Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Ironic Cherry Reads...

...Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

This latest by Grisham is a great read, action packed and full of legal insight, expertise and irreverence.  It is a book of interconnected stories in the life of a defense lawyer who lives out of his van, in the image of Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer, but with Grisham's own unique voice and spin.

If Grisham is not to your taste, or you don't have time for the whole novel, do make time to read the chapter entitled, "Warrior Cops."  It begins with a SWAT team home invasion, wherein, misinformed, they break into the home of a law-abiding retired couple.  The writing is great but, more important, Grisham gets the details right.

If you google, as I just did, "SWAT wrong house," you will be treated to a nightmare list of bad raids, and headlines such as "SWAT Team Raids Wrong House Holding Mother and Child at Gunpoint."  That one was dated August 15, 2015.  Pets are frequent fatalities, as in the June, 2015, raid which occurred due to nonpayment of a gas bill.  South Carolina made the news in 2013 when a SWAT team raided a low stakes poker game hosted by a 72-year-old man, resulting in a 20-minute shootout.

Grisham also paints a picture of laws that are designed to protect the police for their mistakes, recklessness, and overreach, and that criminalize innocent citizens who attempt to defend themselves from these sudden and terrifying invasions of their own homes.

We need to have serious discussions about the amount of force being used as it relates to the severity of the crime.  We also need to hold our police responsible for harm caused due to negligence and excessive force.  Over the years since SWAT teams began they became glamorized, and free federal tanks and assault weapons gave arms to small communities that had no need of such a show of power.  Small forces in typically peaceable towns with little violent crime can't and shouldn't be trained in paramilitary tactics.  When you have tanks, assault weapons and flashbang grenades it is human nature to start to look at the community you are policing differently.  It is indeed a matter of, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

It is time to look at the risk to innocent citizens by armed SWAT teams and the increased incidence of fatal error caused by police that are over-armed and under-trained.

Because we respect our police and want to keep them safe, we have allowed their safety to become more important than that of the citizens they are charged with protecting.  There needs to be a balance.  The laws need to reflect this.

And John Grisham does a fine job of dramatizing the problem.

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