War On The Streets

How SWAT has become larger and more invasive


Swat Police Militarization Infographic

NEXT: Former FDA Head Says Agency Holds Medicine Back

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. War On The Streets

    So someone had started attacking the ROADZ? Or is this like the War on Drugs, where it will result in a lot of violence, but a proliferation of ROADZ?

    1. I thought it was going to be an article blasting PENNDOT.

      1. PennDOT invented a shovel that would stand up on its own because holding up a shovel all day was too much work for PennDOT employees.

        1. Then the PennDOT employee union sued PennDOT because the union contract specifically states that no shovel may be stood up without being supported by a qualified PennDOT employee. Consequentely the program was abandonned, millions of shovels were destroyed and PennDOT employees began receiving longer and more frequent breaks from shovel standing.

    2. If the roads will cost less yet be made of higher quality asphalt, then I could be convinced.

    3. So someone had started attacking the ROADZ?

      Somalian immigrants, I think.

  2. SWAT teams are for thugs who like to terrorize people, not to keep officers safe. Because when the person poses an actual threat to officer safety, such as in the case of Whitey Bulger, they lure them outside for an ambush.

    1. I have a co-worker who went through the local “citizen police academy”, so he gets to participate in the local practice SWAT scenarios.

      He’s never mentioned them practicing serving a search warrant. They spend all their time practicing active shooter/hostage situations – usually under the guidance of an FBI trainer.

      And they apparently suck at it. But if all you practice is active shooter scenarios, you’ll probably approach every situation like an active shooter, and end up throwing a flash bang into some kid’s crib.

      1. SWAT teams combine the vices of soldiers and police officers without any of their virtues.

        1. They ran a scenario at the mall by my apartment where the mall security guys were supposed to report a guy walking around with a rifle.

          The mall security saw the guy and thought “Oh, that’s right. The SWAT team is running a scenario today. Nothing to worry about.”

          There was supposed to be a bomb in a backpack somewhere in the mall. The SWAT team set up their command area right next to it. And began evacuating mall shoppers into the command area.

          The SWAT team had two snipers, so they decide to put them at either end of the mall – the mall has two floors and the curves, so one end can’t see the other. Instead of putting them on the second floor, the snipers were stationed on the first.

          You could get a 14 year old kid who’s played computer games to better deploy and organize.

          1. The worst part of my experience was the hostage negotiator. He was horrible. He had the job because he was the most senior guy, but that changed pretty quickly.

            They have an armored hostage phone that they can throw through windows to establish communications. I took 5-6 calls on it, and the guy was worthless. Then, he accidentally gave me information that confirmed what I had already suspected: the phone has hidden cameras and microphones all over it. So, I put my sweatshirt over the phone and put it in a closet. Whoops!

      2. I did that a couple of years ago. I was a hostage taker in a bank. I killed the entire entry team. They were soooooo pissed.

        I got a call from the chief, personally asking me to participate again.

        When they surrounded me the next time (this time it was workplace violence simulation), they shot me about 50 times with simuntions. It was very painful.

        1. That sounds like fun.

          1. Oh, it was. The second scenario required me to be drunk. I think that’s why I lost.

            1. After that first ass-kicking I’m surprised they didn’t set you up for a little “accident” in the second one…

              1. It was the 50 or so bruises.

                1. I’m sure it was all in good “fun”. Are these like the bruises you get from close range paint ball guns?

                  1. Sim rounds travel at over twice the speed of paintballs, but they’re smaller.

    2. From the graphic above it looks like SWAT teams are for the prevention of the evidence destruction. They would rather break down your doors, terrorize your family and shoot your dogs than risk you flushing a dime bag of weed.

  3. OT: People are butthurt do to the fact the Cubs and Giants game had to be replayed due to a poor tarp rollout and the Cubs owner blamed Obamacare for them not having an adequate field staff to properly protect the field.

    1. From the comments:

      Anyone who tries to separate sports from politics is asking for something that’s not possible…
      Life is complicated, and messy, and everything in society is just one big tangled web. Conservatives can try to pretend all they want that it’s all about the individual, and personal responsibility, but that doesn’t make it true. Whether we like it or not, all this shit is connected, and none of us are immune from it. We are all dependent on each other because that’s what a goddamn society is. If you really want to “be your own man” then go live in the woods and start your own damn society while the rest of us try to be civilized. Trying to pretend that sports and politics are two mutually exclusive arenas is the same as people grumbling about how “I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s health insurance” even though they already do and will continue to do so whether Obamacare stays or goes. I love how conservatives are the first to shout “United we stand!” and then follow it up with a nice “but I got mine, so go fuck yourself.” The irony would be delicious if it didn’t have such devastating, real world consequences.

      1. Well, he’s right that in the current situation it’s hard to separate anything from politics. But then he seems to think that politics and government are the only way things are connected and society is constituted.
        Individual freedom and responsibility doesn’t mean that everyone goes it alone. That’s absurd. It’s just better for people to associate and cooperate on a voluntary basis.

    2. That’s hilarious.

    3. They were playing the Giants? Headline: Obama policy saves Cubs from drubbing!

    4. Two groups of people I hate the most: The SF Giants (whiniest organization in sports) and Cubs fans.

  4. 35% of the time, it works every time.

    1. That doesn’t make sense.

      In my world, judges would be held accountable for the warrants they sign. If they, in turn, want to hold law enforcement responsible for any searches that didn’t turn up what was expected, I would back that.

      Any physical evidence gathered without video evidence would be presumed to have been planted and would be tossed.

      1. I would only trust video evidence from the police that was live uploaded to a 3rd party storage site.

        Otherwise way too easy for them to tell the guy with the camera to turn it off for a few seconds while they hide a dime bag
        or throw away pistol

        1. If it’s a live upload, we should require it timestamp starts and stops as a feature, and disable user activation controls on the device, for added protection.

          1. If it’s a live upload, we should require it timestamp starts and stops as a feature, and disable user activation controls on the device, for added protection.

            You punch the clock, the camera comes on and it doesn’t shut off until you punch out.

            I’d still be wary of officer A tossing/dropping a weapon or evidence some place off camera and officer B ‘discovering’ said evidence. Magic tricks and general misdirection are insanely easy when you control the subjects view is limited and/or controlled by you.

            1. We also need the death penalty for planting evidence or lying in reports.

  5. When officer safety is considered priority, I would support forced sequestering of officers in their homes. Whether they want to additionally hide under their beds is up to the individual officers.

    1. And they could get all the military surplus bunk beds they want, with camouflage sheets.

  6. I don’t object to the existence of SWAT teams, just who has them and how they are used. I think it’s particularly bizarre that all those Federal agencies have SWAT teams. Why not just the FBI? Surely they can serve the needs of the Department of Education (etc.) when it comes to that level of response.

    1. Right – there probably are times that call for “special weapons and tactics”. When SWAT teams were first rolled out it seems like their use was actually reserved for such occasions. It seems like SWAT should be a state police thing in most cases, maybe an additional team for a really big metro area.

    2. A title of nobility is all well and good, but you are never going to be taken seriously by the other nobles if you cannot field your own household troops.

      1. Yes, I think there’s bureaucratic “me too” feeling behind a lot of this.

    3. Agreed. I’d say let the FBI have a few spread out around the country and let each state do whatever it wants. I would prefer if my state also only had just enough to cover the entire state.

      All in all, though, I don’t support Federal laws restricting what state and local governments do with their police, just Federal laws prohibiting Uncle Sam from transferring any weapons of any kind to state and local gov’ts.

  7. tl;dr

    Mostly because Redeye Radio has assured me – AGAIN – ad nauseum, till I had to turn to the sports channel again at 2:00 in the morning, that this “militarization” is nonsense, and if we want police to be “less protected”, then “they should get to choose which kinds of situations they respond to.”

    They kinda, sorta have a point, and then go full cop fellator. You never wanna go full cop fellator…

    1. The logical extreme of that argument would suggest that cops should have tanks, RPGs, and mounted machine guns…..

      oh wait

      1. The logical extreme of that argument would suggest that cops should have tanks, RPGs, and mounted machine guns…..

        Not to mention the assumption being that those ends always achieve peace.

        Clearly, we just didn’t commit enough weapons, tanks, and bodies to Iraq I, Iraq II, Cuba, Vietnam…

    2. I think the local voters should get to choose both what kinds of situations the police respond to and how well-equiped the police are. Equilibrium will be found. Of course you have to do away with public sector unions or else that equilibrium gets horribly skewed.

  8. Sources – three cop haters and one state code. I’m sure their stats are all straightforward and beyond reproach. Three cop haters – even wrote books about it. But your numbers aren’t biased.

    For a magazine called REASON….

    /cop luvvah

  9. ….but a pacifist in the sheets!

  10. “Posse Comitatus my ass! Who needs an army when we can have a Stasi?”

  11. Those were the original high risk situations they were used, it has expanded to other high risk situations. And yes people serving a warrant where drugs are involved is considered high risk.

    I don’t have a problem with the public working with their elected officials to define under what criteria a special response is required, or the approval process for using such a team. Being at the local level is where it belongs. But first one would have to define what exactly is such a team. Pretty loose definitions out there right now that are all over the place.

    1. It shouldn’t count if a high risk situation only became high risk because the police got involved.

    2. Oh yes, when teh drugz are involved, everything is ZOMG high risk.

      Why don’t you go roll me another reefer, Mae, and then Play faster ! Play faster !

      1. It’s one thing if they’re busting a known armed-and-dangerous drug gang, but too often it seems like some anonymous person claims someone else has some drugs, and they send a SWAT team.

  12. When this kind of force exists SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE will justify using it; if for no other reason than “We can’t have all these highly trained officers and their expensive toys sitting around doing nothing.”

    1. There is the “to a man with a hammer…” principle. That doesn’t mean that nobody should have hammers, though.

  13. This information couldn’t be presented in text form?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.