I'm posting this BBC story as a FYI, and not bashing LE.
Death raises concern at police tactics
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Washington
The recent killing of an unarmed Virginia doctor has raised concerns about what some say is an explosion in the use of military-style police Swat teams in the United States.
Armed with assault rifles, stun grenades - even armoured personnel carriers - units once used only in highly volatile situations are increasingly being deployed on more routine police missions.
Dr Salvatore Culosi Jr had come out of his townhouse to meet an undercover policeman when he was shot through the chest by a Special Weapons and Tactics force.
It was about 2135 on a chilly January evening. The 37-year-old optometrist was unarmed, he had no history of violence and displayed no threatening behaviour.
But he had been under investigation for illegal gambling and in line with a local police policy on "organised crime" raids, the heavily armed team was there to serve a search warrant.
As officers approached with their weapons drawn, tragedy struck. A handgun was accidentally discharged, fatally wounding Dr Culosi.
Two months on, investigations into the incident are still continuing, a delay which Dr Culosi's family says is compounding the "horror and burden of it all".
Salvatore Culosi Sr, the dead man's father, told the BBC: "I never knew him to carry so much as a pocket knife so it bewilders me how a detective could spend three months investigating my son and not know he is a pussy cat.
"If anything comes out of this it must be that another family does not experience this pain and anguish for absolutely no reason.
"Policy needs to change so these kinds of accidents never occur again."
Peter Kraska, an expert on police militarisation from Eastern Kentucky University, says that in the 1980s there were about 3,000 Swat team deployments annually across the US, but says now there are at least 40,000 per year.
What we find is that when Swat teams go out, shootings go down
National Tactical Officers Association
"I have no problem with using these paramilitary style squads to go after known violent, armed criminals, but it is an extreme tactic to use against other sorts of suspects," he said.
Mr Kraska believes there has been an explosion of units in smaller towns and cities, where training and operational standards may not be as high as large cities - a growth he attributes to "the hysteria" of the country's war on drugs.
"I get several calls a month from people asking about local incidents - wrong address raids, excessive use of force, wrongful shootings - this stuff is happening all the time," he adds.
Every wrongful death of a civilian, or criminal killing of a police officer, fuels the complex and emotive argument over the way the United States is policed.
Those who reject criticism of the use of Swat teams argue that the presence of the units actually prevents violence through the credible threat of overwhelming force.
John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told the BBC: "What we find is that when Swat teams go out, shootings go down.
"We don't see it as escalating anything. We see it as reducing violence."
The NTOA rejects Mr Kraska's figures and says the actual number of deployments is far lower, but says there is a need for national training standards.
An NTOA study of 759 Swat team deployments across the US, found half were for warrant service and a third for incidents where suspects had barricaded themselves in a building - 50 were for hostage situations.
When criminology professor David Klinger looked at 12 years of data on Swat teams in 1998, he also found the most common reason for calling out teams was serving warrants, but that the units used deadly force during warrant service only 0.4% of the time.
Last year the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) commissioned music video director JC Barros to make them a 10-minute film - To Protect and Serve - that would "get young men and women excited" about a career with the force.
The problem is that when you talk about the war on this and the war on that, and police officers see themselves as soldiers, then the civilian becomes the enemy
Eastern Kentucky University
More action film than recruitment video, it follows two LAPD officers who - in one day - capture a robbery suspect, are first on the scene when a gun-toting man takes a woman hostage, mediate a fight, and help to find a young kidnap victim.
Along the way they are supported by colleagues from bike patrol, K-9 dog teams, air support and, of course, the Swat team.
But Mr Kraska sees such initiatives as reflecting a changing culture of police work.
"These elite units are highly culturally appealing to certain sections of the police community. They like it, they enjoy it," he says.
"The chance to strap on a vest, grab a semi-automatic weapon and go out on a mission is for some people an exciting reason to join - even if policing as a profession can - and should - be boring for much of the time.
"The problem is that when you talk about the war on this and the war on that, and police officers see themselves as soldiers, then the civilian becomes the enemy."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/03/21 10:13:34 GMT
© BBC MMVI
Sucks that guy got killed, but SWAT saves more lives than it takes IMO.
Fundamentally, this is a dishonest article.
True – in the incident cited (which happened a few miles from my house) a county PD SWAT member for some reason discharged his handgun and unjustifiably killed a suspect during a gambling investigation.
But this could have easily been a regular patrol officer or detective instead.
The fact that it was a SWAT team member who did it has nothing to do with what happened (other than the ironic fact that using a SWAT team is supposed to reduce the likelihood of this kind of incident).
The reporter was just looking for a story – so he basically made this one up so he could re-hash all the old “militarization of the police” arguments.
Would a normal arrest for gambling involve weapons indexed on a suspect?
I have nothing against SWAT teams, but this team has some training issues to work out. Hopefully some legal and criminal issues as well.
SWAT teams are crucial to American police. They have their place in policing, and we need them.
Though I doubt that the shooting was the fault of it being a SWAT team, and that the shooting could have just as easily occurred if it were a regular PD, I do find this quote to be truthful.
Even if the use of SWAT teams saves lives, the above is the price we pay for it. We pay for it with fear and distrust, and folks on both sides pay equally. We see it in the divisiveness that these threads bring between members here.
I long for a day when we can get over this "US VS Them" attitude that we have against our fellow Americans.
Keep calling it a "war on crime" "war on drugs", don't be suprised when the participants start acting like soldiers.
As do I (be it LEO vs. non-LEO, male vs. female, black vs. white, Christian vs. non-Christian, or whatever).
But the idea put forth in this article that this originated as a result of SWAT teams or the “war on drugs” is utter nonsense.
If there was a turning point in LEO attitudes, it occurred in the late 1960’s as a result of anti-war and civil rights demonstrations and such. Suddenly LEO’s were dealing with large, violent groups who sometimes attacked them. In a few instances, LEO’s were actually assassinated.
For better or worse, U.S. law enforcement was redefined in that period. What you see now is the result.
Part of the problem is that in many departments, who is on the swat team is more political than based on ability. I had a Sgt on the swat team who shot and killed another member (who I knew well) who was in full tactical uniform on a high risk warrant service. Fucker didn't lose his job. Said he couldn't see through the flashbang smoke (like they smoke very much) and just saw a weapon coming around the corner so he fired. He remained a supervisor. He later said he didn't think I was ready for a special position because I wasn't interested enough in the department (which means I didn't spend every waking moment kissing ass), even thought I had been through fbi swat school and taught hrt classes. If anyone else has had this happen and they would have been up on charges, and in my opinion, so should he have been. Sad to say, a lot of time for the administration, it is who you know/politics that runs departments and determines assignments. I saw a guy on a swat training continually try to reholser his berretta without decocking it in a vest holster (don't ask) and almost shot himself in the chest. RSO was screaming "decock, decock" and the guy just kept trying to stuff the gun in there. Last I head he was still on the team as well.
Fuck, I feel safer already....