Five minutes before Michael Delgado’s alarm was to go off last November, flash bang grenades shattered the windows to his north Minneapolis home. Eighteen officers dressed in riot gear and carrying semi-automatic rifles stormed inside searching for drugs. Another 10 to 14 stood guard outside as an armored truck equipped with a sniper focused on the house. That search, Hennepin County District Judge Tanya Bransford ruled, was unconstitutional, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She wrote that the “military style” tactics were a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. She was “troubled,” she wrote, “that the types of militarized actions used in this case seem to be a matter of customary business practice” for Hennepin’s drug task force squad, known as the Emergency Services Unit (ESU).
As Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies continue to arm themselves with more military weapons and tactics, critics of police militarization hope Bransford’s ruling slows the use of SWAT teams when executing search warrants. Those teams escalate conflict and generally target minorities in poor neighborhoods, said Ben Feist of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Police are supposed to be out there protecting their communities, rather than treating people like they’re enemies in a combat zone,” Feist said. Jim Franklin of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association said Bransford’s ruling was dangerous and limited the ability for police to protect themselves when going into potentially dangerous situations. “My question to her is: Are you going to attend the dead cop’s funeral?” he said.