Police raid on home more damaging to civil liberties than to drug trafficking

October 03, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

SEPT. 9, 9-9-99, was the day the computers were supposed to crash. The computers didn't. But something did crash that day: 15 to 20 police officers into a house in the 3500 block of Rosedale Road in Northwest Baltimore.

Gloria Brown, who lives in the house with her boyfriend, Daryl Easter; her sister, Barbara Simms; and Simms' son, Daryl Brown, had just completed her morning shower. If the morning had proceeded as usual, Brown would have soon been dressed and on her way to work at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

But this wasn't to be a usual morning. No sooner had Brown, 44, stepped from the shower than she heard her doorbell ring shortly after 6 a.m. She slipped on what she would later describe as a "flimsy nightshirt" and asked Easter to accompany her because the doorbell never rang that early in the morning.

Brown opened the main door but, as a precaution, left the storm door locked. Outside was a Baltimore police officer, who told Brown and Easter that there was a problem with one of the cars outside. Brown unlocked the storm door. She and Easter stepped outside to see what the problem was. As Easter asked the officer which car he was talking about, another officer grabbed his arm and slapped on a handcuff. They slammed him against a wall and shoved him and Brown back into the house.

All the officers poured into the house, along with a drug dog -- a mixed breed, but mostly German shepherd, Brown remembers. Simms, 47, was in her bedroom, still asleep, her nightshirt rolled above her waist. She awoke when an officer shined a flashlight and pointed a gun in her face. He forced her to turn over and handcuffed her. Another male officer was present.

"I had my privacy invaded, in handcuffs, my body exposed to two strange men," Simms said Thursday night as she, her sister and Easter, 37, sat in the dining room. "It was sheer terror. I still have nightmares over it now."

Police handcuffed Daryl Brown, 29, and led him from his basement bedroom upstairs to the living room. There, the four sat for nearly two hours while police searched their home. Easter and Daryl Brown -- police apparently considering all black men congenitally dangerous until proved otherwise -- were kept in handcuffs the entire time. Charlie, a tiny, unoffending terrier, was forced into an unventilated closet.

Simms and Brown pleaded with the police to tell them what was going on. The cops insisted that Daryl Brown knew why they were there.

Now there's a new twist to the war on drugs: Cops invade your home, then you have to tell them why they've humiliated, degraded and terrorized you. Police later told the media more than they told Brown and Simms. In addition to the Rosedale Road home, police -- a joint task force of Maryland state troopers, the Carroll County sheriff's office and the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force -- raided dwellings in Owings Mills and Westminster, seizing marijuana, cocaine and drug paraphernalia. A Sun article that appeared two days later, written by Mike Farabaugh, contained this paragraph: "Thursday's [Sept. 9] first raid occurred at 6 a.m. in the 3500 block of Rosedale Road near Mondawmin, where officers seized documents police believe link members of the drug network."

What, exactly, were these documents? Police detailed the incriminating items on an evidence inventory form: one black notebook with telephone numbers and an MVA citation with directions to Westminster.

Brown and Simms said these shocking indications of links to drug dealers are easily explained. Daryl Brown received the citation when he attended a party in Westminster and parked in a spot for the handicapped. He wrote down the directions so he could return and pay the fine.

And the notebook? It contained the telephone numbers of Daryl Brown's grandmother and great-grandmother, along with those of a couple of his friends. No drugs were found, nor any paraphernalia or drug money. The one weapon found -- Daryl Brown's .45-caliber handgun -- is legally registered.

Maryland State Police, who led the raid, did not return calls requesting comments or explanations last week.

Roger Powell, an attorney for the family, went before a Carroll County district judge on Sept. 24 to request that the warrant application and affidavit -- which would give the probable cause police used to enter and search the home -- be unsealed. The judge hasn't ruled on the motion. Trooper Michael Smith requested that the application and affidavit be sealed for 30 days because the investigation was "ongoing." Powell was appalled that police would hide behind secrecy.

"That's frightening, isn't it?" he asked. "Secrecy. Citizens are entitled to know why police are in their houses. [The Rosedale Road raid] was one of the most horrible experiences anyone can undergo based on police power. What the police are guilty of in abusing their powers is frightening."

And this abuse of power is done in the name of a "war on drugs." Why don't our leaders 'fess up and tell us the "war on drugs" is a war on our civil liberties and our privacy?

Pub Date: 10/03/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.