If a recent story is to be believed, it appears that there are many things that you can demand to see in the “show me state” but a warrant is not one of them. A Kansas City man is accusing the police department of shocking conduct after he declined a demand that he allow police officers to search his house without a warrant. Eric Crinnian, a lawyer, said that an officer threatened that, if he insisted on his getting a warrant, he would come back in force, bust down his door, and shoot any dogs in the house. The response from a local criminal justice professor is also rather interesting.
Crinnian said that police banged on his door and, when he opened it, demanded with guns drawn that he drop whatever was in his hands and come out of his house with his hands above his head. He says that he was questioned about two men that they were searching for in the area. When he said had no idea what they were talking about, police allegedly demanded to search his house repeatedly as he continued to refuse without a warrant. It is then that Crinnian says the police officer responding in a rather shocking threat:
“If we have to get a warrant, we’re going to come back when you’re not expecting it, we’re going to park in front of your house, where all your neighbors can see, we’re gonna bust in your door with a battering ram, we’re gonna shoot and kill your dogs, who are my family, and then we’re going to ransack your house looking for these people.”
The police department has said nothing since the matter is under investigation. However, I thought the response of John Hamilton a bit of a surprise. He is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Park University and former police officer. Hamilton said that, if true, these threats “would be inappropriate” but would not be illegal. He simply noted that “it’s a dangerous way to do policing, because it makes it tenuous when you appear in front of the court in a case like that.”
That is a rather muted response to an officer allegedly threatening to punish a citizen for asking for a warrant by maliciously destroying property and shooting pets. It would in my view be a little more than inappropriate and could constitute a crime. While it could be a tough case on this evidence, one possibility would be a criminal threat. However, Missouri seems to exempt police officers from core criminal provisions. For example, stalking includes criminal threats but the provision in the code adds this exemption: “This section shall not apply to activities of federal, state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers conducting investigations of violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law.”
Kansas has a more typical statute:
21-3419: Criminal threat. (a) A criminal threat is any threat to:
(1) Commit violence communicated with intent to terrorize another, or to cause the evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities of any building, place of assembly or facility of transportation, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities;
(2) adulterate or contaminate any food, raw agricultural commodity, beverage, drug, animal feed, plant or public water supply; or
(3) expose any animal in this state to any contagious or infectious disease.
(b) A criminal threat is a severity level 9, person felony.
(c) As used in this section, “threat” includes any statement that one has committed any action described by subsection (a)(1) or (2).
History: L. 1969, ch. 180, § 21-3419; L. 1984, ch. 116, § 1; L. 1992, ch. 298, § 14; L. 1993, ch. 291, § 32; L. 2002, ch. 88, § 3; L. 2009, ch. 132, § 3; July 1.
If such an act cannot be charged as a crime if proven, there is need for a revision of the criminal code which contains an assortment of crimes related to resisting officers but none directly related to officers abusing their authority. Perhaps some of our Missouri lawyers can suggest other possible charges.
What makes this alleged threat even more egregious is that we have seen a disturbing trend of officers shooting family dogs under questionable circumstances (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). It is chilling that, according to Crinnian, the first thing that this officer thought of was to threaten to shoot the family’s pets as if it were just one more minor act like kicking in a door.
It seems obvious to me that, if proven, this officer needs to be fired and that the matter needs to be handed over to a prosecutor.
Kudos: Michael Blott