In July 2008, a SWAT team mistakenly barged into the home of Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, and killed his two Labrador retrievers. In response, the Maryland legislature passed a law that requires every police department in the state to report how often and for what purpose they deploy their SWAT teams. Maryland is the first state in the country to pass such a law, and in March the first reports came in.
The results were disturbing. On average, there were 4.5 SWAT raids per day in Maryland in the last six months of 2009, including about one per day in Prince George's County, where Calvo lives. According to an analysis in the Baltimore Sun, 94 percent of the state's SWAT deployments were related to search or arrest warrants, leaving just 6 percent for barricades, bank robberies, hostage takings, and the other sorts of emergencies for which SWAT teams were originally intended. In Prince George's County, where officials still refuse to admit any mistakes in the Calvo raid, more than half the SWAT deployments were for misdemeanors and what the FBI calls "nonserious felonies," generally meaning minor drug crimes.
Calvo is now helping to push similar legislation in other states. If he succeeds, we will see how often these volatile "dynamic entry" raids are targeted at people suspected only of consensual crimes.