In a recent video, Georgia State Senator Mike Crane, a Republican, faced a crowd of people, trying to convince them he deserved to occupy a congressional seat that is up for grabs this November. In the back of the frame, an American flag droops next to a man in a suit who listening attentively.
"Law enforcement doesn't have a stronger advocate than Mike Crane down in the Capitol," Crane told the crowd. But by that same token, he bellowed, he was an advocate for the people of Georgia, and there was exactly one instance in which he would side with the people over the police: the controversial practice of "no-knock" raids, which allow officers to enter into a property without first making an announcement. (A judge has to sign off first.)
"You come to my house, kick down my door—if I have the opportunity, I will shoot you dead," Crane said. "And every one of you should do the same."
"Amen," sounded a voice in the crowd.
This exchange, as charged and politically ballsy as it sounds, has now become a major talking point in the election for Georgia’s 3rd congressional district. At the heart of it is a highly publicized "no-knock" raid that went wrong in 2014. In that case, Georgia police threw a flash grenade through a window that landed in a toddler's play pen, severely injuring him. The man police were searching for wasn't in the home.
In the wake of that incident, legislation was drafted in the state to address the practice. Law enforcement objected to the effort, and the bill went nowhere.
Crane, who has been endorsed by the Tea Party, wishes the bill hadn’t died. In his view, the police have no right to enter anyone's home without announcing themselves, even if a judge signs off on the order.
“It’s really an issue of, what is the role of government? What powers do we grant them? And is it fully within their power to grant themselves the power to enter your home in the middle of the night?” he said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And then the question is, what are the circumstances and how high a bar should that be?”
After video of Crane’s comments surfaced, police came out in droves to denounce him. "You could have said, ‘Someone enters my home at night and I don’t know they are, then I’m going to take steps to protect myself,’” Mike Jolley, sheriff of Harris County, told the Journal-Constitution about the clip. “That would have been halfway decent. But to say if a law enforcement officer, if a police officer enters my home at night with a no-knock warrant — he’s calling us out.”
But Crane has a point here. Both Democrats and Republicans in the state have taken broad issue with the concept of a "no-knock warrant." Over the years, cases of mistaken identity—where innocent, uninvolved people find themselves in the middle of a fast moving, volatile situation, making it all but impossible to cooperate with authorities—have cropped up repeatedly.
Likewise, multiple cases of police being shot and killed in the unannounced raids bring up honest questions about whether or not they create a more dangerous environment than a regular warrant does. Some people who have killed officers during "no-knock" raids have even had murder charges dropped on the grounds of self-defense.
In a comprehensive 2014 report that centers on the foiled Georgia raid that year, the American Civil Liberties Union found that the use of the controversial tactic has become "commonplace" across the nation, partly as a result of a shifting focus of police training and because of access to military-grade equipment from the Pentagon. A whopping 60% of "no-knock" warrants that the ACLU uncovered were for simple drug investigations.
"The police are required to announce their presence in Georgia law," Crane said in the video that sparked the controversy. "It is the only area in which the law enforcement community and I differ. But they have to understand the law."
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.