John Oliver explored the overzealous and overused tactic of police raids on Last Week Tonight Sunday, February 28th.
In the segment — which began with a very worthwhile, if unrelated, digression into the short-lived TV musical Cop Rock — Oliver traced the rise of police raids back to the War on Drugs and highlighted reports that showed how they are still predominately carried out in black and Latino neighborhoods. Oliver also tied police raids to militarization, with police taking part in over-the-top training exercises that prioritize, say, taking down a cult leader over general conflict deescalation. And even supposedly “non-lethal” tools like flash bangs can be harmful, especially when a cop manages to throw one into a crib, which happened in a 2014 incident.
“Look, I’m no policeman, I haven’t studied all the bylaws, I don’t have a PhD in ‘grenade-ology,’” Oliver deadpanned. “But purely as a layperson, the police should not have thrown that fucking grenade into a fucking crib. And if the police are truly incapable of knowing whether they’re throwing a grenade into a crib, maybe they shouldn’t have fucking grenades!”
Additionally, police raids are often plagued by logistical mistakes, with Oliver highlighting multiple instances when cops ended up hitting the wrong house. In those instances, there’s rarely any accountability for police either: Investigations of botched raids are rare, police are often protected by qualified immunity, and departments usually don’t even have to pay for losses or damages when they raid the wrong house.
When it comes to reforming police raids, Oliver argued that sweeping changes are needed as opposed to smaller ones. Noting the various bans of “no-knock” warrants that went into effect last year following the police killing of Breonna Taylor in one such botched raid, Oliver pointed out there’s really no difference between “knock” and “no-knock” when a tactical team is barreling into a home.
“Drug raids just have to stop, and raids in general should only be used as a last resort to save lives that are in immediate danger,” Oliver said. He added: “Right now, raids are being used far too widely, and are destroying lives, both for the individuals who are killed, injured or traumatized, and all the black and brown people who have no choice but to internalize the lessons of that trauma. They deserve the respect and consideration of a police force that’s supposed to protect them, not one that merely sees their lives as an opportunity for action movie cosplay.”