Tuesday, March 25, 2014

VIDEO: SWAT teams abuse your rights -- 1000s of times a year!

Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies [sic] estimates that SWAT teams were deployed about 3000 times in 1980, but are now used about 50,000 times every year. The number of SWAT deployments soars even as violent crime falls

In the late 90s, the professor says, 89% of police departments in larger cities (population >50,000) had SWAT teams; 80% of cities with 25-50,000 people had them -- up from 20% in the mid-80s

The bully cops often rely on "no-knock" warrants, which let them force their way into a house -- maybe yours -- without announcing themselves. Obama's liberal-dominated Supreme Court says this is OK if they have a "reasonably suspicion" that announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow the suspect to destroy evidence, e.g. by flushing drugs down the toilet. Suspicion, reasonable or otherwise, is something American and Canadian cops have lots of. Some psychologists think "paranoia" is a better term.

Sometimes the cops make a mistake. Civil libertarian Radley Balko includes over 50 egregious abuses in Rise of the Warrior Cop: the Militarization of America's Police ForcesItem: In 2006, Kathryn Johnston, of Atlanta, aged 92, mistook the cops for robbers and fired a shot from an old pistol. The police shot her five times. RIP. After killing her, they planted marijuana in her home. It later emerged that they had falsified the information used to obtain their no-knock warrant

Item: In 2011, Eurie Stamps, stepfather of a suspected drug dealer but himself suspected of nothing, was killed while lying face down on the floor. Seems a SWAT cop tripped, causing his gun to discharge.

Item: In 2010, New Haven CT sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers.

Item: In the same year, heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando FL, hunting (they said) for guns and drugs. They wound up arresting 34 people for, errr, "barbering without a licence".

Here's a short clip of Mr. Balko talking about his book.

Why do cops do these things? The same reason dogs lick their balls! Because they can! Cops are bullies by nature, and enjoy using unreasonable force. According to Prof. Kraska, most SWAT deployments are not in response to violent, life-threatening crimes (as was the point of creating the teams), but to serve drug-related warrants in private homes. Breaking down the door is easier than knocking.

Why do cops do these things? Because SWAT raids are profitable! Under laws allowing the forfeiture of "assets bought with the proceeds of crime", the cops get to keep the drugs, cars and cash they seize... especially the cash. They can even take your house. According to the Economist*, many police departments now depend on forfeiture for a fat chunk of their budgets.

Why do cops do these things? Because they like playing with military machinery and weapons -- things that go boom in the night.

Item: Keene NH, site of three (3) homicides between 1999 and 2012, spent nearly $286,000 on a BearCat armoured personnel carrier. Chief Wiggum said it would be used to patrol Keene's "Pumpkin Festival" and other dangerous situations.

Item: In Maricopa County AZ, a SWAT team broke into the living room of Jesus Llovera [possibly a vizmin? Ed.], who was suspected of organizing cockfights. The cops rolled a tank -- a tank! -- into Mr. Llovera's yard, killing more than 100 of his birds, as well as hig dog.

Dear gentle reader, if you live in a police state -- e.g. the Excited States of America or Her Majesty's Dominion of Canada -- this could happen to you! One of Walt's agents still carries a scar from a dawn raid on his country home nearly a quarter-century ago. If the cops don't like you, or just feel like having a little fun 'n' exercise, they'll pounce. Who's going to stop them?!

* Footnote: The examples used in this post were taken from "Cops or soldiers?", an excellent article in the March 22nd issue of The Economist. Run -- do not walk -- to your newsstand or library and get hold of it. Quick, before the cops confiscate it! Here is the conclusion of the magazine's editorial on the issue, "Armed and dangerous".

The militarisation of American law enforcement is alarming. The police are not soldiers. Armies are trained to kill the enemy; the police are supposed to uphold the law and protect citizens. They should use the minimum force necessary to accomplish those goals.

[The use of SWAT teams should be restricted] to situations where there are solid grounds to believe that the suspect involved is armed and dangerous. They should not be used to serve search warrants on non-violent offenders, or to make sure that strip joints are code-compliant, or in any circumstance where a knock on the door from a regular cop would suffice. The "war on drugs" is supposed to be me a metaphor, not a real war.

Further reading: "'Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book': The new warrior cop is out of control", by the same Radley Balko.

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