SWAT teams new face of police agencies

Militarization of law enforcement going full steam ahead

author-imageJack  Minor, From WND.com, 07/28/13 –  swat-team-690x388

A key distinction between the U.S. and other nations, even relatively free  nations, long has been American restrictions on domestic use of the military,  for police actions, law enforcement and keeping things under control.

However, when the local police officer or sheriff’s deputy is equipped with  night vision goggles, laser-scope rifles, electronic eavesdropping equipment and  body armor and comes up a citizen’s driveway in a military-type personnel  carrier with shielded windows and oversize wheels, the prohibitions seem to lose  some of their teeth.

It’s an issue on which WND has reported for more than a decade, and others  now are taking note.

Since 1878, with the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act, it has long been an  established legal principle that the federal government is not allowed to use  the military to enforce federal or state laws.

See the BIG LIST of SWAT-team attacks on innocent  Americans.

In recent years, the law has been modified to allow the president to deploy  federal troops to enforce the law. Two of the most notable cases are President  Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to send federal troops into Little Rock, Ark., to  enforce desegregation and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

However, while American armed forces may be limited in their ability to  enforce the law, the act is essentially being circumvented by militarizing local  enforcement, equipping it with some of the same equipment, training and tactics  used in war zones.

Radley Balko raised the issue recently a Wall Street Journal article, “Rise  of the Warrior Cop.” He says the trend is to erase the line between military  and law enforcement.

“Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats,  law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have  been blurring the line between police officer and soldier,” Balko wrote. “Driven  by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment – from  bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers – American police forces  have often adopted a mindset previously reserved for the battlefield.”

Balko said the “war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism  efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop – armed to  the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat  to familiar American liberties.”

The number of local jurisdictions with SWAT teams has increased dramatically  in recent years, employed now by the majority of police departments in small and  medium-sized cities.

Balko cites surveys by criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky  University, who noted that in 1983 just 13 percent of towns between 25,000 and  50,000 people had a SWAT team. However, by 2005 the figure was up to 80  percent.

With the increase in the number of SWAT teams, local police have increasingly  used the new technology and training even in cases in which their use is  questionable.

The article noted that along with the increase in the number of SWAT teams  has come a corresponding increase in raids by the military-style trained  officers. In the 1970s there were just a few hundred raids per year, however, in  the 1980s the number of raids jumped to 3,000 per year. In 2005, the number is a  stratospheric 50,000.

Balko highlighted the case of Matthew Stewart, a U.S. military veteran.  Police got a tip he was growing marijuana in his basement. Stewart was awakened  when the battering ram knocked down the door and. Thinking he was being attacked  by criminals, he picked up a firearm and began shooting before being killed by  officers.

Read  the full report on “How America is Becoming a Police State,” in  Whistleblower.

After the shooting, police found 16 marijuana plants, and although the plants  were illegal, there was no evidence he was selling the drug. Stewart’s father  said his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may possibly have  used the marijuana to self-medicate.

While many Americans are concerned about the increased firepower possessed by  local law enforcement, Balko said the problem is more pervasive than just local  police departments, noting that many federal departments now have their own  personal SWAT department.

Among the government agencies with their own SWAT teams are the Department of  the Interior, NASA and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Even the Department of Education has its own “special forces” team.

Balko noted the federal department has sent SWAT team members to raid the  home of a woman who authorities said was suspected of defrauding the federal  student loan program. The raid raised eyebrows because it was it was the first  time the public was aware the Education Department possessed such a unit.

Whenever the issue is brought up, officials claim the increased armament and  hardware is needed because of threats faced by law enforcement that were not  present decades ago. In the 1980s the rationale was the war on drugs, while in  recent years it has been preventing domestic terrorist attacks.

However, the data does not back up such claims. The Colorado-based  Independence Institute noted in a 1991 study that less than one-eighth of 1  percent of U.S. homicides were committed with military-style weapons. In the  years since the 1991 report, additional studies have all reached similar  conclusions including one by the Clinton Justice Department in 1995 and the  National Institute for Justice in 2004.

While police departments have engaged in military tactics and training for  their SWAT teams, they have been frequently limited by law and by finances.  However, after the Muslim terrorist attacks on 9/11, the Department of Homeland  Security began to offer federal grants to allow local police departments to  upgrade their arsenal.

The Center for Investigative Reporting has said that since its inception in  2002, DHS has doled out $35 billion in grants to help militarize police forces  with items such as grenade launchers and even armored personnel carriers.

In 1999, WND reported a proposed change in a federal regulation would be  going into effect that would allow federal agencies to donate “surplus” firearms  to state and local law enforcement entities.

The previous regulation permitted federal agencies to donate or sell trucks,  boats, aircraft and even space vehicles to state and local agencies and to  individuals. But the federal property management regulations drew a line in the  sand when it came to agencies like the Forest Service or FBI transferring actual  weapons either by gift or sale.

But under the new regulations, used handguns, rifles, shotguns, individual  light automatic weapons up to 50 caliber, and rifle and shoulder-fired grenade  launchers up to 75 mm could be transferred to state agencies for donation to  state and local public agencies.

In 2011, the Pentagon gave away $500 million in military equipment to help  bolster the armories of local law-enforcement.

Earlier this year the American Civil Liberties Union became concerned about  the issue, saying in March it was filing a series of open records requests in 25  states and National Guard offices in an attempt to discover the extent to which  federal funding have helped local police departments become more  militarized.

“Federal funding in the billions of dollars has allowed state and local  police departments to gain access to weapons and tactics created for overseas  combat theaters – and yet very little is known about exactly how many police  departments have military weapons and training, how militarized the police have  become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend,” the ACLU  said on its website.

While the issue is now beginning to generate concern over perceived threats  to constitutional liberties by the Obama administration in light of the IRS and  NSA scandals, WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah began reporting the trend to  militarize the police in 1998.

In a column headlined “The cops  are out of control,” Farah lamented that while in years past seeing a police  officer gave him a sense of security, it was no longer the case because of  recent actions by SWAT teams.

“The recent incidents in Oklahoma, where police shot an unarmed mother  holding her child in her home, in Virginia, where a SWAT team killed a watchman  guarding a dice game at an after-hours club and in California, where a Bureau of  Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid on a gun shop resulted in the death of the  shopkeeper, provide some hard evidence that police in America may be getting out  of control,” Farah warned at the time.

He went on to note the danger of police agencies acquiring military gear even  back then.

“The biggest danger we face is the federalization and militarization of all  law enforcement. Interagency task forces, bringing together local and state  police with federal agents are now the rule of the day,” Farah noted. “Federal  agencies bribe local cops with funding, equipment and training programs.”

The challenged to the Fourth Amendment generated by the use of SWAT teams and  no-knock warrants is likely to continue as a result of a ruling by the Indiana  Supreme Court in 2011.

In a 3-2 ruling, the court ruled that there is no right for a private citizen  to resist illegal entry by a police officer. The court stated in its ruling  “that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police  officers.”

The case involved Richard Barnes, who faced misdemeanor charges for resisting  a police officer who had entered his home without a warrant. According to the  ruling, the case began when Barnes got into an argument with his wife, Mary.  During the argument Barnes threw a phone against a wall, prompting his wife to  call 911. She told the dispatcher that Barnes was throwing things but did not  strike her. The call went out as “domestic violence in progress.”

Officer Lenny Reed arrived at the scene and met Richard Barnes outside as he  was leaving with luggage. Barnes told the officer he was leaving and raised his  voice. Mary Barnes then came out, threw a bag at her husband and told him to get  the rest of his stuff.

The couple returned to the apartment and Richard Barnes blocked the officers  from entering. Reed attempted to enter the apartment and was thrown against the  wall by Barnes. Officers Jason Henry and Reed used a choke hold and Taser to  subdue Barnes.

After being found guilty of battery on a police officer, resisting  law-enforcement and disorderly conduct, Richard Barnes appealed the ruling. His  basis was that the jury had not been given instructions regarding the right of a  citizen to reasonably resist entry into his home.

The Indiana Supreme Court, in a stunning conclusion, stated: “This court is  faced for the first time with the question of whether Indiana should recognize  the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police  officers.”

“We conclude that public policy disfavors any such right.”

A WND columnist excoriated the ruling, saying, “Our founders, whatever the  differences among them, would be enraged” at the notion that private citizens  secure in their homes have no right to resist entry by officers without a  warrant.

See the BIG LIST of SWAT-team attacks on innocent  Americans.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/07/frightening-new-reason-to-fear-police/#vWX0xAPAjooemtaY.99

Jack Minor is a journalist and researcher  who served in the United States Marine Corps under President Reagan. Also a  former pastor, he has written hundreds of articles and been interviewed about  his work on many TV and radio outlets.

One response

  1. Senator_Blutarsky

    An Associated Press investigation has found that small town police departments are essetnailly grabbing whatever elite military equipment they can lays their hands on, in a move that is blurring the line between law enforcement and military service in the US.

    The little known scheme, dubbed the “1033 Program” when passed by congress in 1997, was slated to bolster police departments in order to allow them to more effectively fight the “war on drugs” and to combat “terrorism”.

    The program has seen police become equipped with surplus supplies of military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, and even grenade launchers, all to be used against US citizens.

    In 2011 alone, police departments across the nation received more than $500 million of military grade equipment.

    The AP investigation found that the attitude among many small town departments is to grab what they can. It’s findings include:

    – Morven, Ga.: Despite having an ankle-deep creek as it’s deepest body of water, the police chief got his hands on three boats, scuba gear, and rescue rafts.

    – Rising Star, Texas: With a population of 835 residents, and only one full-time police officer, this department netted more than $3.2 million in property over 14 months.

    – Bureau Count, Ill.: The sheriff — who had government-issued M14 rifles — was accused of lending some of them out to friends.

    Norm Stamper, a retired Seattle Police chief warned “The harm for me is that it further militarizes American law enforcement.”

    “We make a serious mistake, I’m convinced, in equipping domestic law enforcement, particularly in smaller, rural communities, with this much military equipment.” he added.

    The move to militarize police has been ongoing for some time. Departments across the country have received more than $34 billion in grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

    “We do know that in 2011, a half-billion dollars of surplus military equipment went to police departments,” John Chasnoff, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBS St. Louis. “We have concerns that the lines between the two [police and military] is starting to blur.”


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