The American Police State does not discriminate.
A Minnesota SWAT team raided the wrong house in the middle of the night, handcuffed the three young children, held the mother on the floor at gunpoint, shot the family dog, and then “forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour” while they searched the home.
Equally outrageous was the four-hour SWAT team raid on a California high school, where students were locked down in classrooms, forced to urinate in overturned desks and generally terrorized by heavily armed, masked gunmen searching for possible weapons that were never found.
These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.
Rather than compelling police officers to remain within constitutional bounds as servants of the people, ordinary Americans are being placed at the mercy of militarized police units.
Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.
For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.
All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government today—warrantless surveillance, stop and frisk searches, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, indefinite detention, militarized police, etc.—will eventually be meted out on the general populace.
A study by a political scientist at Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams “provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction.”
The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that “police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed.”
In other words, warrior cops aren’t making us or themselves any safer.
At that point, when you find yourself in the government’s crosshairs, it will not matter whether your skin is black or yellow or brown or white; it will not matter whether you’re an immigrant or a citizen; it will not matter whether you’re rich or poor; it will not matter whether you’re Republican or Democrat; and it certainly won’t matter who you voted for in the last presidential election.
At that point—at the point you find yourself subjected to dehumanizing, demoralizing, thuggish behavior by government bureaucrats who are hyped up on the power of their badges and empowered to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—remember you were warned.
But here’s the thing: while Tucker Carlson and Chris Christie and other Trump apologists appear shocked that law enforcement personnel would stage a military assault against “an unarmed 66-year-old man who has been charged with a nonviolent crime,” this is nothing new.
Indeed, this is blowback, one more vivid example of how the government’s short-sighted use of immoral, illegal and unconstitutional tactics become dangerous weapons turned against the American people.
To be clear, this Stone raid is far from the first time a SWAT team has been employed in non-violent scenarios.
Nationwide, SWAT teams routinely invade homes, break down doors, kill family pets (they always shoot the dogs first), damage furnishings, terrorize families, and wound or kill those unlucky enough to be present during a raid.
Yet another example of government overreach and brutality? Definitely.
If these raids are becoming increasingly common and widespread, you can chalk it up to the “make-work” philosophy, in which you assign at-times unnecessary jobs to individuals to keep them busy or employed. In this case, however, the make-work principle is being used to justify the use of sophisticated military equipment and, in the process, qualify for federal funding.
SWAT teams originated as specialized units dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations. They were never meant to be used for routine police work such as serving a warrant.
As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers.
In 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the US.
Incredibly, that number has since grown to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year.
No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters such as serving a search warrant, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day.
In the state of Maryland alone, 92 percent of 8200 SWAT missions were used to execute search or arrest warrants.
Police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games.
A Connecticut SWAT team swarmed a bar suspected of serving alcohol to underage individuals.
An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.
And as journalist Radley Balko shows in his in-depth study of police militarization, the shock-and-awe tactics utilized by many SWAT teams only increases the likelihood that someone will get hurt.
Drug warrants, for instance, are typically served by paramilitary units late at night or shortly before dawn. Unfortunately, to the unsuspecting homeowner—especially in cases involving mistaken identities or wrong addresses—a raid can appear to be nothing less than a violent home invasion, with armed intruders crashing through their door. The natural reaction would be to engage in self-defense. Yet such a defensive reaction on the part of a homeowner, particularly a gun owner, will spur officers to employ lethal force.
That’s exactly what happened to Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine who was killed after a SWAT team kicked open the door of his Arizona home during a drug raid and opened fire. According to news reports, Guerena, 26 years old and the father of two young children, grabbed a gun in response to the forced invasion but never fired. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. Police officers were not as restrained. The young Iraqi war veteran was allegedly fired upon 71 times. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.
Aiyana Jones is dead because of a SWAT raid gone awry. The 7-year-old was killed after a Detroit SWAT team—searching for a suspect—launched a flash-bang grenade into her family’s apartment, broke through the door and opened fire, hitting the little girl who was asleep on the living room couch. The cops weren’t even in the right apartment.
Exhibiting a similar lack of basic concern for public safety, a Georgia SWAT team launched a flash-bang grenade into the house in which Baby Bou Bou, his three sisters and his parents were staying. The grenade landed in the 2-year-old’s crib, burning a hole in his chest and leaving him with scarring that a lifetime of surgeries will not be able to easily undo.
Alberto Sepulveda, 11, died from one “accidental” shotgun round to the back after a SWAT team raided his parents’ home.
The problems inherent in these situations are further compounded by the fact that SWAT teams are granted “no-knock” warrants at high rates such that the warrants themselves are rendered practically meaningless.
This sorry state of affairs is made even worse by U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have essentially done away with the need for a “no-knock” warrant altogether, giving the police authority to disregard the protections afforded American citizens by the Fourth Amendment.
Indeed, “terrorizing” is a mild term to describe the effect on those who survive such vigilante tactics. “It was terrible. It was the most frightening experience of my life. I thought it was a terrorist attack,” said 84-year-old Leona Goldberg, a victim of such a raid.
Thus, no more do we have a civilian force of peace officers entrusted with serving and protecting the American people. Instead, today’s militarized law enforcement officials have shifted their allegiance from the citizenry to the state, acting preemptively to ward off any possible challenges to the government’s power, unrestrained by the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment.
As journalist Herman Schwartz observed, “The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official.”
Yet these permanent armies are exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights feared as tools used by despotic governments to wage war against its citizens.
In the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we the citizenry have become the nails to be hammered by the government’s henchmen, a.k.a. its guns for hire, a.k.a. its standing army, a.k.a. the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
Continue reading the story rutherford.org