Scaring the Nation with Their Guns and Ammunition


Radley Balko's new book Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America can be downloaded for free here. (Officially, I gather, this is a "paper," not a "book," but I have the print edition and it sure looks like a book to me.) Check out his interactive map of botched paramilitary raids, too.

From the executive summary:

Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they're sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

The book includes not just the relevant history and statistics, but a host of case studies, putting human faces on the victims of militarized policing.