Militarization of Police

Two More Isolated Incidents

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The city of New Orleans has offered an $85,000 settlement with three men wrongly arrested and jailed after a 2002 drug raid.  When the three police detectives who conducted the raid were later implicated in various other crimes, investigators discovered that the detectives had also planted the drugs they say they found in the raid.

The second case comes from Orlando, Florida, where police stormed the house of a a grandfather, who was watching his infant grandson at the time, complete with full SWAT attire, guns to the head, and "smoke bombs" (likely concussion grenades).

They were investigating the robbery of a cell phone store. The man's 20-year-old grandson had apparently made a call from one of the phones.

Provided the police did the proper investigation beforehand to be sure they had the right guy and the right house, apprehending someone suspected of armed robbery would probably be a legitimate use of a SWAT team.

Problem is they seem to have invaded first, and asked questions later. The grandson (a) hadn't lived in the home for six years, and (b) apparently was guilty of little more than unknowingly purchasing a hot phone. He handed the phone over, and the cops left.

In the meantime, a man who did nothing wrong had his home ransacked, his privacy violated, and was generally terrorized. If he'd had a gun in his home for self-protection, he'd likely be dead.

It's not that SWAT tactics are always wrong. It's that they're frighteningly too often the first resort with the police departments that have them.

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  1. At least this isn’t Monday.
    Is this one less egregious? Or have I developed a tolerance for isolated incidents?

  2. No bodies this time, Warren. Not even canine ones. Maybe that’s it.

    It’s not that SWAT tactics are always wrong. It’s that they’re frighteningly too often the first resort with the police departments that have them.

    As Aquinas wrote, a thing is neither good nor evil; it is how it is used that makes it so.

    It goes beyond the decision to use SWAT teams; it’s a consequence of an intellectual failure, a misunderstanding of the proper relationship between the police and the citizenry – the same misunderstanding one sees in the policing strategies of Rudy Guiliani and Darryl Gates.

  3. It’s not that SWAT tactics are always wrong. It’s that they’re frighteningly too often the first resort with the police departments that have them.

    You get a new toy, you want to play with it. When a 9 year old boy gets a slingshot or air rifle, he sees the local birds as part of the game.

  4. As Aquinas wrote, a thing is neither good nor evil; it is how it is used that makes it so.

    Indeed. What was your position on private firearms ownership again?

  5. You get a new toy, you want to play with it. When a 9 year old boy gets a slingshot or air rifle, he sees the local birds as part of the game.

    I remember when my daddy gave me that gun.
    He told me that I should never point at anything in the house…
    and that he’d rather I shoot at tin cans in the backyard.
    But he said that sooner or later he supposed…
    the temptation to go after birds would be too much…
    and that I could shoot all the blue jays I wanted, if I could hit ’em;
    but to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird.
    – Why? – Well, I reckon…
    because mockingbirds don’t do anything…
    but make music for us to enjoy.
    Don’t eat people’s gardens.
    Don’t nest in the corn cribs.
    They don’t do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us.

    Not sure how apt that is, but it looks like profundity.

  6. I think Radley is too soft on SWAT. Frankly, I don’t think the second case would be an appropriate use of SWAT. I can think of very few ( if any) hypothetical cases.

    The same ideas that apply to drugs ( though they should be legal, that’s another issue) probably apply to a robber with some stolen phones. Get the guy when he leaves the house or to check the mail, whatever. Then search the house if needed. I don’t see ANY reason to escalate the violence in a situation that is not an emergency one where lives are in danger. No one was holding hostages. There was no violent crime in progress,etc. A guy who stole phones already had time to sell them and the situation was calmed down.

  7. When the use of government force is wrong, I feel no need to preface criticism with the disclaimers such as ” most cops are awesome great guys” and “SWAT is sometimes a good thing.”

    I guess I really USED to think those things. But over the past few years, reading about all the “isolated” incidents, and witnessing misconduct myself, I think the whole system is fucked and the Good Guys are NOT the majority. Maybe the majority are complacent and “just doing their jobs”, but they arent Good Guys.

  8. Squarooticus,

    That broad-based efforts to disarm the public are useless, and that only tightly-targetted efforts to address particular dangers make sense.

    Why do you ask? Does the joe in your head hate icky guns?

  9. As Aquinas wrote, a thing is neither good nor evil; it is how it is used that makes it so.

    As with armed agents of the state, so with guns in the hands of private citizens, eh, joe?

    It goes beyond the decision to use SWAT teams; it’s a consequence of an intellectual failure, a misunderstanding of the proper relationship between the police and the citizenry – the same misunderstanding one sees in the policing strategies of Rudy Guiliani and Darryl Gates.

    WAWj.

  10. Oh, jeebus.

    Yo, heads up, folks: since I’ve never adovacated for disarming the public, it’s not the impressive Gotcha! moment you seem to expect to point out that the logic of the above quote can be applied to private gun ownership.

    I make actual arguments, you know. Ones you can read in comment boxes below my name. Try arguing with those for a change.

  11. joe | October 21, 2008, 12:48pm | #
    Squarooticus,

    That broad-based efforts to disarm the public are useless, and that only tightly-targetted efforts to address particular dangers make sense.

    Why do you ask? Does the joe in your head hate icky guns?

    This is the jo in my head

  12. Whichever David,

    Link goes to a 404.

  13. and, you know…poor people

  14. SugarFree, link works fine for me – perhaps you are being blocked by a firewall?

  15. only tightly-targetted efforts to address particular dangers make sense.

    I’d be happy to hear more about what tightly-targeted efforts you think would be successful. 🙂

  16. It’s hard to miss the racial subtext here. I knew the innocent homeowner victim was black before I even clicked the link. Part of the problem is that police tend to assume black people are inherently violent, inherently criminal, inherently dangerous. To their minds, they need SWAT in order to successfully “take down” the very people they should be working with and protecting.

    I respect police officers, they do a hard job and they generally do it well. I have friends who are police officers. But this kind of stuff happens way too often.

  17. squarooticus,

    Background checks, bans on ownership by people with dangerous mental illnesses – you know, marginal stuff that doesn’t really go to the broad “fewer guns on the street” argument, but to the dangerousness of particular individuals.

  18. What I’m saying, sqar, is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, with guns.”

  19. Background checks, bans on ownership by people with dangerous mental illnesses

    Is this really the limit?

    While I of course wouldn’t agree with either of these in Libertopia (remember that those dangerous people wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near you or your belongings in that country), even *I* think they are reasonable in a place with public roads connecting isolated private lots, although I think the disqualifying factors need to be specified in advance, not be capricious (no “at the discretion of the issuing authority” crap), and not vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, for the simple reason that taking a gun across an unarmed border is trivial.

    I suspect your opinion has changed from the last time we discussed this, probably around the time the Heller decision came down. If so, good. If not, then I’m curious how our opinions differ.

    For the record, in Amerikkka (as distinguished from Libertopia), good measures are what you listed, while bad measures include:

    – banning *some* types of guns, for whatever reason (including automatic weapons, .50BMG, etc.; magazine size; etc.)
    – allowing “character” (by definition at someone’s judgment) to determine whether someone can own a gun or not
    – allowing past non-violent offenses (e.g., drug use) to determine whether someone can own a gun or not
    – in fact, allowing anything *but* a judgment rendered under due process, based on predefined criteria that are limited to a clear-and-present danger, and subject to appeal, to determined whether someone can own a gun or not
    – *any* restriction that disallows ownership by more than 2% of a population (an empirical test to help prevent abuse)

    I’m not even going to touch the grenade launcher, RPG, or nuclear weapon question. Let’s see where we stand on *this*.

  20. Radley, your time-tested schtick is being superceded by tales of voter fraud, The Economic Crisis? and concerns about whether libertarianism is still cool. If you could somehow work Sarah Palin into one of your “isolated incidents”, that would be way cool, and warmed-up New York audiences would whoop drunkenly in appreciation. Just a suggestion, as I’m not an official playa’. Regards.

  21. “…a man who did nothing wrong had his home ransacked, his privacy violated, and was generally terrorized. If he’d had a gun in his home for self-protection, he’d likely be dead.”

    Or on trial for attempted murder:

    Alleged police-shooter’s trial begins

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