Scaring the Nation with Their Guns and Ammunition

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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.

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  1. When are they going to replace the stars on the flag with a swaztika?

    (I hope that i’m not commiting a crime by saying this)

  2. (I hope that i’m not commiting a crime by saying this)

    Oh, you haven’t committed a crime… But we’re going to kick in your door, shoot your pets, and smack your family around anyway.

  3. Read it last night. It kept me up until 1AM. Right, I’m convinced. Now what the hell can we do about it? Sadly a militia commune in North Dakota is not an option for me.

  4. When they kick at your front door
    How you gonna come?
    With your hands on your head
    Or on the trigger of your gun

    When the law break in
    How you gonna go?
    Shot down on the pavement
    Or waiting on death row

    You can crush us
    You can bruise us
    But you’ll have to answer to
    Oh, the guns of Brixton

    The money feels good
    And your life you like it well
    But surely your time will come
    As in heaven, as in hell

    You see, he feels like Ivan
    Born under the Brixton sun
    His game is called survivin’
    At the end of the harder they come

    You know it means no mercy
    They caught him with a gun
    No need for the Black Maria
    Goodbye to the Brixton sun

    You can crush us
    You can bruise us
    Yes, even shoot us
    But oh-the guns of Brixton

    When they kick at your front door
    How you gonna come?
    With your hands on your head
    Or on the trigger of your gun

    You can crush us
    You can bruise us
    Yes, even shoot us
    But oh-the guns of Brixton

    Shot down on the pavement
    Waiting in death row
    His game is called survivin’
    As in heaven as in hell

    You can crush us
    You can bruise us
    But you’ll have to answer to
    Oh, the guns of Brixton

  5. This shit has to be stopped. There was never enough police injuries to justify this kind of crap. Further, the most dangerous places for a police officer are statistically traffic stops and responding to domestic violence calls.

    Lets be honest, people love toys. Cops are no different than anyone else. Give them money and no adult supervision and before you know it they are running around with machine guns and tanks. That mentality plays no small part in this.

    This really shows why the 2nd amendment is so important. In fact, everyone should be required to have a fully automatic assault weapon in their home at all times. The irony of the whole thing is that if more police rightfully got their heads blown off kicking people’s doors down, they wouldn’t do the raids on ordinary drug offenses and would only conduct them when they were absolutely necessary. These raids happen so much precisely because police are not in danger by doing them.

  6. that’s right Mr. Average. None of us knew that there was a Clash reference in there somewhere.

    (insert some indentifying marker using words “Police and Thieves”)

  7. Thanks, Mr. Average.

    Here’s another. “No Knock” by Gil Scott-Heron.

    You explained it to me I must admit
    but just for the record you were talking shit
    y’all rap about no-knock being legislated
    for the people you’ve always hated
    in this hellhole you, we call home
    no knock, the Man will say
    to keep that man from beatin’ his wife
    no knock, the Man will say
    to protect people from themselves
    no knockin’, head rockin’, enter shockin’
    shootin’ cussin’ killin’ cryin’ lyin’ and bein’ white
    no knock
    no knock on my brother Fred Hampton
    bullet holes all over the place
    no knock on my brother Michael Harris
    and jammed a shotgun against his skull
    for my protection?
    who’s gonna protect me from you?
    the likes of you?
    the nerve of you?
    to talk that shit, face to face
    your tomato face deadpan
    your dead hands ending another freedom fan
    no knockin’, head rockin’, enter shockin’
    shootin’ cussin’ killin’ cryin’ lyin’ and bein’ white
    but if you’re wise, no knocker,
    you’ll tell your no-knockin’ lackeys
    ha! no knock on my brother’s head,
    no knock on my sister’s head
    no knock on my brother’s head,
    no knock on my sister’s head
    and double-lock your door
    because soon someone may be no-knockin’
    ha ha
    for you.

    (“No knock”: to be slipped into John Mitchell’s suggestion box.)

    The first time I heard that song I had no real idea what Gil Scott-Heron was talking about. Now we all know.

  8. John:

    “This really shows why the 2nd amendment is so important. In fact, everyone should be required to have a fully automatic assault weapon in their home at all times.”

    Your comment makes me think of Bill Maher, who really gets a kick out of saying, in a snarky tone of voice, that the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect us “from the King of England,” and is now irrelevant.

  9. I blame television. No, seriously. Some years ago I heard or read a commentor credibly opining that TV was the major reason police had started handcuffing arrestees (or even people who turned themselves in) routinely.

  10. The irony of the whole thing is that if more police rightfully got their heads blown off kicking people’s doors down, they wouldn’t do the raids on ordinary drug offenses and would only conduct them when they were absolutely necessary.

    I think you really misunderstand the situation in this country, John. The scenario you suggest would result in (a) stricter gun control laws, (b) more draconian anti-drug policies (because if drug dealers are killing cops, blaming anything but the drugs = blaming the victim. You know–the same reason why US foreign policy can’t ever be mentioned as a contributing factor to 9/11), and even more aggressive and wildly over-equipped police.

  11. The scenario you suggest would result in (a) stricter gun control laws, (b) more draconian anti-drug policies (because if drug dealers are killing cops, blaming anything but the drugs = blaming the victim.

    True. Also notice that a number of people killed by police had guns, and a lot of good it did them. That’s the point of “no-knock.” Also, people with small children do not keep loaded semiautos lying around, and note that a number of those the police killed were children.

    What this shows is just how cynical, lame and hollow that old refrain is: “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.” Unless some cop’s trigger finger gets itchy and shoots your kid in the head, of course.

    Soooooooooo angry . . .

  12. What to do about it? It pisses me off also

  13. Mr. Moose –

    Obviously your highly refined sense of humor has prevented you from seeing the prophetic vison embodied in the lyrics of the song I posted. The fact that it was a Clash song is a happy coincidence. Or perhaps it isn’t a coincidence at all. What is interesting is the kind of crap that the Clash wrote about way back then seems to be alarmingly relevant to today’s situation.

  14. It really is amazing. I was flipping channels and caught part of “Dallas Swat” on A&E. It showed a scene of the swat officers ripping out a houses security bars, the window frame they were set in and both the front and back doors. I wanted to know what special circumstances prompted such an assault so I watched the rest of the show.

    Turns out it was just SOP. They did that for every place they raided. In one case, they ripped out so many doors and windows that the house was noticeably sagging yet they found no suspects and no drugs (they searched with a dog.) Hate to think how much Tarrant county pays out every year for “oops we wrecked your property for absolutely no good reason.”

  15. Shannon, my guess: $0. “Qualified Immunity“.

  16. “What to do about it? It pisses me off also”

    Go look up some cops and kill as many as you can so there are fewer who can kill you. Got a better idea?

  17. Seriously, this is one of those problems that can fairly be said to be intractable. Starting from where we are now, would you want to be the first cop who eschewed the weapons & tactics being complained of?

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