The real problem with the Breonna Taylor raid

The decision not to charge the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor was probably the right one, even though her death was yet another example of a system that too often uses deadly force. The problem was that there should not have been a raid at all, and the solution is to reform the way law enforcement fights the “War on Drugs.” This should not be a war at all.

The raid itself created a bad situation that could have been avoided. Kenneth Walker apparently believed he was experiencing a home invasion, so he acted in self defense. Once he fired, it did not matter to the police that he misunderstood the situation – they had to act in self defense. Had there not been a raid at all, neither side would have been put into an extremely high-stress, violent situation that turned deadly.

Imagine that instead of a “dynamic entry” raid, police had arrested Taylor at her workplace, and knocked on the door during the daytime to serve a search warrant at her home. Would Walker have resisted? Perhaps, but that is unlikely. Even better, police could have conducted the search when no one was home, or waited for someone to arrive and let them in. By starting out with a less confrontational approach, the potential for confusion leading to a fatal mistake is greatly reduced.

I have seen a number of people claiming different things about Taylor and her involvement in her ex-boyfriend’s criminal activity. But my point is this: None of that matters. The problem was that police chose to conduct a “dynamic entry” raid in the first place. A less confrontational approach that treated Walker and Taylor as citizens under investigation instead of as a potential military target would have been much less likely to produce a violent confrontation.

What we have to do is end the War on Drugs. However one feels about decriminalization, we should be able to agree that there are far too many SWAT raids that have resulted in far too many life and death decisions that have to be made in less than a second. We have to stop training police like they are soldiers in a war, because they are not. They are peace officers who have the legal authority to use deadly force, and should avoid creating situations where the use of deadly force becomes likely.

For more, see excellent coverage by Radley Balko here and here.

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