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Behold! The Johnston, Rhode Island SWAT team and their gear. According to, taxpayer largesse has equipped Johnston’s paramilitary-style police with two Freightliner tractor-trailers, twelve Humvees; 30 M-16 rifles and conversion parts to transform them into M-4 weapons; 599 M-16 magazines containing about 18,000 rounds; a sniper targeting calculator; night vision equipment, 44 bayonets for ceremonial purposes; five generators from M1 tanks; and 23 snow blowers. In this federally subsidized hardware bounty they are not alone . . .

First formed in LA for hostage rescue, SWAT teams have multiplied like M-16-wielding rabbits. (Take that Elmer Fudd.) Back in ’97, there were 690 law enforcement agencies policing U.S. cities with populations of more than 50k. According to an academic survey, 90 percent of them had active a SWAT team. That’s a lot of SWAT.

This number is not on the decline. So what are we doing with all these paramilitary [style] police?

Hostage rescues? Not so much to start with and not so many now. But the flood of federal funding has increased arithmetically and no-knock raids with it. The SWAT team’s modus operandi has jumped from 2k to 3k a year in the mid-1980s to 70k – 80k annually, according to Peter Kraska, criminal justice prof at Eastern Kentucky University [via].

So let’s zoom in on the eight-member SWAT team in Johnston:

The town of Johnston has received more than $4.1 million in military equipment over the past two years through a U.S. military surplus program that has supplied its Police Department with 30 M-16 rifles, 12 humvees, and military night-vision equipment, among others tools.

Supporters of the $2.5-billion surplus program see many valuable uses for municipal police departments. Johnston Police Detective Raymond Peters says the program is helping equip a SWAT team capable of becoming a “world-class hostage rescue team.”

Capable of becoming a world class hostage rescue team? You’d kinda hope they’d be there already; I make the federal contribution to the Johnston SWAT team’s quest for excellence $256,250 per officer (eight shown), per year, for the last two years.

A number that does not include Uncle Sam’s previous years’ contributions, or local or state-funded salaries, pensions, ammo, gas, facilities and other “ancillary” expenses.

So how many hostage rescues has Johnston’s SWAT team performed in the last, well, ever? According to our friends at fuckyeahrhodeisland “Johnston, Rhode Island [has a] population 28,769 (as of 2010). The town hasn’t seen a murder since 2004, and has had all of four since 1999.”

No hostage rescues then. But hot damn the Johnston SWAT team is ready! Ready for . . . fun! The secret truth about SWAT teams: they’re more like a professional sports league than a useful law enforcement resource.

As reported back in October, “there’s nothing like a little friendly competition with rifles and gas masks.” SWAT team competitions are held all around the country. Here’s the Connecticut edition, in which Johnston didn’t participate or place (although RI was well represented):

Even though there’s not a lot of tax money behind these SWAT comps, equipment manufacturers are all over them, the media is well on board and the troops get a fantastic day out (on the clock).

From a pro-LEO perspective, these SWATfests are excellent for creating world class teams for hostage rescue, high risk police operations and anti-terrorist response (regardless of whether any of that is needed). From my point-of-view they’re a way to perpetuate a pricey paramilitary force that poses a grave risk to personal liberty.

“Congrats to all the great teams and individuals who reminded all of us that we are an elite group who are bound together by an invisible tie that is stronger than steel.” You might find that fine in an Oorah kinda way, but it creeps me out. Maybe I’m just being a baby about it.

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  1. Johnston’s multimillion dollar handouts from the Feds disprove the old adage that Rhode Island is for sale . . . cheap. Oh, it’s still for sale. It just costs a bit more than it used to.

  2. Reminds me of the great line from the comedian George Gobel (anyone remember him?) about training in Oklahoma during WWII.”not one Japanese aircraft got past Tulsa”…well heck…youtube has the bit here…enjoy 🙂

  3. Did it ever occur to you that maybe they help protect the town from depredations by the next town down the road? Virginia keeps an armored National Guard brigade on the North Carolina border for just that reason.

    • Many, but not all of his theories.

      Piaget’s most influential work is probably in the realm of child psychology and education… along with Lev Vygotsky and of Lawrence Kohlberg, many of his writings are still read and critiqued today, such as the idea that children develop knowledge through an active process of experience and interaction, or that learners cannot truly incorporate new knowledge until they have “built” the mental frameworks to accommodate that knowledge – sorta how us firearms enthusiasts will forever have the impossible task of convincing hoplophobes that there is nothing inherently evil about guns until they accept the fact that objects themselves have neither good nor evil intentions.

      Ah, grad school days. I don’t miss the endless paper writing or research, that’s for sure.

  4. I’m against no knock raids. As for all the humvees, the swat teams are getting them for free? But who pays to maintain them after the feds deliver them? How much of this gear that was paid for by our deficits is being piled up in city garages because they can’t afford to maintain it?

    Reminds me of when Clinton put 100 thousand new cops on the job. Soon as the fed money dried up cities had to drop the cops or cut funding to other programs to keep them.

    • It was a mystery to me how many times that no knock warrants ended up at the wrong address. Many times on the wrong street!!!

      Well, mystery solved. It has come to light that one of the primary job qualifications for SWAT officers is that they have a severe case of Dyslexia. YES!! They cannot READ!!!

      Since you need to read to write speeding tickets to meet your quota, these officers are not money makers.

      So, what is a police department to do with them? As we all know, police always take care of their own. Now we can all get a warm, cuddly feeling…..knowing they have a job, with body armor….automatic weapons…….and are serving a NO KNOCK warrant to the WRONG ADDRESS!!!!! (In a neighborhood near you)

    • You’re so right. Who is paying to feed those thirsty HMMV’s? The local taxpayers.

      Who is paying the salaries for the people pictured? The locals.

      And here’s a source that claims it knows what SWAT team members make in various communities:

      I have no way of verifying the information, but I know the information they present for my community isn’t out of the ballpark of what I know SWAT team members make.

  5. If the Defense Dept. can “give away” these goodies, I suppose its budget could use some major trimming.
    To Robert’s larger point of a highly armed police force, if most Americans can own AKs, ARs, etc. do you expect them to patrol the barrios with a S&W 38 revolver?
    I sure as hell would not.

    • “To Robert’s larger point of a highly armed police force, if most Americans can own AKs, ARs, etc. do you expect them to patrol the barrios with a S&W 38 revolver?
      I sure as hell would not.”

      Agreed. With all the TTAG reviews on HSLD civilian training courses, I’m waiting on the start of series on the dangers of the militarization of civilian gun owners.

      JK. But still.

  6. You say that SWAT teams (and competitions) are either useful for law enforcement or “they’re a way to perpetuate a pricey paramilitary force that poses a grave risk to personal liberty.” There’s a third option: they’re generally a useless waste of money, but they’re basically harmless.

    I can’t wrap my brain around the idea of promoting ownership of every type of weapon by private citizens, yet abhorring the use of these weapons by police. I understand the “taxpayer subsidy” aspect of the complaint, but that’s the same as complaining about having police at all.

    When “gun-grabbers” want to take away our AR-15’s because we “don’t need them”, people on this site are outraged. Yet when police departments own M-16’s, the same people say “they don’t need them!”

    I don’t get it.

    • I think the police need ‘some’ tactical weapons and vehicles just not nearly as much and as grandiose as they want to own. If the government does not need it to serve the people then they should probably not own it. However, I do recognize FPS Luxemberg’s comment above that if there are M16s in the barrios then yes the police who patrol such an area deserve as much firepower too. In theory, I can understand the civilian ownership: we pay for the guns with our own money, the guns can be used for the potential time of an all-out government tyranny, during civil unrest, hunting for some folks, target practice, and collecting. I did not put home/house defense down since imo an M16 is not a good tool for use within a house for self-defense.

      • I’ve got to agree with you guys. Although the world is a dangerous place, I’m struggling to see why Rhode Island needs 12 humvees and massive training expenses. There’s a cost to benefit ratio that seems totally out of whack. Peace officers should have an attitude of helping those they serve, not contributing unnecessarily to their expenses. These are tough times economically, and heavy costs need to be scrutinized.

        I don’t have any issue at all with a few precision rifles and ARs with rail and such. I have those things in my safes at home – because ARs are awesome! There is a whole lot that can be accomplished with Tasers, been bag shotguns, standard pepper spray, and and a “can do” attitude. We’ve arrested a few “barricaded suspects” with those tools. Helicopters, Humvees, tanks, etc. cause massive training budgets, and we should do better for the US taxpayer. Heck, on boring days I find it embarrassing that I am carrying so much equipment.

        The flip side is that I have seen bomb robots do some amazing things. Those are expensive, but very useful in my opinion. I’ve responded to a few bomb threats and suspicious packages. That isn’t a stellar feeling. I know that I get paid for it, but I’d rather not get taken out remotely.

    • The police do not need M-16 rifles because we have an army and state national guard which have all this gear. If we are going to militarize the police call them MPs and make them soldiers.

    • i dont mind police having M16s/AR15s because those weapons are plenty ideal for police work. There is a lesser chance of overpenetration, superior accuracy, superior reliability, and more kinetic energy than submachine guns.

      SWAT/SRT units have their purpose. unfortunately, they are used too often.

  7. America’s militarized police are an army that could conquer some nations or aid in the Washington fascist takeover of Amerika. The police and the military are a costly and excessive burden that Amerika cannot afford. What is the latest federal long-term debt (international loans to retirement programs) that is not going away maybe it’s about $120 trillion plus? Amerika is bankrupt and the private sector (which stills produces something) cannot bail out these government playboys.

    • Aharon, truer words were never spoken. For those who are interested, here is the actual dollars the Senate spends per year, per Senator. $8,162,563.35. The Senate as a whole? $815,257,003.33. What, almost 1 billion??

      Let’s not forget the House of Thieves, er…I mean Representatives…..can you guess? Yep, within a few dollars of our Senate.

      About 5 billion dollars total for Congress.

      Here’s the link on the Senate, enjoy:

      • About $5 billion yearly. The American people are not getting a good ROI on the costs to operate The People’s Cesar’s Palace Hotel err I mean The US Congress.

  8. Shut down these black holes of taxpayer money and team bravado, and use the money saved to train the lowly officer on the street with actual gun training. If every street trooper can easily hit a target at 100 yards with their duty pistol and 12 gauge slug shotgun, we won’t need no damn SWAT unit. If Hickock45 , being a former LEO himself can hit a 230 yard gong with a 3″ pocket gun, I think we can train the beat cop to something close to that level of efficiency with their sidearm.
    We seemed to get along fine in the past with single stack S&W 39 9mm’s , and those old timers didn’t need a SWAT team to take care of business.

    • Except not every LEO is as damn cool as Hickok45… I can imagine a nation of Hickock45 cops would be ones that don’t have ND or randomly shoot civilians.

      One can ony dream…

    • Except not every LEO is as damn cool as Hickok45… I can imagine a nation of Hickock45 cops would be ones that don’t have ND or randomly shoot civilians.

      One can only dream…

      • I could hit a gong with a pocket pistol at 230 yards, if’n I had a case of 500 rounds and good spotting conditions! I’m still working on the damn cool thing, though…

  9. If things go down hill in any of the towns with SWAT, their friends and neighbors will be the ones with all this equipment. Kind of nice to have a friend with access to heavy weapons. They’ll probably share it with you, too. I’m for it. The LEOs that live in town aren’t likely to use the equipment against their neighbors

  10. My therapist was right: the status quo in this great land leaves us with reason to cynical, sarcastic or less than bubbly cheerful. Happy shiny people holding hands…

  11. I’m not trying to start anything or troll but this seems a little paranoid to me. I think it’s pretty silly that they have all of that equipment but the thought of a lot of SWAT doesn’t scare me. I learned just how badly the Army is in operations in a city and they actually train for it. I’m pretty sure the Army would be better than a police force.

  12. Insane: Liberals Contemplate $1 Trillion Platinum Coin to “Solve” Debt Limit Issue
    “Welcome to Zimbabwe. This is not a parody — it is an actual report from the Washington Post:
    Some economists and legal scholars have suggested that the “platinum coin option” is one way to defuse a crisis if Congress can’t or won’t lift the debt ceiling soon.”

  13. Nice to see that tax payers are footing the bill for a bunch of wannabe military types to play on the weekends. It does have one side benefit tho. When city falls I know where to get extra munitions and arms from.

    Let New Orleans after Katrina be the example of what becomes of police and SWAT Units when the SHTF.

  14. Defense contractors always need new customers to maintain growth. Members of Congress want to keep arms manufacturing jobs in their states. Defense spending guarantees both, and taxpayers are billed for transforming their own peace keeping police departments into militarized enforcers to counter unspecified or unrealistic perceived threats.

  15. RF since you caved so easily on Piaget, I thought you might want to reexamine the SWAT invented in LA line. The NYPD Tactical Patrol Force was formed in the late 1950’s. These were the shock troops of the turbulent riot prone 1960’s. The LA SWAT concept was not born out of a vacum. NYC had them first.

  16. I see some self-righteous, arrogant motherf!cks who need to recognize that this bullsh!t won’t be allowed to go on forever….

  17. Muzzel Control Much?
    These would be Operators are collecting their toys for a very particular reason.
    Eight men with that much gear? You know there is a Seceret Milita and a shadow goverment in this picture somewhere.

  18. No, Robert, you are NOT being a baby about it. Should totally creep ANYBODY out.

    How quickly we forget the lessons of history. Such as……Blackshirts of Italy, Basij in Iran, Fedayeen Saddam of Iraq, Patriotic Guards in Romania, Sturmabteilung, or commonly called Brown Shirts in Nazi Germany, lastly SWAT in USA.

    What do they ALL have in common? Irregular military trained forces, many with police powers, whose primary mission is to support the current leadership structure.

    What thing these SWAT forces in the U.S. have excelled at, over the others mentioned… the ability to attack the WRONG address!!!!!!

  19. I liked the picture. Looks like some guys out for fun with neat toys. The heavy set black guy with the M14(priceless).
    I think the guys at my local shooting club would have them out gunned.
    Don’t know about out vehicleled. How do ATV’s and (Ford, Chevy, Dodge) 4×4’s stack up. I know my four wheeler will go places no truck will.

    I shoot with some active duty LEO’s . They are shooting their own AR’s etc. They say most of the (military) stuff they get on the job is pretty worn out and needs some work.
    Their carry handguns are mostly new. They say they are the exception in police work, because they like to shoot.
    I say most small town SWAT members join for fun and adventure. They get to shoot a lot of ammo, and dress cool.
    How they would do one on one in a paintball contest? I say the local gun club would come out winners.


  20. Looks like they’ll have a fun time showing off. y the way not all SWAT teams switch or use M-4s Robert. Many rural teams use full size M-16s since they work better in outdoor situations as well. They may no convert any M-16s to M-4s in that team.

    As SWAT in general some team may need bigger and badder gear but most of small departments DO NOT need this its just a way to look cool to rival neighbors departments to get more money.

  21. The fact that they have AR’s and sniper rifles doesn’t honestly phase me at all. The armored cars, armored Humvees, etc? That does. Ditto our state cops having armored frigging boats. Ditto no knock raids. But that’s a bad use of the tool, not the tool itself.

    I also wonder how these guys are used; if they’re ONLY activated during major emergencies and sit around the rest of the time that’s wasteful. But if they’re used as regular cops on the beat, but happen to have special training and an arms locker at the station so that they can be called during an emergency? That makes a lot more sense, resource wise.

  22. In order to have a world class hostage rescue team, you have to start with a world class hostage. Where ya gonna find one of them in Johnston?

    For the information of those who have no idea where Johnston, RI is, let’s just say that the only thing that makes this town stand apart from, say, Podunk, is the world class garbage dump lovingly known as the Johnston Landfill. When the wind is just right, you can smell it all the way to Virginia Beach.

  23. I guess East Providence didn’t get all kinds of SWAT goodies because of this debacle?

    “On a cold day in January 2002, more than 2,500 police officers from throughout the Northeast United States gathered in Rhode Island to pay their final respects to Capt. Alister C. McGregor of the East Providence Police Department. McGregor had been killed two days after Christmas 2001 when live ammunition was accidentally introduced in a training exercise.

    As commander of the East Providence special response team, McGregor was playing a gunman on a school bus in a hostage rescue scenario. Some 70 yards away, according to an investigation by the Rhode Island State Police, SRT sniper Patrolman Joseph Warzycha III lined up McGregor in his crosshairs and squeezed the trigger. The firing pin on his rifle was supposed to have stitched air, but instead it sent a .308 round screaming across the bus parking lot and into McGregor’s skull. The captain died instantly.”

    I hate SWAT for a simple reason. If you have the toys you’re going to look for a chance to play with them. It’s only a matter of time before the Johnston PD SWAT team goes out and kills a bunch of dogs and terrorizes someone’s family during the course of a misdemeanor arrest. Should we start a pool as to when that will happen?

    • There are going to be incidents like this in police or military units, any training with guns. Its never a good thing. Only training and constant pier review cant work to prevent them. Also, anyone who has served in the military as a grunt will tell you that you DO NOT want to start compiling a list of all the times military units have had tragic incidents like this. For one reason, nobody wins an argument like that and two, they have had so many, you would die of old age before you finished reading the list.

  24. Sorry, but I didn’t have time to read every post…
    I responded to one about how the Military/National Guard should handle SWAT duties, but that is a gray, political area of Posse Comitatus.
    Chief Gates saw the need for SWAT, and was a visionary. SWAT teams are not unlike our Military’s Special Ops Teams (in fact, the members are often ex-Military). Police Departments are already based on a para-Military model of discipline and chain-of-command.
    In the big cities, SWAT Teams are necessary and serve many purposes (including HRT, high-risk warrant services, high-profile protection, High-risk takedowns, waterborne operations, and much more). They constantly train to maintain a level of expertise, and attend competitions in order to see how other Departments run their teams, compare equipment, etc. These incidents are not common, but they do occur in the big cities.
    As far as this story on the Johnston Team… This is how our budget-restricted cities are now gathering their equipment. I imagine that their Team is probably larger than just the eight Operators pictured, otherwise they may have over-ordered on the Humvees (though, they could also be picking-parts off the remaining vehicles for maintainence).

  25. You keep asking for the military…be careful what you ask for, you may just get it.

    The military can not be deployed on US soil without an act of congress. YOU DONT WANT THAT, NOBODY WANTS THAT.

    The hostage rescue team and terrorist response team is much better this way, one because when you need it, well, you need it, and that’s not the time to plan and design for one of these teams. And two, because I would much rather have local boys and girls, who live and work in my neighborhood being the ones with the big toys and advanced training, then some US GI from out of state who doesn’t give a shit about me or my town and doesnt have to answer to our elected officials and is governed by the rule of marshal law, which they pretty much would have to (Not entirely but likely) declare in order to deploy the ‘big army’.

    All the moaners and complainers have not the slightest idea how easy their fears can come true, if police were not allowed to have this equipment and we had to rely on the army for such services. Local police officers are answerable to the local people and under much more scrutiny than military troops. Also, by and large their training is usually superior to the general army as far as urban fighting, with the obvious exception of special forces, in which case it pales in comparison.

    If your in a bank and it gets taken hostage and siege is underway… you really think Seal Team Six is coming? No, if only the military were allowed to have these toys, then you would get a deployment of weekend warriors or big army guys, all of their training is about breaking shit, almost none if any of it, is about the delicate work that would need to be done in a populated area.

    Best part I love when I see an article like this, is that almost all of that stuff is the same stuff all you guys own anyway, except the rifles have an extra notch on the selector switch….oooohhh, OMG the world is ending!!!!…”a select fire rifle in the government’s hands”….OMG…OMG!!!….please. The armored cars and stuff are for obvious protection and they should have them.

    Seriously. think about it.

  26. Seriously, the more I see articles like this, I just get a laugh out of it.

    A nutjob who is a decent shot with a bolt action rifle held up in perch, you think the beat cop with his Glock 22 and a 870 is gonna have a chance at getting close to take him out? Na, teams like this are not “Militarized” …. they are effectively equipped and (hopefully) trained to protect society from the worst case scenario.

    Now, when they start allowing Mortars, Handgrenades, RPGs, beltfed machine guns and Tanks ( Real tanks, not Robert’s definition of a tank, which is just an armored vehicle without a cannon, designed to allow to officers to get in and out of close range without being shot up in their Crown Vics) into police hands….well, then you can save a eat for me at your paranoia table, cause I’ll be right there with ya.

  27. M16’s? I believe I see 4 M14’s in that photo, and are those night scopes I see as well?

    At least they know their limits, or maybe there just aren’t any Bradley Fighting Vehicles in the program as of yet.

    • M14…back to the future. The crack epidemic and war on drugs militarized law enforcement. Going after weed while Alcohol and tobacco are FAR more destructive on society is insane… we reap what we sow.

      • M-14s make a better urban sniper rifle than the Remington 700 and M-24 do. And its alot more reliable than the AR-10 is so im not surprised to see police snipers use them.

        Your right Pat American society is falling like a brick and more guns for good people are needed when society looks very bankrupt now.

        • I should first say my favorite of the four guns you mentioned (M-14, Rem 700, M-24, AR-10) is the M-14 (I own an M1A and just got a Rem 700 varmint…$349 at Dicks). The M1A is plenty accurate and makes a great SHTF hunting rifle that would work well against multiple targets with its semiauto capability though the AR-10 could do great in clean shooting environments and is generally a bit more accurate. If one were to truly rely on a single accurate shot (especially at long distance) and suppression (making the enemy take cover and hunker down with semiauto advantage) were not needed, it would be hard to beat a bolt (I REALLY liked that $349 price).

  28. I have no issues with the SWATZIs getting M16s but what everyone is overlooking is they received THIRTY M16s for an EIGHT Man SWAT unit
    One of my buddies was a DRML officer in the service that specialized in filling these DoD grants. It’s not merely M16s, for awhile they were releasing .50 M2 Browning Heavy Machineguns right after 911 and Departments can still file for M60 Light Machineguns. I know of one Department that has an M2 .50 and several with M60s granted by DRML.
    There are rural departments with just a couple officers that have been granted 10 or more M16s. Again, I don’t have an issue with cops having M16s but see no law enforcement need for a .50 belt fed and question the necessity of a .308 belt fed.

    • That I agree with; and having 3x the number of M-16s that you have officers is frigging weird. The belt fed guns worry me. Cops having a gun that I can go buy at the local Gander Mountain doesn’t really though.

  29. Wait, 8 man element or 8 men on the whole team? I am seeing a pretty far off ratio of equipment to men. Are these guys in the Leauge of Shadows?


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