SWAT Madness and the Militarization of the American Police: A National Dilemma

SWAT Madness and the Militarization of the American Police: A National Dilemma

SWAT Madness and the Militarization of the American Police: A National Dilemma

SWAT Madness and the Militarization of the American Police: A National Dilemma

Synopsis

In the United States, military-style police enforcement is fast becoming the norm--even the smallest police departments now field costly SWAT units. While the fact that police forces have increased capabilities to deal with urgent or dangerous situations may seem positive, this type of aggressive response is problematic; court settlements regarding excessive SWAT raids cost law enforcement agencies millions of dollars every year, not to mention that these brute-force strategies often traumatize, injure, and kill innocent people.

This book takes an unprecedented look into the realities of zero-tolerance, militaristic policing, the tactics and equipment used, the problematic "crime warrior" mindset at play, and the statistical evidence of its ineffectiveness. The author's professional experience in criminology and scholarly knowledge of the topic enables him to candidly address common concerns about utilizing paramilitary law enforcement and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) units in routine, low-risk police work, such as the general loss of freedom, the often tragic results of excessive force, and the effects on race relations.

Excerpt

American law enforcement has become zero tolerant, more violent, and militarized. Local, state, and federal teams of elite paramilitary special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams regularly patrol big-city streets and break into homes unannounced. Officers on routine patrol carry high-powered semiand fully automatic weapons. Virtually every law enforcement agency in the country either has its own SWAT unit or has officers who are members of a multijurisdictional force. The barrier between the U.S. military and domestic law enforcement has broken down. The police have become soldiers and military personnel now function as civilian law enforcers. Paramilitary police officers wear combat gear, are transported in army-surplus armored personnel carriers, receive special-forces training, and view criminal suspects as enemy combatants. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies field teams of military-trained snipers. In many jurisdictions, the “public servant” concept of policing has been replaced by the “occupying force” model. The idea of community policing has become outmoded. If one didn’t know any better, one would think that the nation was in the grip of a historic crime wave. However, compared with the 1930s and the late 1960s through the 1970s, the current rate of violent crime is much lower.

Every year SWAT teams conduct forced entry, no-knock raids into 40,000 to 50,000 homes in search of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. In many jurisdictions all drug-related search warrant executions involve SWAT team entries. Once a law enforcement agency forms a paramilitary unit, the officers on the team must be kept busy to stay sharp. For this reason, the . . .

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