The article has some sincere depth. It explores when and how this trend got started. I selected a part that particularly resonates in terms of Ferguson area police (county or city) pointing assault rifles at a peaceful crowd. Assaulting the media with tear gas. Clearing the airspace to harass media.
it’s a consistent thread-SWAT units were formed for those rare times where a criminal or terror act outguns or outsizes the local regular PD. Now we see then used for search warrants in cases where the homeowner simply owns a registered pistol. Somehow it’s worth raiding with SWAT rather than detaining the guy away from home, and then searching with a warrant.
Surplus war making gear gets given to local PD. Much of that equipment is intended for extraordinary threats. Body armor way beyond that of an ordinary cop. Headgear, night vision, military rifles… The list goes on and on. Soon enough we see that very same gear being deployed against a legal protest. If it’s really crowd control-Why is the LRAD on an MRAP rather than just an SUV?
At the end game we have a local population abused by police power. It is not the locals or the threats from local criminals that changed. It’s the mindset built by a “default to SWAT” mentality. The same mindset that insists bigger is better. More armor, more powerful weapons. That an MRAP is what you need for a protest. That it’s okay to scope and sweep unarmed Americans with firearms.
Slippery slope? More like an upright ice rink.
Upping the Racial Profiling Ante
In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.
Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime.In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort.In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.
On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.
More: To Terrify and Occupy