lot in those days).

    Big Lesson: never trust a county court clerk when he says, "Okay you're fine, we'll take care of it."

    The best part was the first 36 hours, when I was shunted from holding cell to holding cell without food, water or toilet access because the deputies didn't know what to do with me. Good times.

  • One of my wife's friends, an intern from Austria, had been living in DC for two weeks when he got no-knocked at 2am. His door broken down, his apartment ransacked, cuffed and interrogated on his couch for an hour before the cops realized that there was nothing there for them to find. And that, according to the warrant they supplied him with while telling him to "Get all this shit cleaned up", was a raid on the CORRECT address.

    I told him, at least you got to experience the real America.

  • guttedleafsfan says:

    Nice footnote here. A police officer here has been found guilty of assault on a G20 protester here 3 years ago. Maybe there is hope.

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