Police agencies increasingly make use of raiding tactics when they suspect the presence of drugs or guns.  My thoughts on this police tactic, and its consequences, are below:

First, one of the many examples of the tactics I’m referring to:

BERWYN HEIGHTS, Md. (AP) — Mayor Cheye Calvo got home from work, saw a package addressed to his wife on the front porch and brought it inside, putting it on a table.
Suddenly, police with guns drawn kicked in the door and stormed in, shooting to death the couple’s two dogs and seizing the unopened package.
In it were 32 pounds of marijuana. But the drugs evidently didn’t belong to the couple.
Police say the couple appeared to be innocent victims of a scheme by two men to smuggle millions of dollars worth of marijuana by having it delivered to about a half-dozen unsuspecting recipients.
The two men under arrest include a FedEx deliveryman; investigators said the deliveryman would drop off a package outside a home, and the other man would come by a short time later and pick it up.

It would appear to me that such raids are contrary to the public good, and needlessly endanger citizens and the police. When the door to a person’s home is kicked in, the residents are reasonably in fear of a home invasion by criminals.  Even if the police announce their presence by yelling “POLICE!”, there is no assurance that is is not just criminals attempting to prevent the residents from calling 911 or running to grab a gun.  The police officers are also reasonably afraid for their lives, and as a result may be too quick to shoot first and ask questions later.  The result can be tragic and preventable killings of citizens, their pets, or police officers, not to mention the damage to property.

Balancing the above harm against the benefits to society also seems to indicate that such raids are generally not worth the cost.  Seizing drugs in this particular manner does not seem to be worth the killing of a family’s pets, and the endangering of a dozen lives.  Nor does it seem to be worth the emotional harm these people have suffered, and will remember for the rest of their lives. Furthermore “collateral damage” such as this reduces a community’s confidence in its police, which is a major problem in and of itself.

Instead of kicking down the door, the police can use normal knock-and-announce tactics.  By knocking and allowing the home owner to verify their identity, the police could have avoided the killing of the home owners dogs, and the other trauma these innocent people suffered.  It is true that knocking and announcing their presence will allow some criminals time to flush drugs down the toilet; but I would rather have some criminals flush some drugs, then to have innocent citizens’ lives endangered or pets killed.  It is also true that knocking and announcing will result in some criminals having time to get their guns and shoot at police; however it is better that the police (who are wearing body armor and paid to do so) take that risk than innocent citizens be shot by overly nervous police officers during a raid of their home.  Don’t think that I am suggesting that the police should not be able to protect their own lives.  Instead, I am saying that if a risk to life must be borne by either a police officer who is paid, trained, and equiped to take that risk, or by a citizen in their own home, it is wrong for that risk to be shifted to the citizen.