Police Abuse

How a Suburban SWAT Team Sees Itself

The culture of militarized police work.

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Even some opponents of militarized law enforcement have been startled by the tactics and machinery on display in Ferguson, Missouri, this week. They might not have been surprised to see such a horror show in Boston or Los Angeles, but they didn't expect it in a suburban or small-town setting. Yet as Samuel Bieler recently told City Lab, "you can definitely see evidence of militarization of the police in the suburbs. You can find examples basically anywhere."

Illustrating the point, former Reasoner Radley Balko, now at The Washington Post, has posted a SWAT video from Doraville, Georgia, population 8,500. "At least as of this writing," he notes, "the video was posted on the front page of the Doraville Police Department Web site":

Balko adds:

Thought I'd start a family, find a nice quiet suburb to settle down in, get my hands on some surplus Pentagon equipment…
PublicAffairs

The images at the beginning and end are from The Punisher, the fictional character described by Wikipedia as "a vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his war on crime." The audio is the song "Die Motherf—-r Die" by Dope.

Doraville is a town of about 8,500 people, in the northeast suburbs of Atlanta. It last saw a murder in 2009 (at least through the end of 2012, the last year for which I can find statistics).

This isn't unusual. It's part of the culture of policing in much of America. The consequences are on display in Ferguson right now.

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  1. I know it was a real tank, but it looked to me like the fake tanks in Toho’s monster movies.

    1. That is exactly what I thought when I saw it.

    2. ITS NOT A REAL FUCKING TANK! Its not a tank at all. It *might* be a turretless version of the M-2, but I don’t think so.

      Tracks don’t make a tank. Heavy armor and BFG make a tank. That’s an APC. Light armor (that vehicle will probably stop up to 7.62) and room for troops make an APC.

      I know a lot of you guys don’t think the distinction is important – but, IMO, freaking out about ‘police with tanks’ looks as bad as gun-control advocates freaking out about ‘that shoulder thing that goes up’.

      1. It’s like all you morons who confuse em dashes, en dashes and hyphens. How the fuck can we professionals take you seriously?

        1. When copyeditors start militarizing, then it will be something to worry about.

      2. Can I freak out about police having light armoured vehicles? Because that makes just as little sense to me as police having tanks.

        1. Sure.

          Just don’t confuse an MRAP with an APC with a LAV with a tank.

          1. Wait..what about IFVs?

            1. Which? The Infantry Fighting Vehicle or the Interim Fighting Vehicle?

              1. what about ASVs?

          2. Or a self-propelled howitzer. That’s a pretty common rookie mistake.

        2. What gets me is the retards who call their car’s internal combustion engine a “motor”. My mechanic did that and I freaked out and informed him what an idiot he was.

          I mean, my car knocks and smokes now, and sure I may be an ass for freaking out over pointless lingo, but at least I have my inflated view of myself intact.

          1. That is one of the funniest comments I have seen in some time.

          2. He shoots, he scores!

      3. If you are an average guy with a hunting rifle or sporting arm, *anything* with armoe, even an older Vietnam-era APC like the one in this video may as well be a Tiger tank for all intents and purposes. An average person has no counter to this thing short of an improvised device — these guys pull up in their armored APC, pop smoke and pile out with automatic weapons??? Game over.

        1. If the average illiterate Hadji can make an IED in a mud hut, you can too.

      4. It’s an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. It looks like one of the older models since it has five road wheels. Very much surplus stuff. It could probably stop .50 in the front and maybe on the sides. I would certainly stop most civilian rifle rounds.

        1. M113 will not stop a .50 from the side. It has lightweight aluminum armor. I’ve seen .50s punch right through them on the range.

          Doesn’t really matter, these morons can’t fight from inside.

      5. It is an M113, they are Armored Personnel Carriers, and a lot more than a town with 8500 people needs. Even if you think that sometimes police need this kind of stuff, the amount of wasted money here is staggering.

        Also I am fairly certain that M113’s are supposed to stop up to 50BMG, at least normal rounds maybe not Armor Piercing

        1. Don’t attack it as a waste of money. They get this shit for free as military hand me downs.

          Attack it on the point that counts – that we shouldn’t be subject to a standing army, no matter where they’re taking their orders from.

    3. It looked more like an M1113 than a tank.

        1. Yeah, that’s an M113 APC. Fun fact: there’s no armor on the bottom of those things – troops riding in them in Vietnam used to pile sandbags on the floor so that running over a mine wouldn’t kill everybody in the passenger compartment.

          1. Thanks. They may come in handy someday.

  2. How about those Ugg Boots worn by the Ferguson SWAT soldiers, though!! That look is priceless!

  3. Even some opponents of militarized law enforcement have been startled by the tactics and machinery on display in Ferguson, Missouri, this week.

    Why would opponents be surprised?

    1. I’ve seen more than one “I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad” comment.

      1. I understand, but the wording makes it sound like the opponents are usually wearing tin foil hats.

        In any case I would think proponents would be more startled than opponents.

        1. Why would proponents be startled? This is what they want.

          1. Yes, for Boston or Miami, not for suburbs.

    2. Couldn’t be bothered to read the second sentence, could you?

      1. Yes I did. Which is the reason I posted the comment I did. The proponents are the ones who think the big cities need militarization because they have so many poor, terrorist residents; its the proponents who are surprised the suburbs have the same stuff.

        1. *The proponents are the ones who think the big cities need militarization because they have so many poor, terrorist residents; its the proponents who are surprised the suburbs have the same stuff.*

          When the US economy collapses, utterly, where do you think the coked-up hordes of city-dwelling welfare moochers are going to go when they are done looting the 7-11s and Dunkin Donuts?

          That’s right–the suburbs!

  4. Good lord, and these are the same people who got all butt hurt over NWA in the 90’s?

    1. National Water Agency? National Wrestling Alliance? National Weather Association?

    2. Something tells me that the person who made that video wasn’t alive/aware when NWA was a thing.

  5. former Reasoner Radley Balko, now at The Washington Post

    I thought Balko went to HuffPo? What, too much intelligence in his writing for that place?

    1. He did. Then to the WaPo.

      1. Had to launder his resume?

  6. Every time I see cops playing wannabe soldier with an armored vehicle, I think of that scene from Die Hard (you know the one).

    And I smile.

    1. Hit it. Again. OMG the quarterback is TOAST!

    2. It does seem to be a pattern. Precisely how many cops are military rejects?

      Or perhaps the story is:

      “Gee. I’d really like to run around with a lot of cool gear and kill people, but I really don’t like traveling. Or working out. Or difficult training. Or dangerously armed, aggressive opponents. I know! I’ll join the police!”

      1. The majority of the military only serves one term. Them gettin out doesn’t make them military rejects.

  7. The consequences are on display in Ferguson right now.

    And Mosul.

  8. http://www.slate.com/articles/…..sters.html

    It’s dangerous and wrong to treat Ferguson, Missouri as a war zone.

    By Jamelle Bouie

    In his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop, journalist Radley Balko notes that since the 1960s, “law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier.

    Getting name checked for punching people in the nuts for a living. Go Radley Go!

  9. In response to a nearby city getting one of those APCs from the military, some local penned a sarcastic letter to the editor (no, not me though I wish I could take credit) where he asked that the city parade it’s military might on holidays like any good authoritarian government. The mayor responded with an angry letter claiming that there is a subculture of people that murders cops with automatic weapons, and that the cops must be prepared to fight back. After some checking I saw that their department has lost three officers since 1925, the last one in 1988. Yeah. Subculture warranting militarized police my ass.

    1. And how many cops in the US have ever been murdered with automatic weapons? Or is he one of those people who think that anything other than a muzzle-loader is an automatic weapon?

      1. He thinks that there is a subculture of cop killers armed with Kalashnikov rifles, and because of this every interaction with the public should be treated as if that member of the public is part of that subculture until they prove themselves not to be a threat.

        Seriously.

        There is a war against the police! A fucking war, dammit! They’ve got machine guns and they’re gunning down cops left and right!

        They seriously believe that.

        1. Wait, does that mean I have to turn in my AK-47???

          1. Between the cops and the rioters, is that really a good idea Radioactive?

        2. I think they seriously believe that we’ll fall for that.

          After all: movies.

      2. And how many cops in the US have ever been murdered with automatic weapons?

        I remember reading once about a cop who was murdered with an SMG. The murderer was a fellow officer, who signed the SMG out of the armory.

  10. Doraville is inside the perimeter. Its Atlanta.

    1. I’m not even sure if Doraville qualifies as a jizz stain at the rub n tug.

    2. Doraville is in DeKalb, though.

    3. And outside.

      Doraville is a major pipeline intersection. If you live in the Eastern States your gasoline probably flows through there on the long trip from Gulf Coast refineries to your car.

      If Doraville Police have a plan to defend the critical infrastructure within the city limits they are quite under-armored

  11. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that the extremely heavily armed street gangs originated in Los Angeles, under the tutelage of Darryl Gates–the police chief usually cited as the first to introduce SWAT and effectively militarize his police force.

    It seems like as he escalated his weaponry, LA’s gangs escalated theirs, as well, and once that arms race was set in motion, it was only natural that the gangs would start turning their weapons on each other.

    You’d think there’d be very little that a civilian population could do to meet the challenge of armored personnel carriers, but I guess that’s what Donald Rumsfeld thought when he invaded Iraq, too. The response the Iraqis improvised to deal with APCs was actually pretty effective.

    They already want drones, don’t they?

    1. And they already want the citizens to not have them.

    2. APC=BBQ

  12. Can you blame the police for wanting to be militarized?

    How do you expect the police to apprehend the ‘responsible gun owner’?

    The legal contact in America has reached the point in which a routine search or apprehension warrant involes:
    1. a Concussion Bomb
    2. para military police
    3. machine guns
    4. taking no responsibility for showing up to the wrong home
    5. murdering the family poodle for good measure.

    I don’t think we can have it both ways. If We are allowed to have any form of weapon, it’s all-bets-off on de-militarizing the police.

    1. How do you expect the police to apprehend the ‘responsible gun owner’?

      Oh, I dunno. Wait until he goes outside to check the mail, and then grab him?

      1. Which is what they do when the suspect is actually dangerous (see, for example, the apprehension of Whitey Bulger).

        1. That was exactly the incident I was thinking of.

        2. Vulcan nerve pinch. Or nut punch. Or both.

      2. That’s no fun!

    2. We can blame them. We can also blame local, state and federal government for the growing body of vague and arbitrary laws which give police and prosecutors essentially to make law on a whim.

      1. *the power to essentially

        1. Kinda. Because of the sheer volume of laws out there, it’s impossible not to break some of them. So the cops/prosecutors just pick people they don’t like for whatever reason, and then watch until they have an excuse to make a bust.

          That’s why it’s best to stay under the radar. You might call the cops because you were robbed or something, and then offend one of the cops when they come over to fill out a report that they never had any plans to act upon. Because of that slight, the cop may decide to keep watch on you until he discovers you breaking some law. Then he’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks. All because you were stupid enough to call them after being the victim of a crime.

          1. Fuck, they have radar too, what about sonar?

          2. I just think that cops are more of a symptom of a much larger problem.

            1. The Democrat Party?

    3. Can you blame the police for wanting to be militarized?

      Yes. They’re not an occupying force. Their job is less likely to result in death than cab drivers’.

      How do you expect the police to apprehend the ‘responsible gun owner’?

      Walk to the door, knock, keep gun holstered unless there’s an actual threat. Wear body armour if you feel like it.

      I don’t think we can have it both ways. If We are allowed to have any form of weapon, it’s all-bets-off on de-militarizing the police.

      Most of the heavy handed police tactics, and the overuse of SWAT teams (ie: use in situations that don’t involve an immediate armed threat), are to help catch people who have drugs on their person or property. WTF does personal firearm ownership have to do with it?

    4. I don’t think we can have it both ways. If We are allowed to have any form of weapon, it’s all-bets-off on de-militarizing the police.

      So you think if we allow the gun-grabbers to grab guns the police will de-militarize voluntarily?

    5. Can you blame the police for wanting to be militarized?

      Yep.

      How do you expect the police to apprehend the ‘responsible gun owner’?

      They seemed to manage just fine until very recently.

      I don’t think we can have it both ways.

      Yet we did, until very recently.

      1. You’ll have to excuse Alice Bowie. He has no schtick left since dope is alive and well.

    6. The citizens of this country have been armed,since before we had any formal police forces.

    7. Alice Bowie|8.13.14 @ 3:20PM|#

      Can you blame the police for wanting to be militarized?

      How do you expect the police to apprehend the ‘responsible gun owner’?

      Let’s ask that black guy in NY who was choked to death by a cop.

      Oh, that’ right, we can’t. Because he’s dead. Without the use of a fire arm.

      Funny; that.

  13. This is for any Randroids interested in a copypasta binge

    The threat of sudden destruction, of unpredictable retaliation for unnamed offenses, is a much more potent means of enslavement than explicit dictatorial laws. It demands more than mere obedience; it leaves men no policy save one: to please the authorities; to please?blindly, uncritically, without standards or principles; to please?in any issue, matter or circumstance, for fear of an unknowable, unprovable vengeance.
    Ayn Rand

    1. I’m not a Randroid, but that’s a good quotation. If you’ve read Hunger Games, you can see exactly that form of enslavement at work in Panem.

  14. Clearly law enforcement in Doraville might need to quickly move troops under heavy fire to a location, toss a smoke grenade, unload the soldiers, reload the soldiers, and hightail it back to base. Clearly the tactics that have made Baghdad the stable city it is today are what the people of the greater Atlanta metro region need most.

    I thought the main use was for militarized police to either secure a building with an active shooter or hostage-taker, or to execute warrants where somebody thought they once saw a gun. Why would they need a smoke grenade in those circumstances? Why in any likely circumstance (short of Red Dawn) would they need to speedily abandon their positions in an armored vehicle?

    It seems like they’re training for a firefight against heavily armed opponents. But do they really anticipate needing to beat a hasty retreat? Training to run back into the carrier and leave seems bizarre. They’re supposed to be a pacifying influence, not a force of commandos trained to leave before being overwhelmed by the enemy regulars coming into town.

    1. Yup – this looks more like an execution. Roll up, open fire, bug out.

    2. But do they really anticipate needing to beat a hasty retreat?

      This appears to have been some form of asset retrieval.

      Which makes the derp like six layers deep instead of just the usual one or two.

      Are police generally unaware of the SCA and similar groups?

      1. The Society of Creative Anachronism? I love morningstars and pikes as much as the next guy, but I didn’t think they’d be that good in a firefight.

    3. You are giving these douchers too much credit. They haven’t thought beyond the coolness of the tactical shit they try to employ.

      As someone who spent much time on an actual FOB in a place where actual people were actually trying to kill me and blow me up I don’t find these toy the local PD’s have very impressive in the numbers they have mixed with their logistical capabilities.

    4. They’re expecting to have to fight the Newport Beach police some day.

    5. I fore one feel like they need more CAS. I am excited, as someone who has spent their adult life viewing the world in green and flying behind a large calibre gun, that my skills are marketable in first world America!

      I mean, so what if a 50’s beaten path I huge? The neighbors had it coming!

    6. FYI: Balko, the author here has truly misrepresented this video and all are falling for it.

      This is a training video, nothing more. It was originally posted on YouTube in 2009.

      Uploaded on Apr 24, 2009

      This is a downed officer rescue training video from the Doraville Police SWAT Team that I edited and added some cool effects.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kajhu7qgojU

      1. FYI, all that is immaterial. It is the military mindset, from the top down, that has overcome law enforcement. They have willingly advanced (?) to an occupying force in mind and attitude. Not so good for the liberty minded.

        Ask yourself, if the police are the point guard for the Constitution, why there is no Constitutional education and/or training? There is even little training on domestic and civil law. The bulk of the training is physical, and most copied from soft military training. Their firearms training is laughable and shooting skills are appalling.

        All too many have become Sturmabteilung at the ready, and little else.

  15. It seems like they’re training for a firefight against heavily armed opponents

    Gearing up, sure. Training? I doubt it. That’s too much like work.

    1. You’re correct. It is a training video that was posted on YouTube in 2009 by Patriotsix6.

      Uploaded on Apr 24, 2009

      This is a downed officer rescue training video from the Doraville Police SWAT Team that I edited and added some cool effects.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kajhu7qgojU

      1. Is this pic also a “downed officer rescue”?
        http://www.doravillepolice.us/…..1291449187

        It’s on the doraville p[lice site. Looks like they scrubbed your fetish video.

      2. This training video opens with the Punisher logo and the soundtrack is “Die Motherfu*%er Die”. Until Balko’s article came out it was on the front page of the PD web site right under the chiefs pic, so not “just a training video”.

        More fun pics on their FB page:
        https://www.facebook.com/doravillepolice/photos

  16. Molotov has the answer, good then, still good now.

    1. From Wikipedia

      The name “Molotov cocktail” was coined by the Finns during the Winter War.[1] The name is an insulting reference to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was responsible for the setting of “spheres of interest” in Eastern Europe under the Molotov?Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939. The pact with the Nazis bearing Molotov’s name, which secretly stated the Soviet intention to invade Finland in November 1939, was widely mocked by the Finns, as well as much of the propaganda Molotov produced to accompany it, including his declaration on Soviet state radio that bombing missions over Finland were actually airborne humanitarian food deliveries for their starving neighbours. The Finns, far from starving and engaged in a bitter war for national survival with the Soviet forces, sarcastically dubbed the Soviet cluster bombs “Molotov bread baskets” in reference to Molotov’s propaganda broadcasts. When the hand-held bottle firebomb was developed to attack Soviet tanks, the Finns called it the “Molotov cocktail”, as “a drink to go with the food”.[2] Molotov himself despised the name, particularly as the term became ubiquitous and generalised as Soviets faced increasing numbers of cocktail-throwing protesters in the Eastern Bloc in the years after World War II.[3]

      1. “he name is an insulting reference to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov … Molotov himself despised the name”

        Good! Anything to drag the name of that evil man through the mud!

  17. It should have worried us when it happened in Boston, yet the propaganda shots showed people holding signs, thanking police for saving them from the terrorists. It should worry us no matter where it appears, no matter what reason police give for their behavior.

    What’s puzzling is why no leaders among the police community have spoken against this way of policing. Is the pressure to conform that strong? Policemen have to see that their behavior is not compatible with a democratic country. Do they not care about that? Why would they so willingly trample on their “serve and protect” motto?

    1. Is the pressure to conform save their union pension that strong?

      Yes.

      Policemen have to see that their behavior is not compatible with a democratic country. Do they not care about that?

      Everyone goes to college, and college is Duke, and Mike Nifong. Academe has trained at least three generations of citizens to live in a police state by now. The most surprising thing is that you’re surprised at the total disregard for the Constitution.

    2. The new Border Patrol boss actually had a decent interview on NPR about how during his Seattle police chief days less riot gear and aggressive techniques netted him more positive results in terms of crowd behavior.

  18. Someone really needs to re-edit that with the theme music from the Andy Griffith Show.

    1. They did.

      And the writing got eerily clairvoyant.

      1. Misread that comment.

    2. Someone really needs to re-edit that with the theme music from the Andy Griffith Show.

      Or re-edit the opening to the Andy Griffith Show with the Dope song.

  19. SOMEONE has to hire the hundreds of thousands of infantry we have trained over the last decade.

  20. But Terrorists!

  21. FYI: This is a training video posted 5 years ago.

    Uploaded on Apr 24, 2009 by Patriotsix6

    This is a downed officer rescue training video from the Doraville Police SWAT Team that I edited and added some cool effects.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kajhu7qgojU

  22. This would have been funnier still had they managed to run over one of he parked police vehicles on the way out. Dipshit tin soldiers.

  23. I think one thing that would help publicise the militarisation of U.S. police forces, would be if the media started calling SWAT teams by their correct name. They are not police, they are paramilitary. They have military ranks, uniforms, arms, and equipment, use military drone and surveillance technology, have immunity from most civilian law, and in large part are funded by plunder and loot. All the hallmarks of a paramilitary organisation.

  24. “Have you noticed our Youtube videos have got little skulls on them?”

    1. +1

      Mitchell & Webb

  25. I’m curious. For those of you who are against the paramilitary direction of police… Would you feel the same way if you agreed with the laws they enforce.

    Said another way: would you support a police force capable of limited urban warfare if the laws they enforced were more reasonable and bound to (for lack of a better identifier) Libertarian principles?

    Given the power of organized crimes and gangs, might we not need this type of force available to us at the state and local level?

    1. No, hell no, and AW HELL NO!
      That’s the freakin’ point! Who in their right mind wants the cops to have any of these toys and the power they derive from them?

      Besides, it’s obvious that the largest gang of criminals/terrorists in the country is the cops. Maybe they should fight and kill each other?

  26. It is an older model military peronnel vehicle. The MIC has so much money they buy new equipment every year and dispose of the used gear for pennys on the dollar. The problem is not the cops getting militarized, but the taxpayer being VICTIMIZED by the MIC. Wake up America.

  27. Conservatives have been trying to get the American media’s attention about inappropriately militarized police for years. But it has suited the left so far for the police to be a de facto military with a slightly less powerful air force, so the issue has gotten no traction. But now that we’re talking about a blue-on-black shooting, well of course the rules have changed and it’s okay to turn on the PD for having more firepower than the local National Guard unit. Gotta love that principle.

    Where have they been?

  28. HEY, I didn’t see the “to protect and serve ” on the side of that new police cruiser. That’s not right.

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