registerguard.com has a story on a $600k lawsuit brought by Officer Brian Hagen against the city of Eugene, Oregon. Hagen says he was punished for raising safety concerns about the city’s SWAT team. Testifying in court, Hagen and two brother officers “described two instances in the 1990s in which a SWAT officer shot himself in the foot with a machine gun and a sniper’s weapon discharged through the floor of an armored police vehicle, as well as a 2007 incident in which a SWAT officer’s weapon discharged into the ground as he was putting it away in his vehicle. Hagen testified that he was so close to that discharge that his ears rang for several hours afterward . . . Another time, he testified, he heard SWAT team members joking about a sergeant’s gun accidentally discharging when he was trying to fire off a flash grenade.” It gets worse . . .
Sgt. Thomas Schulke said he was also kicked off SWAT for raising the alarm on firearms safety.
Schulke refused to call the unintended weapon firings accidents, saying some SWAT team members showed less proficiency at gun safety “than a teenager coming out of a hunter’s safety class.”
“Their guns were pointed in the wrong direction at times, the safety was off, the status was not known,” he said. “They were negligent in not following basic firearms skills.”
He recounted participating in a training exercise in which officers lined up to prepare to search a building.
“Everyone was ready to go, and I looked around and saw a machine gun pointed at the back of my head,” Schulke testified. “I confronted him, and he said, ‘That’s how we do it.’ I got out of the exercise and went to the captain and complained.”
Schulke also described the Eugene Police Department as having a culture in which officers were mocked for raising safety concerns.
TTAG has highlighted the dangers of a militarized police force on many occasions. Add SWAT safety and proficiency to the list.
Think of it this way: if the Eugene SWAT team is creating and dismissing negligent discharges during training, what’s their firearms safety like during a no-kock raid? While society needs properly trained and equipped law enforcement, we can’t afford this type of over-the-top gung-ho policing. On any level.