The Columbia Police Department has changed in its policy for narcotics searches following a controversial raid. KBIA’s Rebecca Wolfson has more on Monday’s announcement.

The changes follow a February 11th arrest that involved a SWAT team raiding Jonathan Whitworth’s home. That arrest was captured on a police videotape at the scene and has gone viral on YouTube.

Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton says under the department’s new protocol, police will keep target locations under surveillance before sending in SWAT teams. Also, police will do their best to conduct searches within eight hours of receiving a warrant. Drug search warrants must now be approved by higher-ranking police captains rather than drug officers or SWAT commanders. Police will also take the presence of children into consideration.

The video shows police forcing Whitworth to the ground, as his wife and seven year-old son stand by. Two dogs are shot, one is killed. Burton says police expected to find large amounts of marijuana in Whitworth’s home, and instead found a misdemeanor amount of the drug. Police are still investigating Whitworth.

Marijuana legalization advocates have spoken out in opposition to the raid, but Burton encourages them to contact legislators instead.

“We were looking for a felony amount because the possession of marijuana is still a felony offense if it’s over a certain amount. And we can’t change that. I would encourage the people that are angry because of that to contact their legislators in Jeff City, contact people in Washington and get that law changed. As police officers we don’t really have a choice in that matter.”

Dan Viets, a Columbia attorney and president of the mid-Missouri ACLU, says the case warrants a reevaluation of SWAT Team policy.

“The point is that using a SWAT team to serve a search team for marijuana is like using a cannon to hunt squirrels, it is an outrageous abuse of power.”

Burton says police are receiving complaints and even some death threats because of the video.

Source: Rebecca Wolfson for KBIA.

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