Georgia cops fight law inspired by toddler maimed in raid: You can have privacy or security
A police union in Georgia is pushing back against legislation that would limit the use of no-knock raids, arguing that privacy rights don’t trump public safety.
Bou-Bou’s Law, named for a 19-month-old boy badly injured when a SWAT officer tossed a flash grenade into his crib during a no-knock raid last year in Habersham County, would prohibit such investigations between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and place other limits on surprise raids.
The law would also instruct law enforcement agencies to develop written policies and training for executing no-knock warrants, ensure supervising officers are present, and require assurance that human lives or evidence are in imminent danger.
Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh spent five weeks in a medically induced coma after his chest and face were torn apart May 28 by the flash grenade, and his family faces nearly $1 million in medical bills that county officials argue they are not legally authorized to pay.
“We are saying there should be restrictions on them and we think the situation in the recent past where they have been abused warrants that,” said state Sen. Vincent Fort, a Democrat who proposed the bill.
But Carrie Mills, a representative for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said officers already face too many restrictions in their investigations.
“I don’t think any changes are needed because it is not easy now,” Mills said.
She said citizens must decide whether they want civil rights or safe communities.
“You have to draw the line between your right as a citizen to privacy and a community’s right to live in a crime-free environment,” Mills said. “You can’t have them both.”
Drug agent Nikki Autry secured the no-knock warrant to search for a family member who allegedly sold $50 of methamphetamine to a confidential informant and was arrested elsewhere after the raid without incident.
Autry resigned days later from the Mountain Judicial Circuit’s drug unit and the chief magistrate who signed the warrant, County Judge James Butterworth, announced his retirement.
The drug task force that gathered evidence leading to the raid was disbanded last fall.
A grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved in the raid.
Police said their investigation did not reveal the boy and his family were staying with relatives after their home was destroyed by fire.
The toddler’s nose was detached from his face, and the blast ripped a hole in his chest and caused serious burns.
He will likely require regular surgeries until he is 20 years old, a family attorney said.
Police initially told the boy’s parents the blast knocked out one of his teeth but did not otherwise injure him.
Watch this video report posted online by WTOC-TV: