I’ve written a large numbers of posts attacking the up-armoring and military mindsetting of U.S. police. My main point: SWAT comes in, civil liberties go out. America moves closer to a police state. Meanwhile, innocent lives are lost. But there’s another angle to this. The innocent lives lost aren’t just the ones taken by jumpy no-knock cops wielding battering rams, flash bangs and fully automatic rifles. There’s also a price to pay in terms of the over-proliferation of SWAT teams, generally. That’s the real story behind the shooting at the D.C. Navy Yard . . .
Because, let’s face it, there are always going going to be spree killers. There have been since the dawn of time. There will be ’til the sun fries the Earth to a crisp.
While it’s nice to know what motivates these murderers, while it’s comforting to think we could use that information to devise ways to ID and incarcerate these proto-killers, we can’t. Well no more than we already do. All we can do is to keep trying to weed them out and, equally important, prepare for the ones who slither through the grass, unseen.
The terrorist attack in Nairobi highlights the importance of that realization. Even if we eliminated deranged spree killers we’d still be left with an even worse threat: organized teams of civilian slaughterers prepared to die for a cause. [Note: aside from bombers, lone wolf terrorists like Fort Hood killer Major Nidal Malik Hassan are the exception to the rule.]
There are two main points of defense against these types of attack. First, the people on-the-spot: the so-called victims. Regular readers (and anyone with an ounce of common sense) will understand that armed civilians are, or should be, the first line of defense against spree killers and terrorists. We are there. We are the first responders.
Besides, there’s no way to provide professional security/police protection for every possible target. Truth be told, most public spaces (and large private ones) are indefensible. Too many entrances and exits. Too many people. Placing security/police assets at a specific location may prevent an attack—but it’s just as likely to deflect the attack to a less well-defended location.
The second line of defense: the “normal” cops. Yes, well, despite all the talk of post-Columbine active shooter police response tactics—don’t wait for SWAT— events at the Navy Yard indicate that’s exactly what happened. (I’m betting that the long-delayed report from the Sandy Hook slaughter will reveal another deadly delay.) What is it that cops say? My main job is to get home at night. Like that.
So I’m not seeing “normal” cops as a main line of defense against spree killers or terrorists. That job belongs to our militarized SWAT teams. Given the gun-free policies of most private, government and (unbelievably) military spaces, disarmed civilians are left waiting, hoping, praying for SWAT to save their lives.
I’m not going to dwell on the inherently flawed selection process, piss-poor training or overly aggressive tactics that typify America’s SWAT teams. [*cough* Jose Guerena *cough*] I’m simply going to point out that we have WAY too many cops in general and FAR too many SWAT teams in specific.
To put a number to it, 90 percent of U.S. cities with 50,000 or more people have a SWAT team. And then there are state and federal SWAT teams, including the ATF, FBI, DHS, DEA, DOE, TSA, IRS, CPB, etc.
The result is, simply put, a clusterfvck.
Members of a Washington DC Swat team who the BBC has learned were ordered not to respond to Monday’s Navy Yard shootings have yet to be contacted by the authorities.
The Capitol Police tactical response team was told by a supervisor to leave the scene instead of aiding municipal officers, sources told the BBC.
Meanwhile, the department has installed a new leader of the elite unit. No reason has been given for the decision.
Perhaps the man leading the Containment and Emergency Response Team (CERT) was fired because he didn’t have the stones to tell the City Cops to step aside and let his men do their job. Which underlines my main point: there’s no point in having these hugely expensive, inherently anti-liberty military-style cops if we’re not going to use them properly. If they’re hampered by the fact that there are too damn many of them.
The reason the CERT team was told to stand down? So that the D.C. cops could deploy their SWAT team who were on the way. You know, ahead of the FBI and ATF SWAT teams. Given that the Navy Yard’s seven-member security team had already shown that it was not up to the job.
Did I miss anyone? Did the Navy have a SWAT team on call? Probably. The pics in this New York Daily News gallery reveal a farrago of forces melding and mixing after the murderous mayhem. Let’s have another look at the cost of that jurisdictional bunfight at the Navy Yard.
Four Cert team members wearing full tactical gear and armed with HK-416 assault weapons arrived on scene at Navy Yard at 08:36 (12:36 GMT) on Monday, after reports surfaced of an active gunman at the complex at 08:20.
According to sources, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Washington DC’s main municipal force, told the Capitol Cert officers they were the only police on site equipped with long guns, and requested their help stopping the gunman.
When the Capitol Police team radioed their superiors, they were told by a watch commander to leave the scene, the BBC was told.
On Thursday, FBI Director James B Comey Jr told ABC News it took roughly half an hour for armed police to arrive and engage Alexis. All 12 victims were killed within that time.
So there you have it: too many SWAT teams means innocent people die. Not to mention the people who die as “regular” cops wait for the SWAT team. [*cough* Petit family *cough*] It’s time to dial back on police militarization and realize the importance of cops and armed citizens working together to take out the madmen when they arrive. And arrive they will. [h/t James]