Another toddler injured by excessive police use of force

Regular readers will remember my outrage at the critical injuries inflicted on two-year-old Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh by a SWAT raid in 2014, and the unbelievably inept, stupid, crass, dictatorial response of the Haversham county sheriff to the incident.

Now it’s happened again.

LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) – A 2-year-old child was burned by a flash-distraction device when Lakeland Police Department SWAT team members executed a search warrant on a home known for continuous drug activity on Thursday.

. . .

Officers entered the home and cleared the room, not seeing anyone inside.

The small room was cluttered with clothing and furniture items, including old mattresses leaning against a wall.

With no one in sight, a less lethal distraction device was deployed by an officer.

Officers used a noise-flash diversion product.

As the officer was backing out of the room, a 2-year-old child, who is believed to have been hiding in the mattresses, began walking toward the device as it was activated.

The officer immediately grabbed the child and took him outside to the SWAT team medic.

The child suffered third-degree burns and was taken to Lakeland Regional Health, then Tampa General Hospital.

There’s more at the link.

The officer(s) concerned don’t appear to have displayed quite as much arrogant, “I-can-do-what-I-like-and-get-away-with-it” insensitivity as the Haversham County Sheriff during the earlier one.  Nevertheless, the officer(s) who made the decision to deploy that flash-bang without carefully searching the room for children should be held fully accountable.  As far as I’m concerned, they displayed criminal negligence.  For heaven’s sake, when you’re searching someone’s home, and you know (or should know, from pre-raid intelligence-gathering) that the suspect’s girlfriend has a baby that is sometimes present, why would you not search it carefully?

Some time after the Haversham incident, I wrote:

… distrust of law enforcement is widespread, and for good reason.  Look at how many police officers have overstepped the bounds of what is properly considered ‘law enforcement’ and have become oppressors of the community, rather than its protectors.  The ‘Ferguson effect’ didn’t arise in a vacuum, but in a situation where police were seen as tools of an oppressive, discriminatory local government rather than impartial enforcers of the law.  Similarly, all too many cases of police brutality, overreach and authoritarian disregard for Constitutional and legal principles have made many people (including myself) profoundly suspicious of law enforcement in general.  Of course there are ‘good cops’ out there:  I number several among my personal friends, and I’d trust any of them with my life or that of my wife.  However, there appear to be more and more ‘bad apples’ in law enforcement that are rendering the entire profession suspect.  The list of recent issues is almost endless.  To name only a very few:

I could go on for page after page after page detailing every such incident, but what’s the point?  The reality is that American law enforcement officers and agencies in general have to an ever-increasing extent forfeited the trust of the people they’re supposed to ‘protect and serve‘.  They are no longer seen as impartial and fair in their approach.

Again, more at the link.

The (entirely avoidable) injury to yet another toddler by law enforcement officers in the course of their duties will merely add to the forfeiture of the trust the public once had in them.  It’s as if they’ve taken Maslow‘s famous corollary to heart:  “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”.  That applies particularly to the over-deployment of SWAT teams and military weapons and tactics by law enforcement.

This has got to stop – or else our police will (justifiably) come to be regarded as at least as much of a threat to public safety as the criminals from whom they allegedly protect us.



  1. I had the same question and the only thing I could think was that either they actually had not cleared the room or they deployed that weapon (yes it is a weapon) just for kicks.

  2. This is a real issue. If it is not resolved, then law and order types such as myself (who usually stand WITH the police) will start to view them as much of a threat as the criminals themselves. Since the police are an extension of government, government itself starts to be viewed as nothing more than a criminal enterprise. We really do not want to go down this road. The police themselves ought to understand this better than anyone.

  3. Sigh – This…sh…stuff has gone on since the beginning of time. You give someone who is not psychologically adept at handling power this much authority and it will be abused. It is just more in your face these days with so many avenues to disseminate the information.

  4. kurt9:
    "The police themselves ought to understand this better than anyone."

    You're joking, right? No understanding will occur until the typical rank and file start paying a price for allowing this to continue. I'll leave that "price" to your imagination. Sadly, I would expect it to be something of a flood in the people's response. The police forget that they are a small fraction of citizens.

  5. So who are the people who are attracted to a career with the police (as opposed to fire and EMT services?) More to the point, what are the programs that are being deployed to attract and retain these men and women? If there isn't some conscious attempt to filter out the assholes then it's no different from encouraging them to be assholes.

  6. @stencil – No joke, you can actually be "too smart" to become a cop.
    A man lost a lawsuit where "too smart" was used as the justification denying him a chance to become a cop.

  7. A lot of this nonsense is committed in the Sacred, Holy Name of the War on Some Unpopular Drugs. Get rid of the Drug War, and things will quiet down.

  8. One common thread all ya'll seem to be missing: almost all of these no-knock raids are about drugs.

    End the War on (Some) Drugs, and the vast majority if this goes away.

    It is long past time that we admitted that the problems caused by the War on Drugs – both the violent crime committed by the criminals and criminal gangs that sell the drugs, and the police tactics that the police use those crimes to justify – are worse than the problems caused by the drugs themselves.

    No knock raid to grab a guy who has an arrest warrant or warrants for violent felonies (murder, attempted murder, agg. assault, agg. robbery, agg. sexual assault, etc)? As long as you know for sure your subject is there, I'm totally cool with that.

    No knock raid to prevent "destruction of (drug) evidence"? No need. Here's an idea: First, establish pattern of life for the target location. Then, at a time when the folks there are asleep, have someone go in and turn off the water supply at the street. Wait for them to call to complain that the water isn't working, so you know they can't flush the dope, THEN execute your warrant.

  9. I'm with Craig and Glenn. WHAT possible reason is there to use a flash-bang, if you've ALREADY CLEARED THE DAMN ROOM?

  10. I received this recommendation on another website, but am repeating it here as it directly addresses the out-of-control police.

    The United States was established by the Declaration of Independence, a document whose central theme was the official wrongdoing of the King of England and his servants. The leaders of the colonies declared that Americans had rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and accused King George of "repeated injuries and usurpations" that made him "unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

    The Declaration itemized King George's "long train of abuses and usurpations," including that he had "sent higher swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance," had "obstructed the administration of justice," and had "plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people."

    The proposition that a king, a government can do wrong is central to the Declaration, America's foundational document. So how did America get to a situation where government employees, "public servants," can kill by sheer sloppiness and walk away?

  11. But…but…Officer Friendly went home safe at the end of his shift!

    And they still can't figure out why people randomly walk up to their cars and blow their heads off.

    When guys like this are under arrest and indictment same day for this kind of nonsense, that'll be a start.

  12. The try pe that I rrtaes me most in sch incudents of when some smarmy Police spokesdrone holds a press cnfernce and pronounces that “all relevant proceedures were followed”. They appear to think that MEANS something.

    My gut reaction is “Well, then, bring the swine who wrote the procedures up on charges, too.”

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