Ah, the search warrant.
Many rookie officers can’t wait to go on their first door-kicking, battering-ram-bashing, and flash-bang-tossing raid. Beats writing traffic tickets, right? After all, what good is that training and equipment if you can’t use it?
Sure, the excitement is there. The adrenaline rush is over the top. And the danger level … WHOOSH! It’s through the roof.
But there’s another side to executing a search warrant, an unpleasant side that most people don’t see. Yes, once the door is breached officers often encounter a host of unpleasantness, such as:
- While pawing through the kitchen drawers you (the officer) notice an abundance of tiny black pellets. There are more on the counter tops, and on the stove top, especially near a large container of rendered, congealed bacon grease. A closer look reveals hundreds of teeny-tiny footprints in the thin layer of slimy grease that’s coating the top of the range. The top of the dried bacon fat, too, along with obvious chew-marks and tooth prints in the grease and around the edges of the cardboard container. A frying pan with
remnants of the morning’s scrambled eggs sits on a rear burner. No, that’s not freshly-ground pepper dotting the top of the eggs. Listen closely and you can hear faint squeals coming from inside the metal walls of the grunge-crusted range. You don’t want to, but you do it anyway. You lean down. Yes, there are baby mice living inside the stove, and they’re crying for their mother.
And this is only the first room …
2. A favorite place to hide drugs is in or behind a toilet’s water storage tank. But there’s no bathroom in this house. Odd. So how do they … There’s no time, though, to contemplate the calls of nature.
So you continue the search by moving to the bedroom, if that’s what you want to call it. Four walls, a tattered mattress (no bed frame), and lots and lots of filth and dirty clothes on the floor. Chicken bones, overflowing ashtrays, empty beer cans and liquor bottles, fast food wrappers, crumpled cigarette packs, yellow-gray sheets that were probably white a few years ago, a clock radio with its guts hanging out of the broken plastic casing, dirty clothes and ROACHES, EVERYWHERE. ROACHES!! Thousands of them. All sizes, too. Skinny ones. Fat ones. Fast ones. Slow ones. On the floor, the bed, the walls, a wooden chair in the corner, the ceiling, in the closet, under your feet, and on YOUR PANTS LEGS! You shine the beam of your flashlight into a closet and suddenly it sounds like rainfall as those prehistoric insects fall to the floor from the ceiling and beneath a shelf. And they hit the ground running. Yuck times a million!
But the search must go on …
3. What’s in the white five-gallon bucket in the corner, you wonder? There’s a dishtowel draped over it, as if they’re hiding something there. Drugs? Stolen goods, maybe? So you pull back the cloth and WHAM! You now know the location of the bathroom, and it hasn’t been emptied for days.
4. In a darkened corner of the room a malnourished skin-and-bones mixed-breed dog sits on its scrawny haunches. Most of the fur is missing from its back and around the head. Its lips are pulled back to expose a mouthful of plaque-coated teeth that are presently aimed in your direction. A low rumble comes from the animal’s throat. There’s no time to call for animal control so you pull out the pepperspray. Never mind that it rarely works on dogs, but you feel better with the can in your hand. You back out and close the door. You’ll worry about the bony canine when you’re done with the rest of the house.
5. The next bedroom is better, sort of. Five little kids there, playing with two or three broken plastic toys—a dump truck and, ironically, a battered three-wheeled police car. The oldest child, a cute little round-faced boy of about four, or so. The tiniest spattering of freckles peppered his smooth but grimy cheeks and nose.
“Where’s your mommy?”
Five sets of shoulders inch upward.
No shoes. Dirty pants. No shirts. Faces crusted with food and sleep and the dirt from the yard. Lint in their hair.
A rat, the size of a small squirrel walks nonchalantly across the floor near the baseboard. It disappears into a large jagged hole in the sheetrock.
Roaches crawl across the boys’ feet and legs. They scurry across a mattress like soldiers storming a beach.
A microwave on the nightstand. Another overflowing ashtray. Drinking glass half full of room-temperature tea. Aluminum foil. Plastic wrap. A glass cookie sheet covered in wax paper. A plastic bag. White powder. Baking soda. Crack cocaine.
Kind of takes the edge off the adrenaline rush, huh?
And that, my friends, is what cops often see “behind the door.” Not always, but often enough.