The recent firefight between a narcotics squad from the Houston Police Department and suspected drug dealers has led to a war of words as the police union attempts to dodge blame for the incident. The aggressive and dangerous vitriol from the police union, however, only betrays a gung-ho attitude that puts the lie in their claims that they are “only protecting the community.”
Drug Bust Goes Wrong: Two Suspects Killed and Five Officers Wounded
The situation began on January 27, 2019, when police followed up on a tip by sending an informant into a house in the Pecan Park neighborhood to buy drugs. When the informant came out with a packet of brown powder and said that it was “boy” – a street name for heroin – police applied for and got a no-knock search warrant for the house to look for evidence of a drug distribution crime.
It is unclear if the police ever confirmed that the substance purchased was heroin or not.
When police executed the search warrant the next day, a gun fight broke out. Both of the people inside the house -– a husband and wife, neither of whom had prior convictions for drug-related crimes -– were killed. Four of the invading officers were shot and wounded. The fifth hurt his knee while bringing the others to safety.
No heroin was found in the home.
Critics Take Aim at Houston Police
Numerous people have come forward to advocate for the victims who died in the shootout, shocked that the couple was suspected of dealing or even using drugs. The husband had been honorably discharged from the Navy. Relatives and friends of both the husband and wife could not believe that they were involved in illegal drug activity.
Much of the criticism concerned the use of a “no-knock” raid. Police wanted one because their informant claimed there was a gun inside. However, the surprise that no-knock operations create – in fact, is designed to create – often lead to tense situations if the suspects have any time to react.
Police Union's Statements Reveal Disturbing Attitudes
The police union, however, shot back at the critics with such force and blatant aggression that community members have been left disturbed. Worse, their statements failed to engage with the legitimate concerns of the public.
Joe Gamaldi, the head of the Houston Police Officers' Union, blamed the busted raid on anti-police rhetoric, and then threatened anyone who dared criticize police officers.
“We are sick and tired of having dirtbags trying to take our lives when all we're trying to do is protect this community and our families,” he said at a press conference over the raid. “Enough is enough. And if you're the ones out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, well just know that we've got your number now.”
The Union's vice president, Doug Griffith, tried justifying no-knock raids by saying, “If you just knock on the door, guess what happens? They're still going to shoot through the door.”
The particular criticism that Griffith was responding to, though, was that police should be avoiding “siege conditions” entirely by, for example, arresting a suspect outside the home before executing the search warrant.
Doug Murphy Defends Drug Accusations in Houston
The police union's aggressive stance in the face of reasonable criticism reveals their preference for manly action over rational law enforcement methods. With such a stance, more police officers are going to get hurt and more members of the public are going to find themselves under assault for a suspected drug crime, betraying the entire point of the criminal justice system.
Doug Murphy is a drug defense lawyer who prefers letting judges and juries decide whether a drug crime has been committed. Contact him online or call his Houston law office at (713) 229-8333 if you have been accused of one.