Should Mistaken No-Knock Raids Be Subject To Strict Liability?

Glenn Reynolds advocates strict liability for police offers who kill someone in a “no-knock” raid. Strict liability is normally associated with inherently dangerous activities, such a blasting, activities which are classified as “ultradangerous” or “abnormally dangerous.”

Given the way in which paramilitary-style tactics are commonly being used by police departments, I’m not so sure that’s a bad idea. Engaging in those tactics is an abnormally dangerous activity, one which has already caused several incidents of harm or death. In many cases, they’re unnecessary and done without appropriate safeguards in place. For instance, the idea that it should be appropriate to execute a no-knock raid on a drug user out of the fear that they may flush their stash while the cops execute a standard raid is not sufficient reason to raid a home without announcing one’s presence.

You never a point a gun at someone you don’t intend to use deadly force upon — that’s one of the chief rules of firearms, and it’s applicable here. The police should never execute a no-knock raid on someone that they would assume would not end up requiring deadly force to stop. The same strict procedures used in deadly-force incidents should apply to no-knock raids. The potential for harm to the general public is simply too high to consider otherwise.

While many no-knock raids are justified, enough innocents are getting killed that new rules need to be put into place. Incidents such as the killing of a 92-year-old women by Atlanta police demand more liability on those who authorize such raids. The police exist to protect the public, and when overzealous actions end up hurting the public their immunity should end.

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