Forcible-entry raids to serve narcotics search warrants regularly introduce what the New York Times reports as “staggering levels of violence into missions that might be accomplished through patient stakeouts or simple knocks at the door.” Thousands of times a year, “dynamic entry” raids exploit the element of surprise to make seizures and arrests of drug dealers. They have also led to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense. The newspaper, using dozens of open-record requests and examining police and court files, found that at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in such raids from 2010 through 2016. Many others were wounded.
The casualties occurred in the execution of no-knock warrants, which give police judicial authority to force entry without notice, as well as warrants that require the police to knock and announce themselves before breaking down doors. Innocents have died in attacks on wrong addresses, including a 7-year-old girl in Detroit, and collaterally as the police pursued other residents, among them a 68-year-old grandfather in Framingham, Ma. Search warrant raids account for a small share of the 1,000 fatalities each year in officer-involved shootings. What distinguishes them from other risky interactions between the police and citizens is that they are initiated by law enforcement. With four in 10 adults having guns in their homes, the raids lead to predictable collisions between officers with a license to invade private homes and residents convinced of their right to self-defense.