The contrast between the quiet serenity of the early morning and what I was about to witness couldn’t be more stark.
It took about five minutes for our convoy of five or six police vehicles to silently weave their way across Rugby with their dazzling blue lights flashing through the twilight as they did so. Despite the warm optimism of the press officer and police officer accompanying us, I felt uncomfortable. I’m not used to violence and I don’t like it. The adrenaline surging through me was adding more fuel to the already burning knot in my stomach.
We pulled over and scrambled out of the car. I went against my instinct as I joined the police as we closed in on a front door. Not a sound. Moments later about eight burly policemen emerged from an alleyway and dashed towards it before slamming it with a battering ram.
The noise thundered through the estate like gunshots and within seconds splinters flew and the door crashed open. The officers shouted as they rushed in with the same ferocity as a charging Rugby team.
This is the uncompromising message the police want to drive home to drug dealers – and the rest of society who they’re paid to protect. As I waited outside I imagined the confusion going on inside, and what it must be like to see so many strangers, all clad in black and shouting, suddenly storm into your bedroom so early. Even the most hardened criminal would feel humiliated, scared and vulnerable as their home, possessions and personal space were violated.
I felt more sorry for the officers involved, though. I watched as they charged into the unknown not knowing what awaited them – it could’ve been someone fast asleep, or it could’ve been a paranoid drug dealer hiding behind a shot gun.
Later, a suspect would be arrested and led out, handcuffed, with a jacket draped over their head and face. After that, a carrier-bag filled with cannabis was carried out. There was no indication this was the home of a big-time coke or heroin dealer. And maybe that was the point: if you’re suspected of selling drugs - even relatively soft ones - you’re fair game.
We moved onto the next house elsewhere in town. It was a more modern building that police feared held a more violent suspect. You could tell just by looking at it that the front door would be much more resilient. As well as the standard British police ‘Enforcer’ battering ram, officers also used a sledge hammer and other tools. A few thunderous thuds later the mashed-up door flew open and officers charged in. The house was empty – but cannabis and fertiliser was found growing inside.
Warwickshire Police are hoping today’s raids, which also took place in Leamington Spa and Nuneaton simultaneously, are the start of a campaign that will run for several months and lead to a significant disruption to the drug trade.
As with Operation Laser two years ago, it’s likely that these initial raids in Rugby will lead to more and more early-morning raids like the ones this morning. And having seen two take, place part of me can’t help but feel feel slightly sorry for the people whose lives get turned upside down in the few, confusing moments of a police raid. Somewhere in the warped plastic, shattered wood and unearthly boom of an Enforcer is the message that police want to give to drug dealers, and that message is, “We’re coming.”.