Limehouse police knocking at my door, twelve black boots on my bedroom floor… (Part one of two)

The enforcer rips the door from its hinges at the first attempt. “Police! Police! Stay where you are!” yell the officers who pile into the address immediately afterwards, flooding each room and securing exit points. A handful of rather shocked occupants are led through into the living room, their hands secured to the front with cuffs. They are sat down and after a brief pregnant pause an officer comes in holding a large quantity of cash, scales and a sizable bag of white powder to boot. Another successful drugs raid then.

What goes into a police drugs raid then? In this, the first of a two part special on the subject, I look at what’s involved in getting us to the front door of a suspected drug dealer.

Knock, knock...

A drugs warrant, as with any other form of warrant, starts off with good intelligence. Neighbourhood officers have a good idea of who’s likely to be causing problems on their beat and are supported by members of the public who’d rather not have a drug dealer lurking around at the corner of their street. Information flows in from a variety of sources including Crimestoppers and gives us a fantastic idea of who might require a visit from the battering ram.

Having collected, collated and analysed information on a suspect, we then sit down and start work on a plan for the operation. This takes into account what resources there are available, what issues we might be likely to encounter at an address and if there are any risks to our safety that we might need to prepare for. Are there, for example, dogs at the premises that we might need help with? Are there children present? What do our suspect’s criminal records tell us about how they might react?

Once it has been put together, we’ll then get our plan risk assessed by a trained member of staff who will decide whether we are going to be able to execute the warrant without putting anybody’s welfare at undue risk. Warrants can be dangerous operations by their very nature but by evaluating them beforehand we try and do the best we can to ensure that every officer entering an address has roughly the same proportion of limbs when they emerge again.

With the risk assessor’s stamp of approval, we’re then in a position to approach a magistrate to ask him or her to endorse our warrant thereby giving us the legal power to enter an address. To do this we have to visit the court, swear an oath, and are then asked questions about how we plan to carry out the operation. If the magistrate is happy with the grounds for executing the warrant he or she will sign it. We then have a period of one month to go and put the door in.

It’s at this point that we have to decide when it is best to go and execute our warrant. This will depend on our resources, when it is most likely that our targets will be in and when we are likely to have the best chance of catching them with controlled substances.

Once a date and time has been picked, we’ll then gather together our kit and sit for a briefing during which the plan for the warrant is laid out in detail. Every officer’s role in the operation will be clearly explained so that as they head out to the address everyone is clear who is searching where, who they’re expecting to find at the address and what they’re looking for.

Forcing entry to a premises is often preferred to simply knocking as it presents less opportunity for those inside to quickly destroy evidence. The shock of hearing the front door tumbling into the hallway in splinters is usually enough to stun even the quickest thinking criminal.

Briefing complete a small convoy of police vehicles emerges from the station car park and snakes its way to the target address. With people positioned to the rear, method of entry trained officers run up to the front door and draw back the ram ready to strike.

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