The issue of police militarization has faded from the headlines since Ferguson, but SWAT teams are still out there, somewhere. Hopefully not outside your door, waiting to throw flash-bangs into your living room. But outside someone’s door, looking to take them down for drug-related offenses before the accused can flush contraband down the toilet. Seriously, that was the rationale for no-knock SWAT raids back in the day – despite the fact that cops can install sewage traps. Still true today. As is SWAT mission creep (terrorism!). These days, they’re still being used for all sorts of things like . . .

Raiding the house where someone used an unsecured WiFi connection to threaten officers’ families.

There’s been an unmistakeable change in the public’s perception of police in general and SWAT teams in specific. The courts, who once gave SWAT cops free reign to no-knock on the flimsiest of evidence, are dialing it back. Uncle Sam has curtailed the military -> police equipment program that kitted-up SWAT teams from coast to coast. More importantly . . .

While the Thin Blue Line is still a thing, so now is a sense of accountability. Last month, the feds charged former Georgia deputy sheriff Nikki Autry for making false statements to obtain a search warrant for the Habersham County home where a SWAT team member disfigured a toddler with a flash bang. On Friday, an Ohio judge ruled that Evansville Police Department “committed too many mistakes” to be shielded from liability in a lawsuit over the above raid.

Still, we’re a long way from the days of where officers walked the beat and cops respectfully requested bad guys to surrender. Is there any going back?

[h/t PetitionForRedress]

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50 Responses to Police Militarization Revealed

  1. “Is there any going back”

    No, because the state will never relinquish power willingly and cops enjoy their freedom to kill and brutalize. For example, Santa Ana police sue to suppress video evidence of their malfeasance because they believe they have an expectation of privacy during a raid on a legal business. This is because they failed to find a hidden camera after disabling all the visible cameras.

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/police-675722-officers-video.html

    • We need to make willful and wanton destruction of evidence (including surveillance footage and equipment) a capital offense for LEOs.

      Yes, I mean strap the douchebags to the chair and make BBQ.

      • I oppose the suppression of evidence unless there’s a 4A violation. I also oppose juries not having access to police officer service records and arrest records of suspects. A good decision is made with *all* of the available facts.

        • Really? Would you voice your support to your police union and support turning over evidence management to neutral bodies in order to prevent tampering and ensure fidelity to the Brady Rule?

        • “Would you voice your support to your police union and support turning over evidence . . .”

          Doing that is a sure-fire career killer. There are a lot of good cops who work in corrupt, dysfunctional PD’s. Try to oppose the collusion between politicians, the union, and management and you kiss you ass goodbye. They’re as much victims as the rest of us.

        • Depending on the circumstance, and the specifics in the totality of the officer’s record, revealing the officer’s entire record might be a bad idea. I can see where, if a juror was aware that this particular officer was assigned to and patrolled that juror’s neighborhood, the juror may be intimidated. Also, I would be concerned about protecting an officer’s identity if he/she was involved in an ongoing undercover operation or internal investigation. But redacting limited, specific information not relevant to the case in the officer’s record could solve for that while still providing a great deal of information to the defense and the jury.

          And everyone please note that Accur81 has posted on this board often in support for officer accountability and good, safe, police tactics. If you want officers to have that kind of attitude, and we do, reward it before just questioning it.

    • I was gonna say your post reminded me of a SWAT raid on a legal medical marijuana dispensary and once I clicked the link, saw the image I knew it was the same story. They came barging in, made fun of a woman in a wheel chair with an amputated leg once everyone was gone, went up to all the security cameras and knocked em down with a crowbar but missed I think 2 hidden cameras, and on top of all that it looked like a few of the officers decided to indulge themselves with some of the edibles. Pathetic.

  2. “Still, we’re a long way from the days of where officers walked the beat and cops respectfully requested bad guys to surrender. Is there any going back?”

    No because it was never was that way.

    • It was never that way, true. But they also didn’t use to bust your door, flashbang and handcuff what looks like a 12 year old girl while serving a warrant.

  3. How is the use of flash-bangs on civilians constitutional? Their use which causes permanent, irreversible injury (hearing loss) to a person with no due process. And don’t give me “officer safety” either.
    No flash-bangs = officers MIGHT be injured
    Using a flash-bangs = citizens WILL be injured (with no due process).

  4. What could go wrong? If you have a weapon, you will use it at some time, especially if you’re a bureaucracy.

    The Battle of the Somme (WW I), over 1,000,000 casualties from 1 July and 18 November 1916. The British General in charge during WW I said he knew they were going to win as the French and British high school classes were larger than the Germans. As long as it was 1 for 1 there were going to win.

    Afghanistan, Iraq. and now Syria. Thank god were are training and arming the “Free Syrian Army”, it worked for us in Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t it? AND what are we really doing for the vets, American patriots who fought extremely well? NOT much, DOD and the politicians don’t like the PR showing a wounded or disabled vet, it’s the VA’s fault. Except for TV appearances, I doubt if you will see a star or flag officer in a VA hospital to say thank you, they are too busy working on their next promotion.

    Here’s a big clue Robert. They really aren’t stopping the flow of stuff from DOD to the local police, it’s a political stunt.

    With this type of leadership at the top, do you really think it’s better at the local cop shop?

    We lost the war on drugs in View Nam, time to give it up and treat it as a social issue, hell they want to treat guns as a social issue, so why not?

    The courts are not dialing it back, if they were they would scrutinize any action BEFORE not after the fact. Cops have all sorts of info on judges and their families.

    SWAT is here to stay (the cameras will never work correctly, some will be accidently turned off).

    Yea, I’m cynical.

  5. And you know the thing that really makes my head shake about the entire problem is that every time the police screw up this badly it just makes life worse for all the police agencies out there that are doing things right.

      • Unfortunately for that analogy, there is no official manual telling gun owners to go on shooting sprees.

        On the other hand, excessive force, immediate escalation and contempt of civil rights is taught as official policy, disguised as “officer safety”.

        After every police atrocity you can bet a mouthpiece will claim that “procedures were followed”. Because they were. Police criminality has simply legalized and made official.

  6. Thank Heavens there was no dog to shoot but the poor cat was never seen again after the whole team pulled a train on it. Worst part was that the cat was a male…….

    • The best you can do to prevent being randomly maimed by a SWAT raid, or at least get some sympathy after the fact, is to adopt a pet Lion called “Cecil.” Kids disfigured by flashbangs, are just part of life in the Progressivestan we should be so grateful that we live in. But a cute lion. Like, in Lion King. The horrors…..

  7. Cops keeping up with the times in terms of gear and training doesn’t concern me.

    What does concern me is that swat, or whatever name it goes by, should not be called out until shots have actually been fired.

    And the only time a no knock raid should be used is in a very high risk operation such as hostage rescue.

      • Flash bangs and tear gas and less lethal options should be available to the cops. But they must be held accountable for their use. This starts with mayors, governors and chiefs of police. Elections have consequences.

        I interacted with a game warden today. He had a Glock on one hip, a taser on the other, an asp, and some type of chemical container along with body armor.

        We were both polite and professional with one another and this has been my experience with all the fish and game people that I’ve encountered.

        Apparently management of the fish and game department could teach lessons to a lot of the managements of various law enforcement agencies.

        • Flash bangs re basically a PVC pipebomb. The only thing making them “legal” for law enforcement is the fact that most people have no idea how much destructive potential they have. Same for “hot” CS grenades (aka, “burners”). There is no civil application for either of those technologies.

        • The California DFG wardens I’ve interacted with have been decent folk whom when treated with the respect that I expect from them, don’t seem to be overly concerned with doing anything but making sure that our licenses and tags are in order. I also think it might have something to do with their limited numbers. When back up is far away-if you can even get an RF signal out-it seems like there is less impetus to be a letter of the law type or worse.

    • “Cops keeping up with the times in terms of gear and training doesn’t concern me.”

      Couldn’t agree more. I really don’t care if every cop in the nation walked around with a full auto .458SOCOM SBR. I’d say “neat, wanna see mine?”
      I don’t care what armor you have if you never make me shoot at it. I don’t care what gun you carry as long as you don’t point it at anything other than an immediate threat. I don’t care what kind of grenade you carry as long as you are careful and appropriate with its application.
      It’s not about equipment. It’s about attitude and training.
      Of course, as a taxpayer, I care a lot if I am spending money I don’t have to spend on gear that’s not needed, but that’s a different argument than officer and public safety.

  8. I want to believe we can go back. And we could. If the hammer got dropped and we just switched back, done and over. But there is an unfounded fear within all Dept’s, most could survive without any military gear. The mistake was to provide it in the first place. This has developed a culture which will be difficult to omit.

    • And yet, in this electoral cycle, the only two politicians who are unequivocally against this shit are Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.

      • Right.

        I’ve noticed this sort of thing a LOT recently. The GOP is very pro Law Enforcement…to the degree that their support does seem to cross the magic line from “support in the right ways” to “unquestioned support.”

        So, the lesson is that big gov is okay for their acceptable list of reasons. Socialized medicine, not okay (at least they pay lip service to stuff like this).

        SWAT teams kicking down doors and flash banging babies is, apparently, fine.

        It played out here in NC a few months ago when the State Senate, led by (R)’s, refused to pass a bill that contained Constitutional Carry (among other things) out of fear they we would be seen as “anti-Law Enforcement.” That’s it…the FEAR that passing that bill would LOOK that way motivated the continuance of the trampling of rights.

        Modern American politics in a nutshell, that story is.

  9. “Raiding the house where someone used an unsecured WiFi connection to threaten officers’ families.”

    …because threats to LEOs are 100x more important than threats to taxpayers.

  10. I agree that Radley Balko is an excellent writer to read. I have been reading his blogs and articles for at least 9 years now.

  11. But what would the cops do if they didn’t have all that cool military gear? Riding down the street in an armored MRAD is just so cool, of course it is too dang hot in there, so they leave the back door hanging open the whole time! I want the use of flash bangs ruled out for anyone but the FBI HRT. They raid a house occupied by an old lady, a kid and a cat for the non crime of not securing their WIFI, Are they they gonna raid the Post Office cause someone mailed a “threat” to the cop shop? I can not decide if these guys are just stupid, or bullies, or cowards, perhaps they are all three.

  12. Is there any going back?

    Eventually, but that road will be paved with the bodies of politicians, LE and citizens alike.

  13. Remember the NYPD thugs assaulting the peaceful, cooperative shopkeeper?

    We can only go back if, in instances such as that, citizens observing such barbaric behavior arm themselves with whatever is available and act to end the threat. Then, on the spot, someone should call for volunteer jurors, and (as in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress) hold court on the spot, and carry out sentence of the criminal officers. And given that the officers had a duty to protect that man, and acted entirely contrary to it, I would vote for the death sentence, on the nearest lamp post.

  14. Coming to a neighborhood near you. The banality of evil. This house was occupied by an elderly woman and a teenager. Their house got wrecked, they were terrified, and the cops walked around joking about it all. Think these same guys wouldn’t walk around joking while your or your family or your dog bled out on the floor? Then they’d go home, take their wife to dinner, play with the kids a bit, and watch tv for awhile. This is just another day at the office. There’s something bad wrong with America’s police and I don’t think there are enough good cops to fix it.

    • A question for the LEO’s who visit here: Is it possible for someone on a SWAT team to question a warrant service like this? Couldn’t someone just say, “this is really stupid, we shouldn’t be doing this” and just knock on the people’s door?

  15. Nothing is going to change as long as the “good” cops don’t clean up their own house from the inside.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    – Edmund Burke

    • You have to have worked in a corrupt public bureaucracy to fully understand just how hard it is for good cops to work toward meaningful changes in police culture. It can be done, there are good cops attempting to do it, but the costs to one’s career can be very high. Look what happened to the ATF whistleblowers in the “Fast And Furious” government gun-running-to-the-cartels scandal. The pressure to “go-along-to-get-along” is very great and those who buck the system had better be ready for a serious fight. Even reform minded police-chiefs with the nominal backing of local politicians have trouble overcoming institutionalized corruption.

      • The situation is similar for POTG pushing for a return to constitutional carry, especially those who advocate openly bearing arms. The statists amongst us cry out “anarchy!” and “you’ll ruin it for the rest of us!”

  16. Remember that it’s barely two years since the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that citizens have no right to resist illegal entry into their homes by the police. It took legislative action to remedy that atrocity.

    The very concept advanced by Indiana’s highest court is chilling and horrifying.

    How the HELL did we get here?

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