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Rise of the Warrior Cop: How America's Police Forces Became Militarized 835

FuzzNugget writes "An awakening piece in the Wall Street Journal paints a grim picture of how America's police departments went from community officers walking the beat to full-on, militarized SWAT operations breaking down the doors of non-violent offenders. From the article: 'In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred [raids] a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005, there were approximately 50,000 raids.' It goes on to detail examples of aggressive, SWAT-style raids on non-violent offenders and how many have ended in unnecessary deaths. Last year, after a Utah man's home was raided for having 16 small marijuana plants, nearly 300 bullets in total were fired (most of them by the police) in the ensuing gunfight, the homeowner believing he was a victim of a home invasion by criminals. The U.S. military veteran later hanged himself in his jail cell while the prosecution sought the death sentence for the murder of one officer he believed to be an criminal assailant. In 2006, a man in Virginia was shot and killed after an undercover detective overheard the man discussing bets on college football games with buddies in a bar. The 38-year-old optometrist had no criminal record and no history of violence. The reports range from incredulous to outrageous; from the raid on the Gibson guitar factory for violation of conservational law, to the infiltration of a bar where underage youth were believed to be drinking, to the Tibetan monks who were apprehended by police in full SWAT gear for overstaying their visas on a peace mission. Then there's the one about the woman who was subject to a raid for failing to pay her student loan bills. It's a small wonder why few respect police anymore. SWAT-style raids aren't just for defense against similarly-armed criminals anymore; it's now a standard ops intimidation tactic. How much bloodshed will it take for America to realize such a disproportionate response is unwarranted and disastrous?"
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Rise of the Warrior Cop: How America's Police Forces Became Militarized

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  • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:33AM (#44341397) Homepage
    Before things improve, they will get worse.
    • by UPZ ( 947916 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:42AM (#44341753)

      Before things improve, they will get worse.

      Probably and unfortunately. Public isn't interested in holding police accountable until the degree of brutality reaches to levels that everyone can see.

      • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:11AM (#44341925)

        ...until the degree of brutality reaches to levels that everyone can see.

        Which takes us back to the final sentence of TFS:

        How much bloodshed will it take for America to realize such a disproportionate response is unwarranted and disastrous?"

        Trouble is, what everybody can see and what can be done about it are two different things. If you have a State that is content to say FUCK YOU, then, well, you're fucked. It really doesn't make any difference whether or not you protest, the behaviour will remain the same. There are only two things you can do about such treatment, and one of those (most likely) will make you a criminal as far as the law is concerned. The other, of course, is to do nothing. Good luck with that.

        There is no point in placing asinine hope in democratic processes: we have been shown (time and again) that where these exist (!), they will be subverted by those who do not have your best interests at heart.

      • The Blue Wall (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:46AM (#44342549)

        When my 11 year old son was handcuffed in middle school for being autistic while following the IEP, the school was held accountable and we were made whole with respect to their actions. Our lawyer, however, told us not to pursue the officer. She was concerned that our son would be charged with assault and resisting arrest if we went to the prosecutor. She also told us about the "Blue Wall" that protects officers involved in even the most egregious misconduct.

        Our son was covered in bruises, especially around the neck. The security camera footage from two angles clearly demonstrated the brutality of the officer applying positional asphyxiation and twisting his arm around far enough to see his opposite wrist visible from the other side of his back.

        I arrived after 45 minutes and the cuffs were immediately removed. We left the school 15 minutes later after my son calmed down enough to travel.

        The same officer had also arrested another student at school for running away from home the following day. The department refused all FOIA requests, and stonewalled at every turn. So we gave up and withdrew our son from their school for his safety. This same child is now an honor student at another district and has completed advanced placement classes several grades ahead of schedule.

        • Re:The Blue Wall (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pakar ( 813627 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:59PM (#44345429)

          Makes me sick of a justice system where a 11'yr child could be charged with a crime for something like this.... Does not matter if he was autistic or not, but autistic kids might even flip out a bit more if someone grabs them (not sure if that's the same for everyone?)....

          Any police should be able to handle a 11'yr old kid verbally, and worst case taking a hold of his arms and then getting a kick or two from a kid is not really that bad.. If someone work as a police-officer they should at least be able to handle a few bruises when handling kids..

          Kids are kids.. They flip out from time to time and it's normal..... The strange thing seems to be that the police that are sent to schools don't get any proper training on how to handle kids..... And working in a place where you have autistic (and other things too?) should require quite a bit more of education...

      • by Spamalope ( 91802 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:15PM (#44343757)
        If they want to use military tactics, they should fall under the military code of justice and be stripped of the BS qualified immunity.

        If you want to militarize, you must accept the code of honor that goes with it.

    • by Aguazul2 ( 2591049 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:10AM (#44341909)

      I think the "shock and awe" SWAT tactics just reveal an underlying fear in the police that they could deal with the situation any other way. I guess this is what you get if you have a society where everyone may have a gun and be willing to use it on unwanted visitors, so the default setting of society is excessive violence. Reminds me of that South Park animation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDCh4-pKrrE [youtube.com] -- America was built on scared people (running away from Europe on the Mayflower -- don't blame me, South Park folks said it), and has continued in that great scared tradition (excessive military, excessive foreign intervention, excessive fear of others in society, excessive use of guns, etc, etc). Probably better to rewind 400+ years and try again.

      • by stjobe ( 78285 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:24AM (#44342401) Homepage

        That animation is from Bowling for Columbine, not South Park.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:10AM (#44342299)
      I don't see that as being necessarily true. There are obviously plenty of poster cases already to point to to get people to care about it. Military style police equipment is expensive, those who don't care about innocent people being torn to shreds by police might care that it was their tax dollars being used to do it.

      From my perspective, we could be at the point where a straw could break the camel's back, where one viral video of a "legal" home invasion and manslaughter could start the process.

      I'm not saying I think that's about to happen. In fact, I really doubt it. Just you state it like a certainty. People are rarely good at predicting when revolutions are going to happen or are not going to happen.
      • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:23AM (#44342397) Homepage Journal
        After the SWAT team killed that military guy in the Southwest and the after-action review showed that he had never pulled the trigger... what else did you need? They went into a house, guns blazing, and shot a completely innocent man to death - a man who was a military veteran and armed private citizen who did not shoot back even as they were killing him, because he saw they were cops. And people seriously argue that it's the guns in private hands that are the problem?
    • by memnock ( 466995 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:47PM (#44344011)

      I'll play devils advocate for a moment. In part, the cops have attained these capabilities because of the increased capabilities of organized crime and street-level criminals. Something of an arms race going on.

      Add to that the fact that the military conglomerates were looking for a way to expand their markets. Police agencies are the perfect answer.

      Done with the advocate thing.

      Not only are the cops armed like small armies, they act without regard for law. Here is an egregious example. A court's marshal in Clark County, NV, sexually assaults a woman in family court and then arrests her when she tried to confront him about it, IN FRONT OF A JUDGE. Who then proceeds to act as if nothing happened. [copblock.org]

      Given the impunity with which these people behave, and the firepower they are enhanced with, people should start to question how the police are a benefit to society.

  • IRS Too? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:39AM (#44341415) Homepage

    As a Brit, the stuff I read about the cops in the USA freaks me out, maybe because of the relative lack-of-guns here.
      I read articles saying even your tax collectors are doing armed raids on houses, is this right? It seems like something from a Terry Gilliam film, nightmare-ish.

  • Three words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbritton ( 823086 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:40AM (#44341417)

    Full disk encryption. & Call my attorney.

    Do not talk to police without an attorney.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:40AM (#44341421)

    ...you have nothing to fear, right?

    At least that is what the early proponents for increased surveillance and by extension armament of the police forces kept saying.

    It is the lawmakers and the police that keeps escalating trivial issues to full out combat.
    They did it during the occupy demonstrations as well. Kept battering peaceful demonstrations wearing riot gear, then go nuclear when someone had the audacity to tell them to stop.

    It is a disgrace.

  • by mrspoonsi ( 2955715 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:40AM (#44341425)
    If there are no checks and balance to stop this from happening, then over the years it will creep forward slowly getting worse. Imagine being stopped for slightly speeding, you have your family in the car and the officer approaches with gun drawn, nice thought that... The police will say they do it to protect themselves, overwhelming force...perhaps sometimes it does go their way, other times it will not.
    • There are supposed to be Checks and Balances but they have pretty much failed - police and prosecutors tend to work hand-in-hand in any country.
      It could be worse [guardian.co.uk] though, much worse [guardian.co.uk].

      • by CptNerd ( 455084 ) <adiseker@lexonia.net> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:17AM (#44341965) Homepage

        There's also the insanity of "sovereign immunity" or "prosecutorial immunity" here, where basically the police and district attorneys can do nothing wrong, if it's in the execution of their duties. So, the police can break into a house (with no warrant), "accidentally" kill all the pets, attack the residents, "accidentally" shoot the owner, and when they find out it's the wrong address, basically get away without even apologizing or making restitution.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:23AM (#44342399) Homepage Journal

      I got stopped for not pulling over when they flashed lights, which I couldn't see because my mirrors and back window were fogged (no working defrost, sadly) and I was driving under traffic lights and streetlights, which meant my whole back window was flashing anyway. I got two guns pointed at my face and I got to sit on the curb for an hour in the cold with no shoes on (hey, it's legal in Santa Cruz to drive without them) while they rummaged through it and found nothing whatsoever. This was nearly twenty years ago now. And they had pulled me over for nothing whatsoever. I hadn't sped, run lights, et cetera. They just didn't like the look of my '83 Citation on the road at 2AM. Neither did I, but it's no justification for a traffic stop.

      I don't even have to imagine.

  • 'Merica (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hypotensive ( 2836435 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:43AM (#44341441)
    Fuck yeah.
  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:47AM (#44341455)

    Violent crime in the US is occurring at the lowest rate in my lifetime and still declining rapidly. There are some, I'm sure, who would say that SWAT teams are a contributing factor to that. I'm skeptical of that claim. I would argue instead that declining violent crime rates make SWAT teams irrelevant. The wasted money alone is reason enough to quit using them; the number of extra-judicial "accidental" killings is a stronger reason.

    I've lived in the Boston metro area for over 15 years, and the only incident I've seen or heard about that justified use of a SWAT team was the apprehension of the marathon bombing suspects. Frankly, something that we need that rarely, we would be better off without. Let the governor call out the National Guard when the threat to public safety is enough to justify military force.

    • by bfandreas ( 603438 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:02AM (#44342245)
      It's gone way out of proportion. Guns get pointed at people for no proper reason at all. It feels like cops are not trained in the art of deescalation anymore.

      In comparison of SWAT teams busting friendly poker games this may sound a little bit irrelevant. But that dog incident a couple of weeks back illustrates perfectly why the cops don't feel like a civilian organization anymore.

      The cops were busting somebody. A guy came along and proceeded to film him with his cell phone. Things escalated and he got cuffed. Here two things had already gone wrong.
      The cops reacted to being filmed. Why? What's wrong with that? Aren't they accountable for what they do? Then they cuffed him. Which comes way WAY too easy for them nowadays. Cuffing somebody is a major thing to do and should come as a last resort. Repeatedly saying no to the request to stop filming does NOT warrant detaining somebody.
      The guy had a dog with him. Who got excited by the cops handling his owner. The guy was asked to lock his dog in his car, which he did. The cops continued their cop thing. The dog got even more excited and broke out of the car. Cops shot the dog. Dying dog all over Youtube.

      Here's my thing. If you point a gun at me and mine then I will not treat you as an officer of the law. I will treat you as a threat. I will treat your uniform as very elaborate gang colors. And I would imagine I am not the only one who feels that way. And that's why I totally buy into the stories where cops got wasted in a SWAT style home invasion for being mistaken as violent gangsters.
      Serve and protect it once was. Now with all this "Getting tuff on jaywalking" they are just plain bullies. Trust is at an all time low and we always suspect some CYA coverups happening. And while we are at it, have them wear name plates. And for fucks sake ban those ridiculus mirror shades. They hide behind them and I'm always tempted to check my hairdo in them.
  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:49AM (#44341467) Homepage Journal

    These raids being discussed above are to get the populace to accept them as normal, and to eventually get immediate compliance and prostration on "routine" raids in the future. Then disarming people, or shooting them, "for their own good" so that "misunderstandings" don't happen in "routine" raids in the future. These early raids will weed out those who will resist, as they ramp up eventually they'll get everyone who would resist.

    People think there are sheep and wolves. Truth is there are sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs. The job of the wolf is to get the sheep to fear the sheep dog - and it's working. The sheep dog is the biggest threat to the wolf, and the wolves are systematically weeding them out.

    A near miss [heraldtribune.com].

    Nowhere near a miss. [wikipedia.org]
    My thoughts [google.com] on that one.

  • by Bomarc ( 306716 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:56AM (#44341491) Homepage
    In Auburn, WA a corrections officer was seeking another person. [komonews.com] The DOC officer and King County police shot an unarmed man (Theoharis), the officers later claiming say they thought he (Theoharis) was reaching for a gun, though no weapons were found in the room.The independent review also found evidence the sheriff's office was more interested in advocating for its officers than uncovering the facts behind the shooting.
    • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:32PM (#44344397) Journal

      In Auburn, WA a corrections officer was seeking another person. [komonews.com] The DOC officer and King County police shot an unarmed man (Theoharis), the officers later claiming say they thought he (Theoharis) was reaching for a gun, though no weapons were found in the room.The independent review also found evidence the sheriff's office was more interested in advocating for its officers than uncovering the facts behind the shooting.

      I've lived in WA all my life and stories like this aren't new. When I was in high school, the police got the wrong address, bust the door of a "suspected" drug dealer, killed the guy on the couch because he was holding up a remote control. They find out wrong address. Justified shooting. Another time after a "all clear" call, a police, still speeding to the scene, hits a car and kills the person inside. Policeman wasn't hurt and didn't get in trouble.

      Cops generally get away with a lot here. Only 1 time did a hear about a cop getting in trouble, and that was because he was shaking down junkies and dealers. Probably didn't cut his fellow cops in, i don't know, but he got in trouble and off the force for it.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:58AM (#44341499) Homepage

    Cheye Calvo, then mayor of Berwyn Heights, MD: His crime was bringing a package inside his home. It turned out that this was a package of pot that the police had been tracking and put on his porch, and as soon as the package was inside the SWAT team stormed his house, shooting his dogs, nearly shooting his mother-in-law (cue jokes), no knocking or announcing. It turned out that the only reason that the package had been addressed to his home was that some drug dealer had gotten his wife's name and address at random, and then have the local UPS delivery guy just take the packages to whoever was really supposed to get them. There was also an obvious entrapment issue, as Calvo would never have seen the package without the police putting it there.

    Nowadays Calvo spends most of his time traveling the country giving talks about out of control SWAT teams. He also points out that there are lots of people who this happens to that nobody paid attention to because they were poor and/or not-white, rather than relatively well-to-do, white, and the local mayor.

  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:10AM (#44341555)
    Years - and people wonder why the police are militarized, why violence is prevelant, why mass shootings happen, why bombings happen. It is because our culture is one of death and destruction, because 'merica. Endless war has done this, the value of life is nonexistent in our government.
    • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:40AM (#44341735)

      Violence in the US isn't "prevalent", it's "publicised".

      Most of the US is quite cozy, with violent crime being largely confined to areas where toxic people prey on each other.

      Much crime is VERY geographically restricted. For example I live in a county with an impressive number of assaults and propertly crimes, but I don't live in the "bad part" of that county. I've never had a problem in thirty years.

      It's also an area where anyone burgling a home would expect to be shot, so crooks only hunt familiar territory. We pay the police to make sure their operational radius is short, so to speak. "If you don't belong there, stay the fuck out because it's not yours."

  • by gallondr00nk ( 868673 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:13AM (#44341569)

    The police are increasingly regarded with fear and distrust, which insulates them from the community they work in, which makes their behaviour in turn more aggressive and antagonistic. This widens the gap to the point where the police are not a part of a community, but something that oppresses it.

    History has proven that a lot of people are happy to mistreat or kill or torture others, assuming they see the other as an "enemy".

    The Warrior Cop seems to me to be not just a result of militarisation, but politicalisation. Cops are told again and again they are fighting wars against drugs, or terrorism, or crime, and unsurprisingly they turn into a war making institution. Not only that, but an institution that sees everyone as an enemy.

    This seems to me a result of consistently electing lawmakers who are too fucking stupid for words.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:45AM (#44341767) Homepage

      Mostly because a large number of cops act like complete assholes.
      Officers should be forced to be courteous and professional at all times. They speed off duty? Instantly fired. The problem is that most cops act like they are above the law and treat EVERYONE as a threat.

      Reduce the number of assholes in uniform, and you will reduce or reverse the decline of the public image of the police.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:15AM (#44341583)
    All you needed to do was watch the coverage when they were trying to get the other Boston Marathon bomber. As far as I could tell they literally had thousands of these basically soldiers running around which was surreal to me given that they were trying to catch one guy.(Who had some homemade bombs and a pistol.) I think I saw FBI, CIA, ATF, plus Watertown, Cambridge, and Boston police soldiers. I mentioned to my brother if anything this would only encourage more terrorism since basically 2 guys for probably well under a $1000 shut down at least 3 cities and probably induced a cost in the several hundreds of millions. Oh and the worst part, they didn't even catch the guy. BTW should I mention even libertarian with conservative leaning sites like instapundit think this is horseshit?
  • Police SWAT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by w4r0nc0re ( 2613419 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:18AM (#44341595)
    I am the victim of a Police SWAT which happened in 2007. I lost my (food svc.) job at the time. When it happened I was visiting with a couple of neighbors in my apartment. The police at the time did not read a Miranda warning, and called the judge to obtain a warrant and permission to hold trial right there. After being asked a few innocuous questions, I was taken to the local hospital behavioral medicine unit. The police were frantic, and I believe this took place on a Sunday night. The Landlord had indicated I was going to be evicted, but IIRC I was well within the allotted time-frame to prepare to move. A number of years have passed since that time. Only a few years ago, a thief broke the lock on my storage unit and stole a few computers and most everything I had except my books and files. I am and was nonviolent. I am not and was not addicted to any drug, and I had not drunk nor smoked. I did not shout nor yell. The above happened in the freedom-loving community of Provo, Utah.
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:19AM (#44341605)
    One other pressure is that being a cop can be pretty boring. Wrestling drunks, traffic patrol, walking/driving the beat, arguing with crazy people. Then you have the relative lack of genuine promotion opportunities most communities only need a tiny number of detectives or major crimes investigators. Plus the reality is that via tickets issued and petty crime prevention being high priorities for most local governments, they don't really want many cops to be anything but uniforms driving marked units.

    So then comes along SWAT. With the occasional columbine the cops are able to convince the local politicians that they don't want to be caught with their pants down. Internally they wont meet much resistance because who doesn't want to play soldier and act all tough. You get to do cool training (pit maneuvers, kicking down doors, and lots of shooting). Basically action hero stuff; who didn't become a cop without at least a small hero fantasy in the back of their brain.

    But then the last factor is that most police departments are by nature separate from the politicians. This is sort of a requirement otherwise politicians could too easily interfere with investigations "I can vouch for him personally, he would never do anything like that, I think you should drop it, Now." Plus the police need to be able to distribute their resources as they see fit. Again the politicians would distribute the policing according to political needs which would generally be very different than distributing the resources for crime prevention.

    But the real question becomes one of authoritarianism vs libertarianism. This is the true divide in North America, not left wing and right wing. There are those who believe that we should be exposed to no risk and aim to impose some kind of perfect Disney society. They believe that with enough rules that this society can be achieve. The war on terror and the war on drugs are perfect examples of this. Yet the simple measure of the impossibility of this would be maximum security prisons these places are full of drugs and violence. If near 100% removal of liberty and relentless monitoring can not work in these facilities, what hope is there outside in "free" society? Bizarrely the various police agencies are slowly turning "free" society into those very failed prisons.

    This sort of behavior often has many unintended consequences. This us against them mentality might first pervade the police but it then pervades the public. You end up with a public who stop cooperating with the police as a rule thinking that any cooperation will be used against them. This significantly reduces the usefulness of the police while reinforcing their mentality of us against them.

    But then this feedback loop seems to get worse. The authoritarianism begins to spread to the legal system where you get angry prosecutors and hanging judges trying to prove that the system still works. The politicians are then harangued to make the penalties stiffer and stiffer as toleration of any libertarian policies would be to admit failure.

    But luckily fantasy can only hold out so long against reality and as we are seeing a few jurisdictions have effectively eliminated their marijuana penalties. The world did not come to an end. Money is being save and lives aren't being ruined. But the authoritarian types are still desperate to hit people with sticks. So they are now making DUI laws where you will test positive a week or more after smoking up. Also these involve taking a blood sample. A fairly invasive and nasty privilege to give to the police.

    So my suggestion is to fight fire with fire. New fundamental laws need to be put into place that will severely punish any members of the legal system who violate people's rights. There should be a people's jury that can be called that can permanently remove from office any official who is accused of abusing rights (judges, police, prosecutors). Freedom of information laws should be massively strengthened to the point where when a FOI request is issued that the officials will place it at the top of their todo list with little recourse to say no. Information is truely the lever of power and by giving information back to the people the people will regain the power that is rightfully theirs.
  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:19AM (#44341609)

    I have a question for the police chiefs around the country. When an officer conducting a raid "accidentally" shoots an unarmed person, why are there no consequences for that incident? It would seem to me, someone who will accidentally pull the trigger during a raid is exactly the kind of person who should not be trusted to participate in raids.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:20AM (#44341613) Homepage Journal

    Well he was right. The US Constitution had to be amended to prohibit alcohol, as the Federal Government did not have that power. It was repealed. Nothing was added to the Constitution to give it the power to prohibit ditch weed, or anything else of the sort. The whole War on Drugs is illegal - at least if the Constitution is still in effect.

    When people swear to defend it against enemies foreign and domestic, these are the domestic ones they're talking about. I'm saddened that this veteran saw death as his only way out.

    Somebody in DC thinks we're better off now then we were before, when he had 16 plants in his house.

  • Cops on steroids (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:25AM (#44341639)

    The cops are taking steroids. There's no stigma against it like in pro sports, but just as much pressure to perform. You all know there are many performance enhancing drugs, not just steroids but even something as simple as ritalin or adderal. Cops have easy access, too.
    I'd like to see random drug testing of cops, and drug testing of cops following these ridiculous events where they fire hundreds of rounds for no particular reason other than that all the other trigger-happy cops are firing. You can't substitute calm, rational peace-keeping with hyped-up cops over-compensating for their tiny guns.

    We need to raise awareness of cops who are pulling a Lance Armstrong.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:27AM (#44341649) Homepage Journal

    I'm surprised the (otherwise excellent) article neglected to include the Cato Institute's map of botched paramilitary police raids [cato.org].

    This really is a serious problem. I teach home defense along with my concealed weapon permit classes, and the question always comes up "If someone is breaking into my house, how do I know if it's the police?" The answer, of course, is that you can't know, but if you guess wrong it could cost you your life. Good luck.

    In my opinion, raids are simply too risky to be justified unless there's an imminent threat to an innocent's life. The reason for using aggressive entry tactics in the vast majority of cases is to prevent the destruction of evidence. That's simply not a good enough reason the kind of high-risk situation the aggressive tactics produce.

    I think there are very rare circumstances in which SWAT really is appropriate, and we should scale SWAT capabilities appropriately. Perhaps each US state should have a single group of state troopers who form such an elite force, and are equipped with transportation that allows them to respond quickly anywhere in the state. A big, populous state like California may need two or three such units. But when every podunk PD has its own SWAT team, their mere existence is going to guaranteed that they get used for all sorts of other things. They're too expensive, and too cool (to the police), to just leave sitting around all the time.

  • by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:29AM (#44341673) Homepage
    Given free reign, most authoritarians will opt for the most egregious display of power they can muster. Their goal is to intimidate all who might question or oppose them, even within their own ranks or among their allies. Of course, such as an Edward Snowden is to be nipped in the bud. Furthering this agenda is the fact that SWAT teams burn huge amounts of money on each outing, requiring larger budgets and thereby aggregating more power to the commanders. It is a vicious circle owned and managed by those who profit from it. Unfortunately, that condition has developed in many of society's institutions, such as Wall Street or Congress.
  • NASA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joelville ( 1180631 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:42AM (#44341751) Homepage
    TFA says NASA has its own SWAT. "Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business. " http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/main/swat_feature.html [nasa.gov]
  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:51AM (#44341801)

    Why do SWAT teams wear black? It may seem like a small point, but when designing uniforms symbolism and psychological effect are certainly considered. When I see a black uniform the first thing I think of is Gestapo. I'm sure that I'm not the only one. What other uniforms are black?

    Don't say it's for camouflage, as any solid color is bad camo. Even at night straight black is far from the best - that was known as least as far back as WWII. The standard, and immediately recognizable, color for (local) police uniforms in this country has always been dark blue. State police and sheriffs deputies may wear grey or khaki. Recognizability is useful - that's why certain brands of products have "trademark" colors. It says much that they want black associated with SWAT.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:12AM (#44341935)

    What do you expect from the WSJ? They're a well known far left radical pacifist publication. It's not like this was in the mainstream media or anything.

  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:18AM (#44341971)

    Cops have been breaking down doors, shooting people and abusing their power ever since the dawn of civilization. I think there is something about the Sheriff of Nottingham written about that. "Fritz the Cat" came out in 1972 and cops were called "pigs" then.

    Just because your adult life is more recent, or your selective memory prefers to discard negative events (as human memory does), does not mean things have changed much. They did not call it "SWAT" or "raid" then, but they did the same thing.

    That's not to say any of that is a "good" thing. But the false nostalgia for the "good old days when a friendly cop stood on the corner smiling to children and waving a friendly nightstick" is just that, and it's dangerous if used as a pretext to "let's go back to those wonderful times". Those times sucked. Move forward, fix things today.

  • by tarekeldeeb ( 1395557 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:23AM (#44341995) Journal
    Hello US citizens, I'm an Egyptian engineer, seeing my country falling apart due to the too deep police/security engagement into a broad aspects of life. They control clubs, universities, magazines, TV channels, governmental careers,...and the list goes on. I wish for you to control your police playground limits, and hit hard whenever they cross it. Don't wait for too much blood, don't wait before it's too late. Salam.
  • Definitely a problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cute Fuzzy Bunny ( 2234232 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:57PM (#44344123)

    To preface this, I live in a fairly affluent area with extremely low crime. My town has no standing police force, just a satellite sheriffs office. Next town over has about the same demographics but has a 300+ member police force. A few years ago they trained a swat team and bought a very expensive 'urban assault vehicle'. I'm not sure for what, there is zero gang related activity, almost no drug stuff aside from the usual medical marijuana, and as far as I know no dangerous criminals have ever been brought in from the community.

    Of course, this comes at the expense of things like schools, where we're jamming 30+ kids in a classroom and the teachers can barely do classroom management, let alone actually teach something.

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