John Oliver laid into the “overuse” of police drug raids on Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight,” cataloging a list of examples that show “about as f—ed as it gets” with search warrants “disproportionately targeting Black people” and “a militarized police culture.”
Because, as the HBO late-night host put it, “The obvious danger of fostering a militarized police culture that trains and equips officers like they’re the lead in an action movie, is it can encourage them to then act that way.”
Oliver added: “And on top of all of this, there is just case after case of police messing up the execution of a raid, that ranges from the horrific to the almost cartoonishly idiotic.”
The HBO late-night host gave his first example of raids-gone-wrong with news footage of a case where a 2-year-old child was disfigured by a flash-bang grenade thrown into their crib during a police raid.
“Yeah, the police threw a flash-bang grenade into a crib. And look, I’m no policeman. I haven’t studied all the bylaws, I don’t have a PHD in grenadology, but purely as a layperson, the police should not have thrown that f–ing grenade into a f—ing crib. And if the police are truly incapable of knowing whether they’re throwing a grenade into a crib, maybe they shouldn’t have f–ing grenades.”
He then showed video of authorities explaining to an author how to they are trained to conduct a raid with dummies and baby dolls covered in blood, with the author saying, “When the amount of hours you spend at the shooting range outnumber the number of hours you spend learning conflict resolution by 10 or 15 to one, you’re going to be more likely to use the tool that you’ve trained more with.”
“Yah, no s—t. Because look, I’m not saying they shouldn’t be prepared for cult-leader-baby-murder, but how many cult-leader baby murders do they think they are going to be called to every year?” Oliver said.
Oliver says, “troublingly, police don’t have to work very hard to get a warrant to blow someone’s door open.”
“The bar for getting a judge to sign off on a search warrant is pretty low. All you need is probable cause, or a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime will be found in the place you want to search. And that belief can come from anywhere, whether it’s the smell of marijuana or, very often, the word of a confidential informant who might be trading tips for money or leniency. And a lot of those tips turn out to be complete bulls–t.”
According to the “Last Week Tonight” host, “There is often no meaningful consequences to busting right through your door” for the police, but “for those who actually do get raided, there are real consequences to those actions. If not death, then serious criminal charges.”
“Lives are getting destroyed through police raids. And even if nobody gets physically hurt, that does not mean that no damage is done,” Oliver said. “Having your home violated is a traumatizing experience, often exacerbated by how targets of raids are treated.
So what should be done about it?
“I’d argue that there’s a big solution here that’s actually staring us right in the face and that’s stop doing drug raids. Just stop it,” Oliver said. “And if that sounds extreme, you might want to know the former chairman of the National Tactical Officers Association recommends that raids never be used to serve narcotics warrants, saying, ‘Why would you run into a gunfight?… You definitely don’t go in and risk your life for drugs.”
He continued: “And he’s right, drug raids just have to stop. And raids, in general, should only be used as a last resort to save lives that are in immediate danger. Because busting into someone’s home is never going to be safe for anyone involved.”
Watch the “Last Week Tonight” clip above.