Anne Arundel County Police Denies Records Request for SWAT Use, Civil Forfeiture Activity

Elizabeth Myers at the Maryland Watchdog reports on a public records request she filed with the county police of Anne Arundel, Maryland:

Anne Arundel County participates in required reporting in Maryland, part of Governor O’Malley’s StateStat initiative.   SB 447, signed into law  in 2009, requires certain reporting from jurisdictions with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams.
What is a SWAT team?  The guys in the tactical gear that serve no-knock warrants.
Since the county reports this information to the state, every six months, I requested it from Anne Arundel County in electronic format – that request was refused.  Furthermore, I requested the fees be waived since all but a couple questions were straight from the state level StateStat report – they refused, charged $20, and didn’t answer those questions, anyway.
Each reporting agency is required to provide:
  • The number of times the SWAT Team was “activated and deployed;”
  • The location where SWAT Team deployed (e.g., zip code);
  • The legal authority for each activation and deployment (i.e., Arrest Warrant, Search Warrant, Barricade, Exigent Circumstances, or Other);
  • The reason for each activation and deployment (i.e., Part I Crime, Part II Crime, Emergency Petition, Suicidal, or Other); and
  • The result or outcome of each deployment (i.e., forcible entry used; property or contraband seized; weapon  discharge by a SWAT Team member; the number of arrests; person or animal injury or death by a SWAT Team member; injury to SWAT Officer).
In Anne Arundel County calendar year 2012, there were 94 SWAT raids:  1.81 per week.  Anne Arundel County ranks as one of the  top 5 jurisdictions in the state that conducts SWAT raids.
Raids are for two types of statutory crimes:  Part I; Part II. Part I crimes are homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, larceny/theft motor vehicle theft, and arson.  Part II crimes are essentially all drug related. Here are some stats for Anne Arundel:
  • 68 percent of raids were for drugs/drug related
  • 37 percent of raids used forcible entry
  • 18 percent of raids seized property (no further information given)
  • 30 percent of raids had 0 arrests
  • 45 percent of raids had 1 arrest
  • 9 raids were without warrant
  • 0 raids had a weapon discharged
For all of this activity, the total budget is $2,716,900, which breaks down to a cost of $28,903 per raid.

Radley Balko commented on the potential for this activity to be funded by federal asset forfeiture revenues shared with Anne Arundel County Police in 2011:

Working with the feds, the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Police Department set up a fraudulent payment processing business for online poker players. They then took the players’ money, under false pretenses, and deposited it in the federal government’s asset forfeiture fund. Complaining players, none of whom were ever charged with a crime, were told they’d have to try to recoup their losses from the poker sites, which of course have now had their assets seized in a separate federal investigation, and which never actually saw the money from these particular players, anyway.

Under federal “adoption” policy, any local police department working with the federal government in a criminal investigation gets to keep up to 80 percent of the property it seizes in that investigation. And once the feds get involved, the whole thing officially becomes a federal investigation, which allows local police departments to skirt state laws aimed at protecting citizens from forfeiture abuse.

In this case, the Anne Arundel Police Department bagged $30 million seized stolen from online poker players. They celebrated with a press conference and oversized novelty check. They’ll use the money to buy some cool new police equipment. Let’s hope it’s for more SWAT gear, so they can feel a bit safer the 150 times each year Anne Arundel County SWAT teams are deployed, most of the time to serve search warrants that result in misdemeanor charges.

 This wouldn't be possible under Maryland law, which sends forfeiture revenues to a general fund, but as the Institute for Justice notes:

...But Maryland civil forfeiture law, unlike most other states, avoids creating a profit incentive for local law enforcement.  All proceeds from civil forfeiture flow to the state general fund or the local governing body.  

With the profit incentive eliminated under state law, Maryland law enforcement can and does still obtain forfeited property by working with federal authorities through adoption and equitable sharing.  Despite the mandate that forfeiture proceeds go the general fund, state law enforcement, working with their federal partners, received more than $50 million in forfeiture revenue from 2000 to 2008.  This end-run around state forfeiture law was challenged in court, but the Maryland Court of Appeals ratified the practice of equitable sharing even when law enforcement failed to obtain a court order permitting the use of the loophole

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  • commented 2014-08-27 09:38:11 -0500