ACLU Study on SWAT Raids Highlights Police Militarization

swat-raidJune 26, 2014 — Recently, Radley Balko wrote in the Washington Post about the study done by the American Civil Liberties Union dealing with the police militarization. There was a study done that took about a year and it looked into many SWAT team deployments in the years 2011 and 2012. They were only able to get a sliver of police departments to report, but there was still some significant information revealed, according to Mr. Balko. 

During this particular time, they were able to review 800 SWAT team deployments, although there were many, many more than that in the country. Of the 800, 65 percent of them involved forced entry. But the interesting thing is, only 7 percent of that 800 involved the apprehension of a violent individual or somebody holding a hostage or an armed felon. 

Too often it was to just investigate, look for a suspect or deliver a search warrant. Eighty percent of these SWAT team operations were involving these more benign operations. But once they got into these buildings, into the homes, less than half the time they ever found any contraband. Of course, they were most frequently looking for drugs and other things. But even with all of the military power and the information they had, they didn’t find anything in over half of the SWAT team operations.

Of course, the most common excuse for doing a SWAT team attack was to look for drugs. But just looking for drugs or serving search warrants would hardly require military equipment to do this. . . . For the local police departments to own tanks and all kinds of weaponry, I just think it’s way out of proportion to what is necessary. 

If they wanted to reduce the crimes and reduce the criminals and empty our prisons, we ought to just continue to work to change the drug laws. The drug laws and the consequence of illegal drugs is the most important issue going on here. Attitudes are changing. But the more they change the less of this that we’ll have to deal with.