City Council to review proposed SWAT ordinance

Friday, October 1, 2010 | 5:11 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA—The City Council will discuss a proposed ordinance to adopt a new SWAT policy at its meeting on Monday.

According to a report made to the City Council, the proposed ordinance would make Chief Kenneth Burton’s policy on SWAT team search warrants permanent.

The proposed ordinance focuses on who controls SWAT raids and how to conduct the operations.

In addition to being discussed by the City Council, the report recommends that the proposed ordinance be reviewed by the Citizens Police Review Board.

Ellen LoCurto-Martinez, a member of the Citizens Police Review Board, said she approves of the proposed ordinance.

“It’s definitely going to be a good idea,” Martinez said. “There was much discussion at the board level about what should and should not happen.”

Martinez also said a black and white ordinance would be best because the proposed laws would stay intact.

“This shows that the (police) chief was serious,” Martinez said. “He was determined to make the changes.”

The proposed ordinance limits who on the SWAT team can serve search warrants and includes guidelines on how to enter a residence and who can make the decision to use the SWAT team.

"Dynamic entry into a residence is a very intrusive way to serve a search warrant and less intrusive methods should be considered first," the proposed ordinance said.

"The decision to use the SWAT team to serve a search warrant shall be made only by the police chief, deputy police chief or a bureau commander (captain)."

The report also states that the proposed ordinance would improve the relationship between citizens and the police department.

These changes to SWAT protocol stem from a controversial SWAT raid last February.

During the raid, the SWAT team killed a pit bull dog while raiding Jonathan Whitworth's home. His wife and child were in the house during the raid.

The family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbia, according to a previous Missourian report.

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