People who lived in police states used to fear the “knock on the door.”

In the American police state today, the cops sometimes don’t bother to knock — they just shoot the locks off the door.

Such was the case in Compton, Calif., last month. At 11 p.m. Aug. 9, a Special Weapons and Tactics Team, supposedly serving a search warrant in a broad-ranging narcotics investigation, performed a “high-risk entry” on a private home. There was no knock. The cops blew off the locks on the front and back doors simultaneously.

When they went in, their guns were still blazing.

A retired grandfather was shot twice in the back and killed. His widow was hustled out of the house in nothing but panties, a towel and plastic handcuffs. She and six other “suspects” were taken into custody and interrogated. But no charges were filed.

Investigators seized $10,000 in cash, a .22-caliber rifle and three handguns, but the drugs the cops were looking for were nowhere to be found. The family said the money was the life savings of Mario Paz, the 65-year-old killed in the storming of the house. He had taken the money out of a Mexican bank in anticipation of Y2K problems. Police claim they thought Paz was reaching for a gun. His widow, Maria Luisa, says that notion is crazy.

But here’s the most interesting twist on one more “dynamic entry” gone awry. The 20 cops who broke into the Paz home last month were not L.A.P.D. officers. They were not L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. They were members of the El Monte police force — operating way outside their jurisdiction.

Why? Because the “war on drugs” allows them to do so.

“We go all over,” explains El Monte Police Sgt. Steve Krigbaum, the head of the narcotics policing division. “If we can show it directly impacts narco activity here, we’ll go after it.”

And go after it they did. An investigation of the raid shows that after the police shot the locks off the doors, they fired a “diversionary device” into a back bedroom window and threw a flash grenade on the ground behind the house. The lawyer for the Pazes says the cops fired indiscriminately into doors while the family slept.

“It was like war,” said Luz Escamilla, who lives next door.

You know, it is like war — this situation in which we find ourselves in America today. There’s an us-against-them attitude from police agencies that I have never seen before. Worse yet, there’s no such thing as a local cop any more. It seems that local police have all been deputized as FBI agents in training, nationalized and militarized beyond necessity, beyond reason and beyond hope.

I’m worried about our country. Six years later, the truth about a nationally televised and highly publicized siege and massacre in Waco, Texas, is just beginning to filter out. How do the Paz families of the world expect to get justice and be treated fairly when there is no accountability at the highest levels of government and law enforcement for tragedies of the magnitude of Waco?

Think of how our civil liberties are being eroded: Possession of firearms, a constitutionally guaranteed right, is enough to make you a suspect and, perhaps, justify your untimely death at the hands of the police state; possession of cash, once considered a basic necessity, is treated with suspicion and your loot is subject to confiscation; and God forbid you should be a dissenter, a critic, someone who makes waves. The fact of the matter is no one is safe from the lawless American police state today.

You can be sleeping soundly in your bed one night. It’s not the knock on the door you have to fear. It’s the sound of your locks being shot off — along with your constitutional rights.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.