Militarization of Police

Maryland Senate Holds Hearings on SWAT Transparency Bill

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Last week, the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held hearings on a new bill that would require every police agency in the state with a SWAT team to issue quarterly reports on how often the teams are deployed, why they were deployed, what happened during the warrant service, and what was found. It is a small but vital step toward allowing for a proper assessment of just how often paramilitary-style tactics are being used in Maryland, how often things go wrong, and whether they're being used as advertised.

Several witnesses at the hearing described yet more terrifying wrong-door raids, in cases never before reported.

Karen Thomas told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that she heard Howard County police shoot and kill her dog in her Ellicott City living room in September 2007, while she lay upstairs on the floor, surrounded by police who had not identified themselves.

"In my mind, terrorists had just killed my son and they were going to kill me next," she told committee members.

Thomas said that police were searching for drugs, but none were found…

Choking back tears, Boyd Petit told committee members that during an April 2008 raid on his Highland home, a police tactical team had handcuffed him and his family outside his home, at gunpoint and in front of his neighbors, while other officers searched his house.

"Our collective lives flashed before our eyes," he said.

Petit claimed the raid on his house was prompted by a former customer, who made false allegations about him to police. He said police were searching for a specific weapon, but it was not found.

Right now, it looks like the bill will get through committee. It's being pushed by Cheye Calvo, the Berwyn Heights, Maryland mayor who was subjected to a particularly violent but mistaken raid on his home.