Who can forget the noir future painted in the movies like Robocop and Blade Runner. The latter had an interesting dialog in it which asserted that either you were police or the “little people”. That future is fast becoming reality.
FoxNews had an interesting interview about police Special Weapons and Tactics teams, SWAT for short. Originally created in Los Angeles in the wake of the Watts riots, SWAT teams have become a badge of pride amongst police departments even in peaceful, rural areas. With Homeland Security giving away our tax money like popcorn, more and more communities are jumping on the bandwagon.
But is that a good thing? I don’t think so. The CATO institute created a map that includes innocent civilians killed and wounded by SWAT teams, as well as innocents victimized in faulty raids. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent expose as well. Originally used only to serve warrants against violent offenders, SWAT teams routinely executes raids against warrants for non-violent suspects, using no-knock or knock and smash tactics in the middle of the night. News flash – people who are sound asleep take time to wake up, so don’t hear or have time to react intelligently to stuff shouted from outside.
The lady in the Fox interview saw a man with a gun lurking outside of her home when a military-style SWAT team broke down her door and rushed into her house. She reacted as any responsible citizen fearing for their life would – grab a firearm and defend yourself and your family against the home invaders. The SWAT invaders had the wrong address and providentially no one was killed. That’s not always the case.
The killing of Jose Guerena, a Marine veteran of two tours in Iraq, by panicked SWAT officers illustrates a core problem with SWAT teams. In the military, special units are highly trained and accountable to NCOs, Senior NCOs, and officers. They don’t act without orders, and train in highly realistic conditions. They possess the highest levels of discipline. Nothing close to that is true with SWAT teams. Some are military veterans, but now without the heavily engaged leadership and constant, realistic training. As in the case of Jose Guerena, SWAT teams typically panic easily or make rookie mistakes like pointing their weapons at children and keeping their fingers on the trigger, begging for negligent shootings and killings.
Rarely are SWAT members held accountable for shooting and/or killing innocent civilians. I couldn’t find a single example. There’s no accountability, and therefore no motivation to change. Civil suits sometimes net large awards, but that’s cold comfort for the loss of a loved one.
Let me take this to another level. A large number of Americans are gun owners. If police raid an innocent gun owner’s home, that individual has every right to defend their family when they have no idea who has invaded their house. Flash-bangs and crashing doors mask any voices and cause confusion by design. I foresee the unrestrained growth of SWAT teams leading to increasing deaths on all sides. We’ve already seen that SWAT members are rarely held accountable for their idiocy and mistakes even when innocents are killed. Does that meet the definition of a free society based on the rule of law?
There’s a bright white line between police and the military, and for good reason. The former’s primary function is to save the lives of the innocent and arrest bad ones. The job of the police is not to execute people without benefit of a trial. Yet, that’s what SWAT teams do on an ongoing basis, using pseudo-military training and real military weapons. SWAT teams have a good purpose, and there should be a few teams around the country for particularly violent situations, but SWAT teams should not be the ones to make the situation violent. Teams of amateurs with a license to kill doesn’t make good law enforcement in a republic based on rule of law.
It’s time to reign in the Rambo wannabes and restore our constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments.