There was another Swat murder last month in Tulsa. Russell Doza, 49, was the victim of the new American style of policing: Which is not so much malicious as it is a crude mix of self dramatization and brazen incompetence.
Doza is survived by a memo from the Oklahoma City office of the FBI that alleges that the Rogues Motorcycle Club intends “to retaliate for the shooting of one of the club members by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.” He left behind hardly anything to show for his life except a motorcycle and a couple hundred mourning friends. And, of course a pool of blood on a floor.
Right now the Tulsa Police Department is investigating that puddle of blood out of existence. The leaked FBI memo is part of that clean up. The conclusion of the investigation will probably be that Russell Doza got what he deserved.
So far the cops are right about at least one thing. Somebody should retaliate. The Department of Justice should retaliate. The ACLU should retaliate. Anybody who gives a damn about truth, justice or the American way should retaliate. Anybody who can still manage to say, “truth, justice and the American way” without smirking should retaliate.
The retaliation should be that the three Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) Deputies who pulled their triggers and the Tulsa County Sheriff, Stanley Glanz, and Brad Henry, the Governor of Oklahoma, should all have their front doors kicked in and be arrested some dawn. The arrests should be as punitive, humiliating, brutal and unexpected as possible.
Then after the governor flips – and he will flip – a RICO indictment should be contrived so that another fifty-five or sixty cops can have their doors kicked in. Their wives and their children should be terrified to the maximum extent possible. Their personal assets should be seized. They should all be thrown into cages and made to beg their elderly parents for bail. The bails should be set at just slightly more than the parents can afford. All of these defendants should be assigned complacent public defenders and after rotting away in jail for four or six or eight or ten months they should all be offered plea deals. The ones who insist on protesting their innocence should get the stiffest sentences.
The retaliation should be like that. Then, maybe Russell Doza will rest in his grave.
Russell Doza was a biker archetype. He grew up in Girard, in southeastern Kansas. His childhood was comparatively disadvantaged. He became estranged from his family and according to news accounts in Kansas he “moved around between several northeastern Oklahoma towns.” About twenty-five years ago he began moving around with other bikers. He met his long-time friend Ramona Gregory then, too.
“He was a gypsy kind of guy,” Gregory told the Tulsa World. “He didn’t have a place to call his own. He had his (Rogue Motorcycle Club) brothers. The club was his family.”
Doza was light on the world. He did not leave behind many tracks. He was featured in a story in a local paper in 2001 about the Rogues bringing Christmas gifts and Christmas dinner to a severely injured Tulsa boy and his family. “Something we couldn’t pass up,” Doza told the paper. “The opportunity to help one needy child. That’s what we’re all about, anyway.”
He was convicted of selling drugs while in possession of a firearm and he spent a year in prison before his conviction was overturned. And, he was disabled. He made his way with the help of his friends but he was slightly disabled.
High Risk Dynamic Entry
Doza died in the course of a “high risk,” “dynamic entry” service of a search warrant for methamphetamine and marijuana. The choice to serve this warrant in this way was self-evidently specious.
Service of the warrant was “high risk” because it was executed on the Rogues’ clubhouse. The Rogues, themselves, were considered dangerous because years of “intelligence” and official reports published by both state and federal report writers had alleged that they were dangerous. It is common in the prosecution and harassment of motorcycle clubs for experienced investigators to conflate accusation, generalization, suspicion and probable cause. And, sometimes cops just manufacture the unverifiable observations that result in “reasonable articulable suspicion” and the entrapments that lead to probable cause.
Sometimes the game between cop and cop victim is entirely semantic. Cops know what judges want to hear. Defendants do not. Usually what judges want to hear are specific words and phrases that turn accusations into magic spells.
Singing A Spell
The affidavit that supported the search warrant on the Rogues club house was a magic spell that was intended to make this service “high risk.” The supporting affidavit and the internal, officially secret, paper trail within the TCSO describes the club house as fortified; predicts firearms on the premises; predicts the presence of military weapons and ordinance on the premises; describes what is officially “sophisticated counter-surveillance,” which is to say that there were security cameras; and suggests that the club house might be booby-trapped.
All of this ass-covering mumbo-jumbo was further supported by pretentiously documented surveillance including photographs and insider information from a “confidential informant.” The warrant service was executed at “about seven-oh-six” in the morning, as a shaken police spokesman described it.
Technically this was a “knock and enter” warrant. Executing the warrant when everyone was asleep guaranteed that none of those inside the structure would have time to respond. And, that lack of response was half of the indispensible magic that allowed this Swat team to make a “dynamic entry.” Dynamic entry is the police euphemism for what they do when they break in through your doors and windows, toss “flash-bang,” smoke and gas grenades around like waffle balls and routinely kill your pets.
The magic words that allow for dynamic entry in the execution of a search warrant for drugs are “preservation of evidence.” The legal theory is that unless police enter immediately Sweet Sweetback and his militant “soul brothers” are likely to flush their “stash of pot” down the toilet. The public relations reason, which is all you are likely to read or see on television, is that local police officers must use military “shock and awe” against American citizens so that the police can be protected from the people.
The People’s Court
Police everywhere have embraced new media so it is not surprising to discover a Facebook page titled “I Support The TCSO Deputies.” After Doza’s murder, comments on the page enthusiastically endorsed his execution. “Warrant Service Ends With One (Bad Guy) Dead,” a headline announced. “My prayers are with the deputies who put their life on the line, and I am glad they made it home to their families. My prayers are with you,” one fan of the page wrote.
“Good job guys!! Glad the good guys didn’t get hurt,” a pretty woman added.
Another woman agreed, “Great job guys. Stay safe out there!”
There are 833 fans of the TCSO and it seems not to have occurred to any of them that Russell Doza’s life was at least as valuable as the lives of the men who killed him. Most of them would probably be shocked by the notion that rootless, drifting, self-sufficient, anti-authoritarian, anti-materialistic, generous, honorable Russell Doza might be more important to the salvation of America’s soul that any number of Tulsa County Sheriffs. “Great job,” another fan wrote about Doza’s death. “God bless TCSO.”
Ironically, many police cars in many parts of America still wear a slogan on their sides which reads, “To Protect and Serve.” And many very young and very old Americans still think the slogan refers to the duty of police to protect and serve the public rather than the other way around. And, that is only one of many ideas about the mission and responsibility of Swat that has been turned on its head since a cop named Pat McKinley invented the Los Angeles Police Department Special Weapons And Tactics (S.W.A.T.) Team forty-five years ago.
The original concept of Swat, during the quasi-revolutionary 1960s, was to provide Los Angeles with a viable response to snipers – like the handful of murderous psychopaths who popped up during that decade. Swat was also trained to rescue hostages and provide an efficient response to situations like the Symbionese Liberation Army shootout. The Swat concept “evolved,” McGinley later wrote, to become a way “to reduce risk to the police forces involved, to the suspects and to the community at large.”
McKinley went on to become Chief of the Fullerton, California Police Department. In 2002, he was one of the authors of an evaluation of Swat deployments in California named after the State Attorney General at the time, a man named Bill Lockyer.
The Lockyer Report: “Was precipitated by a tragic death of a young male during a Swat operation. This death, though accidental, compelled law enforcement to engage in critical self-analysis with respect to the utilization of Swat teams. The Commission was deeply moved when this victim’s family appeared at the Commission’s public hearing. The Commission pledged to the family, to the Attorney General, and to the people of California that something constructive and lasting would come from their tragedy.”
“Law enforcement operations are not military operations,” the report states bluntly. “There is not an acceptable level of casualties, particularly of innocent bystanders.” The point of Swat, its inventor believed, was to keep dangerous suspects from escaping while “trained hostage negotiators” used “verbal tactics.” When a Swat team behaves professionally, the report argued, “Seldom are physical tactics necessary, and even then the actual firing of shots rarely occurs.”
New Improved Swat Heavy Duty
In the eight years since the Lockyer Report was published in California, other states have remained blind to the excesses of Swat.
There is no national consensus on what a Swat team even is let alone how and when one should be properly used. There is not even a consensus in Tulsa County which has both a city Swat team and a county Swat team. Nationally, Swat operational plans are often a ludicrous parody of the kind of cop speak Mike Judge satirized in Idiocracy. Their deployment is casual. And, their tactics and weapons are military tactics and weapons that are appropriate if the idea is to find, engage and kill an enemy but absolutely wrong if the idea is to minimize conflict and keep the peace.
In practice, Swat is how police departments bully and terrorize the American underclass, dissenters and other enemies of the police. Swat team members shamelessly describe themselves as “elite warriors” and seem to want to emulate Delta Force Operators. Delta is the often glamorized, Special Forces Detachment that carries out covert and clandestine operations on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Special Operations Command.
Swat operations also provide inherently dramatic footage, for content hungry television news broadcasts. Swat stories are easy stories. And, reporters who create these “news accounts” must either gulp and swallow real good or lose access to the only sources who will talk to them. The result has been a virtually unexamined escalation of Swat atrocities.
In November 2006, a 25-year-old Marine veteran and member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club named Derek Hale was executed by a Swat team in Wilmington, Delaware during the service of a search warrant for indicia of his membership in a motorcycle club. Last October, another Pagan named James Hicks was executed by members of a Swat team serving another indicia warrant in Virginia.
In July 2008, the home a man named Cheye Calvo (see video below) in Berwyn Heights, Maryland was stormed by a Swat team because Calvo had thoughtlessly carried a package containing marijuana into his home. The package was handed to him by a policeman in disguise. But it was a drug bust so, of course, dynamic entry was allowed. It was a typically nasty raid.
But, Calvo happened to be the Mayor of Berwyn Heights. He was stubborn enough and politically connected enough to shame the State of Maryland into what is called “the Open Swat Law.” All Maryland police departments must now disclose statistical information about their Swat raids. That disclosure has been reluctant but apparently complete and on February 24th, the Baltimore Sun published a summary of information about Swat deployments collected during the final half of 2009. It is the first such disclosure in the country.
In six months, or 183 days, Maryland deployed Swat teams 804 times. “Police forced their way into 545 houses,” the Sun reported, “seized property in 633 of the raids, made arrests 485 times and discharged their weapons five times. In the six months studied, seven civilians were hurt but none killed, and two animals were injured and two killed.”
“Of the 806 raids conducted in the six-month period, more than 94 percent stemmed from search or arrest warrants.” Only six percent responded to bank robberies, hostage takings, barricades and the other kinds of emergencies Pat McKinley had anticipated when he imagined Swat.
Murdering Russell Doza
The way Russell Doza was disabled was that he was deaf. He almost died in an explosion. He survived but most of his hearing did not. He wore two hearing aids. He took them out when he slept.
So he slept through the dynamic entry. And when he died the only witnesses were police. Publically released accounts of the murder are remarkably consistent. None of the police participants have ever heard of the movie Roshoman. They have their stories straight.
Three Swat team members, Deputy Lance Ramsey, Corporal Tom Helm and Sergeant Shane Rhames found Doza asleep on the floor. They are all experienced cops. Last year a local civic organization, the Sertoma Club – which “exists for the high and noble purpose of service to mankind’’ – named Ramsey “Deputy of the year.”
The shaken police spokesman, Shannon Clark, said that as Doza woke up he reached for a gun on a nearby bookshelf. A slightly embellished account describes how Doza actually picked up the hand gun and pointed it at officers. Police have not yet speculated on why Doza decided to commit suicide then, there and like that. Most people do not have that reaction to even the worst dreams. When most people outside a combat zone awake they usually expect to live at least through breakfast.
Doza’s old friend Ramona Gregory told the World that she thinks he was acting in self-defense. “Coming out of a dumb sleep, you’re going to reach for something to protect yourself,” Gregory speculated. “Automatically, if he has a gun to protect him, he’s going to reach for it.”
But, what happened might have been even simpler than that. It is plausible that as he was startled awake, Doza forgot about the gun on the shelf. As the deaf man opened his eyes he saw three fantastic figures dressed up like children on Halloween. They were shouting commands at him that he could not hear. So without thinking, without being given time to think, he reached for his hearing aids. So he would know what these officers were commanding him to do. So he could comply with those commands. And, then the police killed him.
The subsequent search found no drugs.