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Over 100 drug warrants served by Little Rock police since 2016 were illegal — and many used explosives in the raid: analysis

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One Washington Post writer examined all of the drug warrants served by the Little Rock Police Department over the past few years and discovered that more than 100 since 2016 were illegal.

According to opinion writer Radley Balko Roderick Talley was awakened at 6:30 a.m. to a giant boom and his door flying toward him. The LRPD had set an explosive on his door to serve a no-knock warrant claiming he had drugs. He was confused, and the door had landed on him when it was blown off of its hinges. It took him several seconds to understand what was happening.

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“Once I figured that out, I just did what I do when I’ve been pulled over,” he says. “I threw my hands up as far up over my head as I could. I didn’t want them to say I was reaching for something and shoot me. I didn’t want them to shoot my dog. I just wanted to survive.”

Balko moved to Little Rock in 2010 from Mississippi, and his apartment had been broken into three times. He’s had packages stolen from his doorstep, and when the complex warned it wasn’t just him, he installed security cameras both inside and out.

He explained that about a week before the raid he noticed some strange activity outside his door. A man approached the apartment that he didn’t know and knocked. Talley wasn’t home He walked away, and a few minutes later a police officer walked by. Talley told his father about the strange footage, and his father mentioned it to a friend that is a police officer.

“When he heard about both men, he told my dad, ‘It sounds like they’re about to kick down your son’s door,’ ” Talley said.

The police didn’t find much. They claimed the officers discovered a “green leafy substance” on his living room floor and in his car. Officers claimed they found enough marijuana to charge Talley with a misdemeanor. However, the so-called informant said he purchased cocaine from Talley. They said that they found three digital scales, but Talley said he only owned one and it was broken. Having a digital scale isn’t illegal unless they find it with drugs. For owning the broken scale, Talley was charged with possessing an “instrument of a crime.”

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They also claimed that they found plastic bags. Talley said he uses them to pack his lunch, but the police claim it’s about drugs. They finally claimed “paperwork” was found, which Talley said he has no idea what they mean.

When officers discovered Talley had security cameras, one ordered the video footage be played up so they could watch it. While Talley was handcuffed, the cops laughed at the video showing the raid and remarked about what they’d just put Talley through.

“That was worth coming to work for,” one officer said.

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Another cop told Talley, “Hey, we ain’t laughing at you, man.”

When they said they found enough pot to charge him with a crime, he asked if he could come to the station later.

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“I can’t let you do that,” one said. “We have to take you to county in cuffs.”

“I got the impression that since they had just done this big raid and scared all of my neighbors, they felt like they had to bring out someone in handcuffs to make it all worthwhile,” he told The Post.

“I’ve also reviewed more than 100 search warrants executed by the unit since 2016,” Balko wrote. “According to policing and Fourth Amendment experts, these interviews and warrants show that the LRPD narcotics cops and SWAT teams are routinely violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Little Rock residents. They’re also putting people at unnecessary risk. And there’s strong evidence that, in some cases, officers have made demonstrably false statements under oath.”

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SWAT veterans called the explosives dangerous and unnecessary, and only a small number of the raids have turned up significant drugs. Most don’t turn up anything or what they find is a small amount of pot or a few prescription drugs that may not be legal. Most aren’t charged with a crime, but they’re left with “shattered doors, broken windows, floors scorched by flash grenades, and plenty of trauma.”

Police say that they’ve gotten tips about narcotics trafficking at Talley’s place, but he’s saying they messed with the wrong man and he intends to fight back.

You can watch the raid videos below and read the rest of The Post story here.

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