Commentary by James H. Shott
If you thought the biggest offense of the Department of Education has committed was messing up public education, you may be dismayed to learn that it has done much worse than that.
According to KXTV News 10 in Stockton, CA, at 6:00 one morning, hearing noise outside his home, “I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers,” Kenneth Wright said.
Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts as a S.W.A.T team barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.
“He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there,” Wright said. According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11 and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.
“They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids,” Wright said.
And what monstrous, heinous, unspeakable atrocity did Kenneth Wright commit to warrant a S.W.A.T. team breaking down his door at 6 a.m.?
None. He does not have a criminal record and was not even who the S.W.A.T team was looking for that morning. They were looking for his wife, Michelle – his estranged wife.
And what monstrous, heinous, unspeakable atrocity did Mrs. Wright commit to warrant this gross intrusion of an innocent man’s home?
According to the TV station, DOE spokesman Justin Hamilton confirmed that the department did issue the search warrant at Mr. Wright’s home as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, but would not say what crime his estranged wife was suspected of committing. Such searches are utilized for offenses like student aid fraud, embezzlement of federal aid and bribery, the spokesman said.
So, on the mere suspicion that Mrs. Wright may have committed a non-violent crime like bribery, embezzlement or fraud in the student loan program, the DOE’s militarized police force attacked the wrong residence, physically assaulted an innocent man and terrorized him and his three children. Remember that in America we are innocent until proven guilty, and none of those crimes posed any danger, and did not justify a S.W.A.T. team intervention.
This incident invites a few questions:
• Did you know that the DOE utilizes a S.W.A.T. team?
• Did you know that the DOE can issue warrants authorizing deadly force for non-violent crimes without a judge’s authorization, or issue warrants for any reason without a judge’s authorization?
• Do you think this is proper for a non-police agency, or any federal agency?
• What is there within the realm of education policy that could ever justify using armed force?
S.W.A.T. stands for Special Weapons and Tactics, and a S.W.A.T. team is a special group of police trained to deal with unusually dangerous or violent situations, and having special weapons, such as rifles more powerful than those carried by regular police officers. They are employed, for example, in situations when hostages are being held, or heavily armed persons need to be captured.
The DOE spokesman said that the people who broke into Mr. Wright’s home were federal agents with the DOE’s Office of the Inspector General, not local S.W.A.T., a distinction that most likely means very little to Mr. Wright and his frightened children.
Another pertinent question goes to the judgment behind the decision to unleash a S.W.A.T. team on this innocent family. Even if Mrs. Wright is guilty of one of the crimes mentioned, was there no other way to gain entry and to search for evidence, like knocking on the door and asking to speak to Mrs. Wright, and showing the search warrant? And perhaps first, make sure Mrs. Wright still lived in the place and was likely at home?
This attack was grossly improper as it was, but could have been much, much worse. What if Mr. Wright had heard someone break down his door and tried to protect his children and his property with a weapon, as is his right? He or some of the police could have been injured or killed.
Realizing that S.W.A.T. teams are special units used in “unusually dangerous or violent situations,” and knowing that Mrs. Wright is not suspected of holding hostages or threatening to blow up a building, just who thought this situation warranted such an extreme measure?
This action by the Department of Education is intolerable. The person responsible for authorizing it should be immediately fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
The idea that the DOE thinks it needs and uses a S.W.A.T. team is a clear signal that something is terribly wrong in that agency, and perhaps in the federal government generally. Do the FDA, Interior, Commerce, the EPA and other federal bureaucracies also have armed S.W.A.T. teams ready to be unleashed against citizens? Do these other agencies also trample citizens’ rights to privacy and security in their homes?
Americans are increasingly becoming the servants and the government the master, which is exactly backward. The people in Washington need a strong message that things have gotten turned upside-down, and are going to have to change.
Cross-posted from Observations