The American Civil Liberties Union issued a 98 page report this morning titled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.”
If you belong to a motorcycle club it probably won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Raids by heavily armed teams of donut commandos are regularly used as a form of extra-judicial punishment against bikers because bikers tend to be contemptuous of both bullies and drug laws. These raids are obviously unconstitutional because they are blatantly intended to punish people that police don’t like without even a sham trial. And the punishment they inflict – like the routine killing of family pets, the brutalization of children and the sexual degradation of women – is unquestionably cruel and unusual and unconstitutional, too.
This page has covered the practice of punishment by Swat for the last six years. If you want to read some of what has already been published here consider “Swat Murdered Russell Doza,” “Indicia Warrant From Hell,” “Why James Hicks Died,” or The Aging Rebel’s review of Radley Balko’s Rise Of The Warrior Cop.
So far, this repressive war by America’s police establishment on America’s citizen’s has been ignored by America’s mainstream news outlets and has avoided inclusion on the national agenda. That is a shame because routine extra-judicial punishment by militarized police might be the single most obvious thing wrong with this nation – a greater threat to the survival of the Republic than student debt, the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or even the religious war in Iraq. Maybe today’s ACLU report will earn a minute or two on tonight’s nightly news.
The ACLU Report
While preparing the report the ACLU analyzed 800 Swat raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states and on those agencies’ acquisition of military weaponry, vehicles, and equipment.
“We found that police overwhelmingly use Swat raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs,” Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice said. The report documents multiple tragedies caused by police carrying out needless Swat raids, including a 26-year-old mother shot with her child in her arms and a 19-month-old baby critically injured when a flashbang grenade landed in his crib.
“Our police are trampling on our civil rights and turning communities…into war zones,” Dansky continued. “We all pay for it with our tax dollars. The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice give police military weaponry and vehicles as well as grants for military equipment. The War on Drugs has failed, yet the federal government hasn’t stopped the flow of guns and money.”
The report calls for the federal government to rein in the incentives for police to militarize. The ACLU also asks that local, state and federal governments track the use of Swat and the guns, tanks, and other military equipment that end up in police hands.
“Our findings reveal not only the dangers of militarized police, but also the difficulties in determining the extent and impact of those dangers. At every level – from the police to the state governments to the federal government – there is almost no recordkeeping about Swat or the use of military weapons and vehicles by local law enforcement,” Dansky said.
In addition, the report recommends that state legislatures and municipalities develop criteria for SWAT raids that limit their deployment to the kinds of emergencies for which they were intended, such as an active shooter situation.
You can read the complete report here.