Paramilitary Creep

The D.A.'s little army


No one has ever opened fire in a Collin County, Texas, courtroom, and such incidents are vanishingly rare across the country. But District Attorney John Roach wants to be prepared just in case it happens. Back in 2003, The Dallas Morning News reports, Roach used $25,000 from asset forfeitures to purchase "high-powered rifles, shotguns, helmets and shields" for a security team to protect him and his assistants.

In 2010 Collin County commissioners finally gave up on their seven-year effort to overrule Roach. Although the commissioners oversee the district attorney's budget, they were persuaded by the county's legal counsel that they have no say over how Roach uses asset forfeiture funds.

It isn't clear how Roach's rapid response team would make the courthouse safer. Collin County already has the usual cadre of bailiffs, deputies, and post-9/11 security measures. In the event of a shooting, it's unlikely that Roach's team could be rallied in time to do much good. And if a shooter were to take hostages for an extended period of time, Roach acknowledges, the security team would take second seat to local police agencies. Collin County is already served by SWAT teams from several police departments.

Interestingly, Roach insists his security team is not a SWAT team, telling the Morning News, "SWAT officers break down doors to make arrests. The emergency response team is defensive in nature. The mission is entirely different." But the original purpose of SWAT teams was exactly what Roach wants his security team to do: responding to public safety emergencies. As SWAT teams are increasingly used to serve drug warrants and break up poker games, Roach now needs another high-powered paramilitary police unit to provide the services SWAT teams once did.  r