Eric Crinnian, an attorney in Kansas
City, Missouri, says police came to his door looking for parole
violators, and got upset when he refused them permission to tramp
through his house and paw through his possessions. In fact, he
claims, one cop went so far as to threaten to shoot his dogs if he
made them abide by the requirements of the law by getting a search
warrant to look through his home. Remarkably, a criminal justice
professor says the police actions may not be illegal, though they
could be awkward in court.
Fox 4 News in Kansas City:
Eric Crinnian, a lawyer, heard a loud banging at his door
Monday night, he was instantly alarmed since a neighbor’s house was
robbed a few weeks ago, so he grabbed a crow-bar.
Crinnian said three police officers were outside his house.
“I open the door a little bit wider and he sees that I have
something in my hand, so he pulls his gun, tells me to put down
whatever I’ve got and then come out with my hands up, so I do,”
They wanted to know where two guys were, and Crinnian later
found out police believed they violated parole.
“I said, ‘I have no idea who you’re talking about I’ve never
heard of these people before,’” he said.
To prove it, he said police asked to search his house, Crinnian
refused multiple times. He said they needed a warrant.
Then he said one police officer started threatening him saying,
“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
The police department
is following the usual script, insisting it is internally
investigating Crinnian’s Office of
Community Complaints report, so you can probably safely assume
that officials hope this case will fall into the void where most
grievances against police go to die. Then again, as a lawyer,
Crinnian may have a little more recourse than most, and perhaps a
better shot at keeping his front door on its hinges.
John Hamilton, an
associate professor of criminal justice administration at Park
University and a retired Major with the Kansas City, Missouri,
Police Department, told the news station that the officers’ threats
may not be illegal, though they’re inappropriate and it’s possible
they violate department policy. He also pointed to the matter of
appearances, saying that such behavior “makes it tenuous when you
appear in front of the court in a case like that.”
But Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at The George Washington
University Law School,
isn’t convinced that it’s legal to threaten to shoot people’s dogs
and otherwise humiliate them if they insist on the protections of
the Fourth Amendment. “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
Turley points (accidentally, I think) to a
Kansas statute regarding “criminal threat.” But Missouri has a
that defines a “credible threat…against the life of, or a
threat to cause physical injury to, or the kidnapping of, the
person, the person’s family, or the person’s household members or
domestic animals or livestock” as aggravated stalking and might fit
the bill in this situation. However, that law explicitly
exempts law enforcement officers “conducting investigations of
violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law,” which is
more than a little disturbing.
Really? It’s OK to threaten people’s lives, their family, and
their pets if you’re a cop?
If it is legal to threaten people with violence if they
stand on their rights, it shouldn’t be, Turley adds. I’d have to
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/05/cops-if-we-have-to-get-a-warrantwere-gon