Friday, December 4, 2020

Black Lives, The "War on Drugs/Crime," and Funding the Militarizartion of Police


"How did America's police become a military force on the streets?"

By Radley Balko, ABAJournal, 1 July 2013



"At the time the Third Amendment was ratified, the images and memories of British troops in Boston and other cities were still fresh, and the clashes with colonists that drew the country into war still evoked strong emotions. What we might call the 'symbolic Third Amendment' wasn’t just a prohibition on peacetime quartering, but a more robust expression of the threat that standing armies pose to free societies. It represented a long-standing, deeply ingrained resistance to armies patrolling American streets and policing American communities.

And, in that sense, the spirit of the Third Amendment is anything but anachronistic."



Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko


Although some of the aims of professionalism may have been noble, the story of early American policing is one of overcorrection. While the professionalism reformers were able to end the patronage system, in some cities they managed to insulate police departments from politics altogether, making it difficult for mayors and city councils to hold police officials accountable. At the level of individual cops, the use of squad cars and radios clearly brought a lot of benefits, but could also isolate police officers from the residents of the communities they patrolled. […] Police and citizens interacted only when police were ticketing or questioning someone, or when a citizen was reporting a crime. In poorer communities that could bring about an increasingly antagonistic relationship […]. (p. 34; "Quick History," ch. 3)


Calls attention to William Parker of LA for professionalization. Dragnet Style (as the ideal) and for bringing up Daryl Gates, who "did more to bring about today's militarized American police force than any other single person." Note also importance of LA's Watts riots, that "went a long way toward scaring middle America about crime, to the point where they were willing to embrace an all-out 'war' on crime and drugs to clean up the cities" (p. 35; ch. 3).


There are two forms of police militarization: direct and indirect. Direct militarization is the use of the standing military for domestic policing. Indirect militarization happens when police agencies and police officers take on more and more characteristics of an army. Most of this book will focus on the latter form of police militarization, which began in the United States in the late 1960s, then accelerated in the 1980s. But the two forms of militarization are related, and they have become increasingly intertwined over the [35] last thirty years. (pp. 35-26; ch. 3).


Discusses Depression Era Bonus March, beginning 28 July 1932, and what I (RDE) will call the after-action report of Major (at the time) George S. Patton "recounting the lessons he had learned from the Bonus March," including when Patton disobeyed a direct order of the President "to stand down […] and went after the protesters […]" (p. 37; ch. 3).

Titled "Federal Troops in Domestic Disturbances," it revealed a startling contempt [37] for free expression — and for civilians in general. The paper first assesses periods of unrest throughout history. Patton ridicules nations and empires that hesitated to use violence against citizen upraises and praises those who did [cites officers of Louis XVI of France vs. Napoleon's "whiff of grapeshot" saving the directorate. …] Patton attributes the success of the Bolshevik Revolution to "the hesitating and weak character of the Russian officers," which prevented them from properly slaughtering the Communists while they were merely protestors.

          Most alarming are Patton's own suggestions and recommendations on how the military should handle domestic riots and uprisings. He calls the writ of habeas corpus "an item that rises to plague us" and recommends shooting captured rioters instead of turning them over to police to bring before "some misguided judge." (p. 38; ch. 3)


1968: King Assassination, Civil Rights, DNC-Chicago/Nixon, Drugs

          [Martin Luther King's assassination on 4 April 1968 and the subsequent riots] In fact […] came at a time when much of […] white, middle-class America began to sense that its values and traditions were under attack from all sides. In his drug war history Smoke and Mirrors [subtitle: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, 1996] , journalist Dan Baum points out that black homicide arrests doubled between 1960 and 1967. At the same time, heroin deaths and overdoses were also on the rise. The hippie, antiwar, and counterculture movements were in full swing. All of this coincided with the rise [67] of the civil rights movement. Nixon's Silent Majority began to see a link between drugs, crime, the counterculture, and race. * * *

          Months later, at the 1968 Democratic National Convention (DNC), police in Chicago would instigate a riot and then indiscriminately beat liberal [etc.!] protesters. Some of the beatings were aired live by the networks [….] [Notes Sen. Abraham Ribicoff going off-script in McGovern nomination speech] to proclaim, "With George McGovern we wouldn't have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago! With George McGovern we wouldn't have a National Guard!" <> Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who had called up more than twenty thousand police and National Guard troops for the convention, didn't do much to distance himself from the Nazi smear. Lip readers later alleged he shouted up from the convention floor, [68] "Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch! You lousy motherfucker! Go home!"

          Nixon's "ignored American" weren't the least bit troubled by what they saw from Daley and the police. According to a Gallup poll taken a few weeks later, 56 percent of the country supported the crackdown, and just 31 percent were opposed. Polls would also show Nixon surging into a comfortable lead over the eventual Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey. (pp. 67-68; ch. 4)


Nixon triumphant


The law-and-order campaign worked. Nixon won the 1968 election by a comfortable margin in the electoral college. (And when you factor in the votes for George Wallace, Humphrey lost the popular vote by a wide margin.) The Republicans also picked up five seats in the Senate and five in the House. In four years, crime had become the most important issue in the country. [70] * * * [Nixon, John Mitchell et al. …] decided that the high-profile target of the new administration's promised anticrime effort would be drug control. Drug use, they thought, was the common denominator among the groups — low-income blacks, the counter culture, and the antiwar movement — against whom Nixon had unified "ignored America." (pp. 70-71; ch. 4)


          The Nixonites mulled a number of other constitutionally dubious drug war proposals in addition to the preventive detention and no-knock proposals. They wanted to authorize the use of "loose search warrants." These would have allowed police to apply for a warrant for contraband, then search multiple properties to find it. The idea came precipitously close to a writ of assistance, but without the restrictions on nighttime service and knock-and-announce. Combined with the no-knock provision, it would have essentially authorized police to kick down the doors of entire neighborhoods with a single warrant. Loose warrants didn't make the final crime bill, but the idea was really only about ten years ahead of its time. Starting in the 1980s, police would conduct raids of entire city blocks, housing complexes, and neighborhoods. The Nixon administration also wanted to strip away attorney-client privilege, as well as the privilege afforded to conversations with priests and doctors, and to expand wiretapping authority. They even came up with an early precursor to California's eventual "three strikes and you're out" law.

          No one had any idea if these policies would work, but in a way it didn't matter. The strategy was about symbolism and making the right enemies as it was about effectiveness. [***]

          On July 14, 1969, Nixon gave his first major address to Congress to outline his antidrug program. He declared drugs a "national [72] threat." He set the tone for a much more aggressive, confrontational federal drug fight. He described the "inhumanity" of drug pushers, laying groundwork for the sort of dehumanizing rhetoric that would be used for years to come to reduce drug users and drug dealers to an enemy to be destroyed. [***]

          In a few areas, Nixon could move immediately, without waiting for money or authorization from Congress. On such area was border enforcement." (pp. 72-73; ch. 4)


          But the same broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause that allowed the federal government to integrate private business in the south gave [Attorney General John] Mitchell and [President Richard] Nixon the authority to wage their war on crime and drugs — a war that over the next forty years had some devastating consequences for large swaths of black America. In the omnibus law [the "omnibus narcotics bill," bringing together "the great crime bill orgy of 1970" (86)], Mitchell would claim for his department all authority to oversee the manufacture, distribution, export, import, and sale of [87] addictive drugs. The bill created a classification system for illicit drugs and vested the classification authority with the Justice Department. That met with fierce resistance from researchers and medical organizations, who believed that authority to determine which psychoactive drugs have medical benefits and which cause harm should belong to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare or to an agency like the FDA instead of an agency whose primary mission was law enforcement. Their pleas were in vain. A version of the [Thomas J.] Dodd bill would later become the Controlled Substances Act, the law that has authorized the war on drugs ever since. (pp. 87-88; ch. 5)


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Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko 


Jerry Wilson as Head of DC Metro Police

            "During the often heated [sic: no hyphen] antiwar protests of the early 1970s, Wilson believed that an intimidating police presence didn't prevent confrontation, it invited it."

            On no-knock raids: "'I never really bought into the idea that police were getting gunned down while serving warrants,' Wilson says [sic]. 'Drug pushers sold drugs to make money. They might run. But there weren't many drug dealers who were in the business to get into shootouts with narcotics officers.' Wilson didn't find the destruction of evidence exception convincing either. 'We called that the 'no-flush rule.' Again I just didn't think that warranted breaking down a door. There were better ways to do it,' he says, referring to serving drug warrants. You couldn't flush much pot down a toilet anyway. Cocaine or heroin, you could flush a good amount. But then it was gone — off the [99] street. They [no-knock proponents] wanted to make sure the evidence was preserved to get a conviction. But a drug conviction wasn't worth the risk of a no-knock raid.'" (ch. 5, pp. 99-100)


Nixon Admin. in Early 1970s

          So the White House crime team came up with a plan. They would launch an all-out PR offensive to scare the hell out of the public about crime, and to tie crime to heroin. Once voters were good and terrified, they would push for reorganization to consolidate drug policy and enforcement power within the White House. [Egil] Krogh put together a quick-hitting but multifaceted strategy that included planting media scare stories about heroin, publicly recalling ambassadors to embarrass heroin-producing countries like Thailand and Turkey, and holding high-level (but entirely staged) [103] strategy sessions that they'd invite the media to attend. The plan culminated with a planned speech from Nixon that would forge new frontiers in fearmongering.

          The scare strategy was executed as planned. Nixon's June 17, 1971, speech more than met expectations. He declared drug abuse "public enemy number one" and ask for emergency powers and new findings to "wage a new, all-out offensive." Years later, both this speech and a similar one he gave the following year would alternately be considered the start of the modern "war on drugs." In a poll taken the following month, Americans named drug abuse as the most urgent domestic problem facing the country. (ch. 5, pp. 103-104).


Death (early 1972) of Dirk Dickenson Mostly by Lloyd Clifton (Berkeley PD to Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs [BNDD]) 4 April 1972


            Clifton had a record of beating on civilians, including a young Black man arrested by mistake and turned out to be the son of a California Superior Court judge (so Clifton got a reprimand, pretty much the only punishment in his career). "If this new federal initiative against street-level pushers was all about projecting aggression and instilling fear, Clifton was a perfect fit" (ch. 5, pp. 108-16, quote here, p. 109).

            "In the end, a twenty-four-year-old man was chased from his own home by armed men who had just emerged from an Army helicopter. They then shot him dead, from the back, while he was unarmed and on his own property. The heavy-handed raid was based on false pretenses and didn't turn up the criminal enterprise it was supposed to find. No one would be held accountable for any of it. Dirk Dickenson was collateral damage" (ch. 5, pp. 108-16, quote here, p. 116). <>


Three dogs and a cat thrown outside by raiding officers: "(Given the frequency of dog-shooting during raids in the coming years, the […] pets got off easy" (ch. 5, p. 117).


 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko


Raids with Warrants and Warrantless, Early 1970s

          There months after those raids, in 1972, the New York Times published the results of its own investigations in the use of aggressive drug raids. The paper found that "dozens" of botched raids had occurred across the country since the 1970 federal crime bills and similar bills in the states became law. Agents, "often acting on uncorroborated tips from informants," were "bashing down the doors to a home or apartment and holding the residents at gunpoint while they ransack the house." The paper found that the botched raids were usually on lower-class families and were "tied intimately to the veritable explosion of government drug enforcement activities in recent years," thanks to Nixon's "total war" on drugs. Some victims told the paper that they hadn't come forward because narcotics officers had threatened them. Others had remained silent because "in their hatred for drugs they condoned the tactics but not the specific incidents." Two weeks earlier, the Associated Press had published its own investigation, which came to similar conclusions. […]

          Between April 1972 and May 1973, ODALE [The Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement] strike forces conducted 1,439 raids. It's unclear how many were knock-and-announce and how many were no-knock, but even by 1973 the difference between the two kinds of raids had already begun to blur. "You might whisper 'Police! Open up!'" one agent told the Times. "Or you could yell it the instant before you hit the door."

          Nixon's dehumanization and demonization of drug offenders had been a (literally) smashing success. Tactics like these had rarely been used in the United States, even against hardened criminals. Now they were being used against people suspected of non-violent crimes, and with such wanton disregard for civil rights and procedure that the occasional wrong door or terrorized family could be dismissed as "an insignificant detail" or as cops "just trying to do their job." […] These men were rounding up "the very vermin of humanity," after all. Surely the country understood that some collateral damage would be inflicted in the process. (ch. 5, pp. 121-22)


Cops vs. Public

          Don Santarelli — father of the federal no-knock raid […]. When asked to reflect on the legacy of Nixon's drug war in an interview for this book […] says it set in motion an animosity between police officers and the public that may now be beyond repair. "When you speak to a police officer today, you're terrified that you're going to offend him, and that he's going to arrest you and take you off to jail. Sure, a judge will let you out and drop the charges in a few days. But you've spent those days in jail. And now you have and arrest record. There's just no accountability for excessive force." He adds that his old boss's war rhetoric, later taken up by President Ronald Reagan and his successors, is to blame. "There has always been confrontation between the rational, educated way to look at policy and the escalation of language to make a political point. If politicians can get away with calling it a 'war on crime' or a 'war on drugs,' then they will. And yes, that's going to make law enforcement more willing to push the envelope when it comes to use of force.

          After Nixon left office in the fall of 1984, the federal drug war went into a brief period of détente. But the SWAT concept would continue to gain momentum, independent of the break in the drug war. The two institutions would finally merge in the 1980s with Reagan's revival of the Nixonian drug war, applied more literally [125] than even Nixon could have imagined. No-knock raids would return in full force, this time with no room for shame or remorse. (ch. 5, pp. 125-26)


S.W.A.T. ABC-TV, Starting 24 Feb. 1975

          The first season did well, and ABC ordered a second. Milton Bradley soon put out a S.W.A.T. board game. Kids could take their sandwiches to school in S.W.A.T. lunch boxes. There were S.W.A.T. action figures […], and die-cast miniatures of the S.W.A.T. mobile. […].

          SWAT had hit popular culture.

          At the same time, real SWAT teams were spreading throughout the country. [132 * * *]

          Some police officials feared that the SWAT trend, particularly in smaller cities and towns, would succumb to what the philosopher Abraham Kaplan called "the Law of the Instrument": when you're carrying a hammer, everything looks like a nail. "There are some cops who want to solve all society's problems with an M-16," one police chief told the paper. "[…] And if you set yourself up to use heavy firepower the danger exists that you will use it at the first opportunity, and over-reaction — the opposite of what the [SWAT] concept is about — becomes a real danger."

          Big-city SWAT teams were getting training in paramilitary tactics and weapons, but that training was balanced by an emphasis on negotiation and deescalation [sic] and the use of violence only as the last possible option. In the smaller agencies around the country, not only did the SWAT team not get that sort of training, but the teams were staffed by part-timers […]. The risk was that the entire police department could succumb to a culture of militarism. In some quarters, it was already happening. Within a decade, the SWAT proliferation would accelerate. The emphasis on deescalation [sic] would all but disappear. Soon, just about every decent-sized city police department was armed with a hammer. And the drug war would ensure there were plenty of nails around for pounding. (ch. 5, pp. 132-33)


Carter to Reagan Transition: Sam Ervin in the Senate

            The lull in the fighting [for the Castle Doctrine] didn't last long. Before Carter left the White House, he'd face allegations that pot-smoking was common among his staff and that two senior-level aides were cocaine users — and that one of them was his drug czar. The Reagan administration would soon come in to staff the drug policy positions with hardened culture warriors.

            Ervin's wins were important but ultimately ephemeral. The drug war and police militarization trends were about to merge. By the time Sam Ervin died in April 1985, the California National Guard was sending helicopters to drop camouflaged-clad troops into the backyards of suspected pot growers in Humboldt County; the justice Department was wiretapping defense attorneys; and Daryl Gates was using a battering ram affixed to a military-issue armored personnel carrier to smash his way into the living rooms of suspected drug offenders. (ch. 5, p. 136)


 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko


Ch. 6: The 1980s — Us and Them

          William French Smith set the tone for the Reagan administration early on. In one of the first cabinet meetings, the new attorney general declared, "The Justice Department is not a domestic agency. It is the internal arm of the national defense."

          This would be a rough decade for the Symbolic Third Amendment. Reagan's drug warriors were about to take aim at posse comitatus, utterly dehumanize drug users, cast the drug fight as a biblical struggle between good and evil, and in the process turn the country's cops into holy soldiers.

          Smith surrounded himself with a crew of prosecutors who called themselves the "hard chargers." One was Rudy Giuliani […]. (ch. 6, p. 139)


          The very first change in public policy that Reagan pushed through the Congress with the 1981 Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, a proposed amendment to the Posse Comitatus Act that would carve out a much larger rule for the military in the drug war. […] The amended law encouraged the Pentagon to go further [than indirect assistance, as Navy tipping off Coast Guard] and give local, state, and federal police access to military intelligence and research. It also encouraged the opening up of access to military bases and equipment, and explicitly authorized the military to train civilian police in the use of military equipment. The law essentially permitted the military to work with drug cops on all aspects of drug interdiction short of making arrests and conducting searches.

          The next year Reagan pushed for more. He wanted the Posse Comitatus Act amended yet again, this time to allow solders to both arrest and conduct searches of US citizens. He also made official his desire to repeal the Exclusionary Rule, which would essentially free police to violate the Fourth Amendment at will. (ch. 6, p. 145)

Reagan also pressed for — and got — expanded asset forfeiture: "The Democrats were eager to eliminate the perception that they were softer on crime than the Republicans. Senators Joe Biden and Hubert Humphrey preempted the White House-sponsored bill with a bill of their own. The Biden-Humphrey bill gave Reagan everything he wanted. ¶ On September 30, 1982, the crime bill loaded up with most of the provisions Reagan wanted passed the Senate 95-1" (ch. 6, p.146).


"The government [of the United States] sent U-2 spy planes to the state of California to search for marijuana. Then they sent the helicopters. In all, thirteen California counties were invaded by choppers, some of them blaring Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' as they dropped Guardsmen and law enforcement officers armed with automatic weapons, sandviks, and machetes in the fields of California" (ch. 6, p. 148).


Campaign Against Marijuana Production (CAMP, 1983 f.[in California])

The officials running the operation [in California] made no bones about the paramilitary tactics they were using. The considered the areas they were raiding to be war zones. In the interest of "officer safety," they gave themselves permission to search any structures relatively close to a marijuana supply, without a warrant. Anyone coming anywhere near a raid operation was subject to detainment, usually at gunpoint. [148]

          Describing the 1984 [sic!] operation, the journalist Dan Baum writes, "For a solid month, the clatter of helicopters was never absent from Humboldt County. CAMP roadblocks started hauling whole families out of cars and holding them as gunpoint while searching their vehicles without warrants. CAMP troops . . . went house to house kicking in doors and ransacking homes, again without warrants.

          In his book The Great Drug War, Arnold Trebach writes that in 1983 and 1984 [William] Ruzzamenti claimed that the entire town of Denny, California, was so hostile to the drug warriors that he'd need "to virtually occupy the area with a small army. […] When CAMP left, a military convoy drove out of the small village, guns trained on the townspeople. The couple ["Denny residents Eric Massett and his wife Rebecca"] told Trebach that one of them was waving a .45 as the others chanted, "War on drugs! War on drugs!"

          But CAMP was just the marijuana eradication program in California. The Reagan administration had begun similar federal-state programs all over the country. In 1984 the federal-state marijuana eradication efforts conducted twenty thousand raids nationally, resulting in the destruction of 13 million plants (many of them wild) and around five thousand arrests. (ch. 6, pp. 148-49)


Asset Forfeiture: 1984 f.

          Because 1984 was an election year, it would need to have an omnibus crime bill of its own. Polls showed that crime was the most pressing domestic issue with the public […]. [151]

At this point, there wasn't any real debate about crime policy. It was really only about which party could come up with the most creative ways to empower cops and prosecutors, strip suspects of their rights, and who they were more committed to the battle than their opponents were. The most significant provision in the newest crime bill again dealt with asset forfeiture. […] Under the new law, the Justice Department would set up a fund with the cash and auction proceeds from its investigations. After the lead federal agency took its cut, any state or local police agencies that had helped out would also get a share.

          The measure was considered uncontroversial at the time, but it is difficult to overstate the effect it would have on drug policing over the next thirty years.

          […] After it passed for example, the CAMP raids and those like them in other parts of the country were no longer just about putting on a good show and terrorizing the counterculture. Now the raids could generate revenue for all the police agencies involved. The DEA's Ruzzamenti was rather frank [identifying land seizure as central …]. "[…] Basically, people have to prove that they weren't involved and didn't know about [marijuana cultivation on their land]. Just the act of having marijuana grown on your land is enough to tie it up; then you have to turn around and prove you're innocent. It reverses the burden of proof." (ch. 6, p. 152)


          Because it was much easier to win land through civil forfeiture than to win a conviction in criminal court, federal prosecutors often offered to drop the criminal charges if the landowners agreed to hand their property over to the federal government.

          Those sorts of offers exposed just how fraudulent the government's justification for its terror tactics really were. Allegedly, these pot growers were the dregs of humanity, greedily poisoning America's children with their sinister harvest. They were dangerous enough that the government had to send virtual armies to occupy entire towns, buzz homes and chase children with helicopters, set up roadblocks to search cars and gunpoint, and strip suspects and innocents alike of their Fourth Amendment rights. These growers were that dangerous. However, if they were willing to hand over their land, the government was more than happy to let them go free.

          Because of the new forfeiture law, police agencies now had a strong incentive to "find" a connection between valuable property and drug activi ty, even if there was none. They now had an incentive to conduct drug busts inside homes when the suspects could just as easily – and more safely – have been apprehended outside the house. They now had a strong financial incentive to make drug policing a higher priority […] than to investigating other crimes. (ch. 6, p. 153).

            "These forfeiture policies would soon help fund the explosion of SWAT teams across the country — forging yet another tie between the escalating drug war and hypermilitarized policing" (ch. 6, p. 154).


Gates, LAPD, and Forcible Entry

            In a suit by the ACLU against the LAPD, "The court found the ram [on an APC] to be so excessive as to violate the Fourth Amendment requirement that searches be reasonable, and it ruled that prior to each raid the LAPD would need to get special permission from a judge before using a battering ram. (In the same case, the court also ruled that city police did not need a judge's permission to use flash-bang grenades)" (ch. 6, p. 156).


Drugs and Nat'l Security

Under Reagan, "At the national level, the once-separate trends of militarization and the war on drugs continued to converge. On April 8, 1986, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 221, which designated illicit drugs a threat to US national security. […] The declaration put pot, cocaine, and heroin at nearly the same class of enemy as any nation against whom the United States had fought a conventional war" (ch. 6, p. 157).


"Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. William Crowe went further, stating that with new antidrug offensive, 'you're probably going to have to infringe on some human rights.' In testimony before Congress, Darryl Gates proclaimed that casual drug use was 'treason,' then recommended that users be 'taken out and shot.' It was especially odd comment given that Gates's own son had a history of problems with drug abuse" (ch. 6, p. 166).


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Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko 

Final Reagan Years, 1988 Crime Bill

[H.R. 5210 (100th): Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 / The Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program, a matching grant program authorized under the 1988 federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act.]


          The Byrne grant program gave the White House another way to impose its crime policy on local law enforcement. As local police departments were infused with federal cash, members of Congress got press release fodder for bringing federal money back to the police departments in their districts. No one gave much thought to the potential unintended consequences because there was no reason to — for everyone who mattered the program was a winner. The program's losers would become apparent in the 1990s.

          […] One of the few voices of sanity in the Reagan years was Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who spoke out against his own boss's attempt to enlist the military in drug policing. Bush's secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, had no such reservations. He'd write in a DoD publication a few years later, "the detection and countering of the production, trafficking, and use of illegal drugs is a high priority national security mission of the Department of Defense."

          Democrats in Congress savaged [William] Bennett and Bush's drug plan — for not going far enough. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Joe [167] Biden told the Associated Press that, […] the Bush-Bennett plan "is not tough enough, bold enough, or imaginative enough to meet the crisis at hand." […] The most pointed criticism came from Representative Charlie Rangel of New York. A March 1989 profile of Rangel in Ebony magazine ran under the headline, "Charles Rangel: The Front-Line General in the War on Drugs." Rangel told the magazine: "All these people are talking about protecting the world against communism and the Soviets. … How dare they let this happen to our children and not scream with indignation!" It isn't clear just whom Rangel was criticizing. Just about everyone running for office had been screaming with indignation for ten years. Yet Rangel called the federal drug war "lackadaisical" and "indifferent" and said that it suffered from "a lack of commitment." He damned methadone treatment as "a crime" and snapped that anyone who even mentioned legalization was committing "moral suicide." (ch. 6, pp. 167-68; italics in original).


          By the late 1980s, the policies, rhetoric, and mind-set of the Reagan-Bush all-out antidrug blitzkrieg had fully set in at police departments across the country. Nearly every city with a population of 100,000 or more either had a SWAT team or was well on its way to getting one. The tactics that ten years earlier had been reserved for the rare, violent hostage-taking or bank robbery were by now employed daily by large police departments from coast to coast. "I wonder where the United States is heading," Federal District Court judge Richard Matsch, a Nixon appointee, told USA Today in 1989. "My concern is that the real victim of the war on drugs might be the United States Constitution." Another federal  judge, Reagan appointee John Conway, worried that "police practices of this nature raise the grim specter of a totalitarian state." (ch. 6, p. 168)


          The public appeared to side with [Drug "Czar" William] Bennett. In a September 1989 poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, 62 percent of the country said they would "be willing to give up a few of the freedoms we have in this country if it meant we could greatly reduce the amount of illegal drug use." Another 52 percent agreed that police should be allowed "to search without a court order the houses of people suspected of selling drugs, even if houses of people like you are sometime searched by mistake."

          In Boston, police cracked down with […] "stop-and-frisk" searches […] of any suspected drug offenders "who cause fear in the community," a broad enough justification to let them search anyone at well. Suffolk County Superior Court judge Cortland Mathers described the new policy as, "in effect, a proclamation of martial law in Roxbury for a narrow class of people, young blacks." A Boston Globe article in September 1989 described how what was essentially an occupation of some neighborhoods was degrading an entire generation's opinion of police. (ch., 6, p. 169)


"The Numbers"


            • Number of drug raids conducted in 1987 by the San Diego Police Department: 457

            • Number of drug raids conducted by the Seattle Police Department in 1987: approximately 500

            • Value of assets in the Justice Department's forfeiture fund by 1985: $27 million

            • Value of assets in the Justice Department's forfeiture fund by 1991: $644 million

            • Percentage of US cities with populations of 50,000 that had a SWAT team in 1982: 59 percent.

                        … in 1989: 78 percent

                        … in 1995: 89 percent

            • Percentage of those SWAT teams that trained with active-duty military personnel: 46 percent

            • Average annual number of times each of those SWAT teams was deployed in 1983: 13

                        … in 1986: 27

                        … in 1995: 55

            • Percentage of those deployments in 995 that were only to serve drug warrants: 75.9

            • Percentage of cities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 that had a SWAT team in 1980: 13.3 percent

                        … in 1984: 25.6 percent

                        … in 1990: 52.1 percent

            • Average number of times each SWAT team in a city with a population between 25,000 and 50,000 was deployed in 1980: 3.7

                        … in 1985: 4.5

                        … in 1990: 10.3

                        … in 1995: 12.5 (ch. 6, p. 175)


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Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko


Chapter 7, "The 1990s — It's All About the Numbers


Headnote: "Why serve an arrest warrant to some crack dealer with a 38? With full armor, the right shit, and training, you can kick ass and have fun." — US military officer who conducted training seminars for civilian SWAT teams in the 1990s (ch. 7, p. 177)


In 1989 in Portland, Oregon, Herb Robinson of the Seattle Times noted, fully armed Guard troops had recently been stationed in front of suspected drug houses in a series of drug raids. In Kentucky local residents became so enraged by frequent Guard sweeps in low-flying helicopters that they blew up a radio tower used by the Kentucky State Police. In Oklahoma, Guard troops dressed in battle garb rappelled down from helicopters and fanned out into rural areas in search of pot plants to uproot. (ch. 7, p. 179)


          In 1992, University of Minnesota law professor Myron Orfield sent a questionnaire to Chicago judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to determine the state of the Fourth Amendment in that city. Even cynics would find the results dispiriting. More than one-fifth of Chicago judges believed that police lie in court more than half the time when questioned about searches and seizures. Ninety-two percent of judges said that police lie "at least some of the time," and 38 percent of judges said that they believed that police supervisors encouraged subordinates to lie in court. More than 50 percent of respondents believed that at least "half of the time" the prosecutor "knows or has reason to know" that police fabricate evidence. Another 93 percent of respondents (including 89 percent of the prosecutors) reported that prosecutors have knowledge of perjury "at least some of the time." Sixty-one percent of respondents, including half of the surveyed prosecutors believed that prosecutors know or have reason to know that police fabricate evidence in case reports, and half of prosecutors believed the same to be true when it comes to warrants. Prosecutors also described the unspoken understandings they have shared with cops, including prosecutors articulating cases to police in terms like, "If this happens, we win. If that happens, we lose." Yet Chicago judges went on approving search warrants with little or no scrutiny. Orfield asked one more question, Did the Exclusionary Rule really deter police misconduct. Every judge, every defense attorney, and every prosecutor but one answered yes.

          Former narcotics cop Russ Jones says it wasn't always like that. "When I first started writing search warrants, I had to take it to the DA, who would thoroughly review it. Then I'd take it to the judge, who'd also give it a close look. Then the judge always read the warrant, always asked questions. By the time I left law enforcement, and certainly since, it had gotten to the point where the DEA no longer needed to have warrants reviewed by a federal prosecutor, and often the judge wouldn't even read it. It just became a rubber stamp process. And I understand it's happening more and more. (ch. 7, p. 184)


          After the botched raid that ended the life of Ismael Mena in 1999, the Denver Post looked into how judges in the Mile High City handled request for no-knock warrants. Again, the results were unsettling. Over a twelve-month period, police in Denver request 163 no-knock warrants. The city's judges granted 158 of them. Defense attorneys told the paper they were surprised […] that the judges had rejected even five. Perhaps Denver police had come to the judges with more than adequate probable cause. Perhaps. But the paper also found that, astonishingly, many of the city's judges would sign off on no-knock warrants even though the police hadn't request one. […] The paper also found that in eight of ten raids over that period, police assertions in affidavits that they would find weapons […] turned out to be wrong. In only seven of the 163 no-knock affidavits did police present any evidence that the suspect had been seen with a gun. Of those seven raids, just two turned up an actual weapon. The Denver Police Department requires that all no-knock raids be preapproved by the DA's office. In about one-third of the raids, that never happened." (ch. 7, p. 185)



          The early 1990s weren't kind to the father of SWAT. In response to the Rodney King beating of May 1991, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley asked Warren Christopher to chair a commission looking in the LAPD's use of excessive force. The commission's report was damning. It found that a small but significant group of police officers within the department regularly used excessive force — and that LAPD leadership did little to stop them. [… Notes lawsuits lost by city on issue] The commission [186] found that even though officer misconduct in those cases has often been egregious, it had usually resulted in "light and often nonexistent discipline. The commission reviewed radio transmissions of LAPD officers referring to a drug roundup in a black neighborhood as "monkey slapping time" or fantasizing about driving down one particular street with a flamethrower — "We would have a barbecue."

          The comments themselves would have been bad enough. Even worse was the fact that a culture existed within the department in which officers felt free to make them over police radio. The LAPD's focus of reacting to crime instead of preventing it, the commission found, had isolated officers from the communities they patrolled. Cops were rewarded for putting up impressive arrest statistics and for being "hard-nosed." The report found that drug and gang sweeps of the late 1980s had alienated LAPD cops from the community, creating reciprocal hostility and resentment. The LAPD did a poor job of screening applicants for violent backgrounds, and the department's training put far too much emphasis on force and too little on communication n and problem solving. The commission found that when academy student west out in the field, they were quickly schooled to view the world from a "we/they" perspective. It also found that many of the field training officers who gave new cops their first experiences on the street themselves had histories of misconduct or excessive use of force. (ch. 7, pp. 186-87)


          In Colorado, the Denver Post ran an article in 1995 about three area deaths from no-knock drug raids in the area in thirty-three months — including a sixteen-year-old boy, a deputy sheriff, and a fifty-four-year-old grandfather of eight. "Such raids are very dangerous," said Pitkin County sheriff Robert Braudis. "The are the closet thing I can think of to a military action in a democratic society." Braudis explained that it was far safer to conduct surveillance, to learn a suspect's routing, and then do "a quick, quiet arrest then a suspect is in the open." As for possible destruction of evidence, he said that his department would have the water shut off before serving a warrant (by knocking at the door and waiting for an answer). In some cases, they had arranged for a plumber to set up a "catch net" to capture anything flushed after police arrived to serve the warrant. But Braudis said that his concern went beyond the SWAT tactics. "The 'war on drugs' is an abysmal failure," he said. "Even the term creates a dangerous war mentality." (ch. 7, p. 192)


          In one case [in Albuquerque in the later 1990s …] a SWAT officer said to his colleagues, Let's go get the bad guy," just before the team went to confront thirty-three-year-old Larry Walker. The "bad guy" wasn't a terrorist, a killer, or even a drug dealer, but a depressed man whose family had called the police because they feared he might be contemplating suicide. The SWAT team showed up in full battle attire, including assault rifles and flash-bang grenades. They found Walker "cowering under a juniper tree" […], then shot him dead from forty-three feet away. The city brought in Sam Walker, a well-regarded criminologist at the University of Nebraska, to evaluate the police department's use [192] of lethal force. Walker was astounded by what he found. "The rate of police killings was just off the charts," Walker told the Times. The city's SWAT team, he said, "had an organizational structure that led them to escalate situations upward rather than de-escalate. The city then brought in […] Jerry Galvin to take over its police department. Galvin immediately disbanded the SWAT team, toned down the militarism, and implemented community policing policies. He told the Times, "If cops have a mindset that the goal is to take out a citizen, it will happen." (ch. 7, pp. 192-93)


Clinton Years, 1992-2000

          [Bill] Clinton and his appointees weren't as bellicose as Reagan and Bush or Meese and Bennett, but the policies that Clinton implemented showed littler understanding or appreciation of the Symbolic Third Amendment [keeping the US military out of policing Americans]. In 1993, for example, he Justice Department and the Defense Department entered into a formalized technology and equipment sharing agreement. Not only were American police forces becoming more militarized, the thinking went, but in places like Korea the US military was taking on more of a policing role. […] Attorney General Janet Reno explained this strategy in a speech to defense and intelligence specialists. "So let me welcome you to the kind of war our police fight every day," Reno said. (ch. 7, p. 193)


Ruby Ridge, Idaho, 1992; Waco, Texas, 1993


          The Ruby Ridge fiasco began in 1989 when Randy Weaver sold and ATF informant two sawed-off shotguns that had been cut shorter than was allowed under federal law. [* * *]

          On August 21, 1992, a team of US marshals dressed in camouflage and carrying M-16s went to Weaver's home on a reconnaissance mission to determine an appropriate place and manner to capture him. Once there, the marshals threw rocks at the Weaver cabin to see how the family's dogs would react. The dogs went nuts. Hearing them, Weaver's fourteen-year-old son Sammy went out with family friend Kevin Harris to see what the commotion was about. Accounts differ here, but at some point one of the agents shot and killed one of the Weavers' dogs. Sammy Weaver responded by firing his own gun at the source of the gunfire, then fled toward the house. One of the marshals then shot him in the back as he ran. Sammy Weaver was dead. Harris then exchanged fire with the marshals, killing one of them. [200]

          A twelve-day siege ensured, featuring hundreds of cops, agents, and troops from the ATF, the FBI, the US Marshals, the Idaho State Police, the local sheriff's department, the National Guard, and — for some reason — the US Border Patrol. On day two of the siege, FBI sniper teams were told that their rules of engagement were, basically to shoot on sight […]. When Randy Weaver left the house to visit the body of his son […] an FBI sniper shot him in the chest. As Weaver, Harris, and one of Weaver's daughters fled back into the house, the agent fired again at the front door. That bullet went through the door, then through Vicki Weaver's head, killing her instantly. She was holding her ten-month-old daughter at the time. The baby fell to the floor. Weaver and Harris were eventually tried in federal court for murder, attempted murder, and other felonies. They were acquitted on all the serious charges. The federal government eventually settled with the Weaver family for over $3 million, and with Weaver for $380,000. (ch. 7, pp. 200-01)


          The raid in Waco the next year involved many of the same agencies — indeed, many of the same agents. The ATF was investigating the Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, for weapons violations, Koresh went jogging every day and could conceivably have been picked up peacefully. Instead, the agency drew up plans for a heavily armed raid on the Branch Davidian compound, even knowing that there were women and children inside. In fact, ATF officials learned ahead of time from an agent who had infiltrated the compound that Koresh and his followers knew the raid was coming. Their plan depended on the element of surprise. They went through with it anyway. (ch. 7, p. 201)


          The subsequent siege went on for six weeks. Finally, on April 19, Attorney General Janet Reno gave order to flush the Branch Davidians out of the compound. Federal agents used tanks to smash holes in the building. […] In all, seventy-six Davidians died, including twenty-six children.

          Waco and Ruby Ridge made militarization a political issue. Perhaps counterintuitively, the laws the agents were enforcing — federal gun control laws — put conservatives in the unprecedented role of criticizing federal cops for overkill, and liberals in the position of defending the aggressive tactics. (One fact about Waco that conservative ATF critics often overlook: the military presence at the compound was only made possible by the drug war. The ATF told the leaders of Joint Task Force 6 — one of the many military-civilian police antidrug task forces set up during the Reagan and Bush administrations — that David Koresh was running a methamphetamine operation. The evidence for this was suspect at best.) (ch. 7, p. 202)


The ATF abuses that came to light in the 1990s were a good indication that the warriorlike, us-against-them mentality wasn't limited to drug policing. Those police actions also gave some momentum to a new militia movement — of at least caused the media to take notice of them. The militia movement was vast and fairly diverse, but most groups had views about government, guns, and property that were well to the right of the rest of the country. Very few espoused violence, but the new attention on the few that did, along with anger from the National Rifle Association (NRA), Gun Owners of America, and the rants of right-wing personalities like [G. Gordon] Liddy, inspired more reactionary opposition from the left [sic]. Then, of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh set off a fertilizer bomb outside the Arthur Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 164 people. McVeigh claimed that he bombed the building in retaliation for the events at Waco. (ch. 7, p. 203)


Starting 1989, involving Peter Kraska, U of Eastern Kentucky criminologist. "One Coast Guard officer flatly admitted to Kraska that the procedure" of using US Navy personnel and vessels to spot and "intercept boats or ships that fit drug courier profiles" and have them boarded and any police work done by the Coast Guard "was a way of getting around the Navy's policy prohibiting its personnel from participating in civil police actions."

          […] Kraska began looking into indirect militarization: the rise of SWAT teams and other paramilitary police teams; what might be called the criminal-justice-industrial complex; and the increasing tendency of public officials to address social problems with martial rhetoric and imagery and to suggest military-like solutions, [206[ from the "wars on crime and drugs, to the heavy weaponry and vehicles that police were beginning to use, to the proposals that juvenile offenders be punished in "boot camps."

Kraska got funding and produced the data for "The Numbers" table ending ch. 6 (reproduced above, p. 12), with the proliferation of SWAT teams in small cities and larger towns summed up in Kraska's phrase "'the militarization of Mayberry.'" Additionally, "In the early 1980s, the aggregate number of SWAT deployments was just under 3,000. By 1995, it was just under 30,000.  […] What was precipitating the surge in SWAT activity? The drug war, almost exclusively." Balko asks and answers, "What does a SWAT team do in a city with no violent crime? It creates violence out of nonviolent crime" (ch. 7, p. 207).


Kraska tells of SWAT commanders telling him how their people were instructed by "special forces folks who have come right out of the jungles of Central and South America" and how "We've had teams of Navy Seals and Army Rangers come here and teach us everything. We just have to use our judgment and exclude the information like: 'at this point we bring in the mortars and blow the place up" (ch. 7, p. 208). Kraska's informant tells of a four-star general writing him expressing concern over such training. Summarizing such concerns:

Back in the 1850s, the Cushing Doctrine had allowed federal marshals to summon US troops to enforce domestic law. More than a hundred years after the controversial policy was repealed by the Posse Comitatus Act, federal marshals were now soliciting elite US military personnel again — not to enforce domestic law themselves, but to teach civilian police officers how to enforce the laws as if they were in the military. [p. 208]

          Perhaps most disturbing was Kraska's finding that these paramilitary police teams and aggressive tactics were increasingly being used for regular patrols. By 1997, 20 percent of the departments he surveyed used SWAT teams or similar units for patrol, mostly in poor, high-crime areas. This was an increase of 257 percent since 1989.

          SWAT proponents argued that all of this buildup was in response to a real problem — after all, violent crime had soared in the 1980s and early 1990s. But the SWAT teams weren't generally responding to violent crime. They were usually serving drug warrants. [… Kraska and his colleague Louie Cubellis] found that only 6.63 percent of the rise in SWAT deployments could be explained by the rising crime rate. (ch. 7, pp. 208-09)


As had been happening throughout the drug war, this mass militarization brought with it a new wave of dehumanization. In one follow-up interview to his survey, a SWAT commander told Kraska, referring to the use of his team for routine patrols, "When the soldiers ride in, you should see those blacks scatter." Former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara told National Journal in 2000 that in a recent SWAT conference he had attended, "officers . . . were wearing these very disturbing shirts. On the front, there were pictures of SWAT officers dressed in dark uniforms, wearing helmets, and holding submachine guns. Below was written: 'We don't do drive-by shootings.' On the back there was a picture of a demolished house. Below was written: 'We stop.'"

          Kraska found more evidence of the mind-set problem in a separate ethnography study he conducted. […] But before the police officers arrived [for a possibly illegal training session with actual military personnel], Kraska talked to the trainers about the proliferation of SWAT teams. "This shit is going on all over," one f them said. ""Why serve an arrest warrant to some crack dealer with a 38? With full armor, the right shit, and training, you can kick ass and have fun." The other trainer jumped in. "Most of these guys just like to play war; they get a rush out of search-and-destroy missions instead of the bullshit they do normally. (ch. 7, p. 212)


Other style statements on trainees: a T-short with "a picture of a burning city with gunship helicopters and the caption 'Operation Ghetto Storm'" (ch. 7, pp. 212-13). Also Oakley wraparound sunglasses and flattops or crew cuts of the military variety: "The Oakleys and crew cuts were part of a muscle-bound, mechanistic look popular with younger police officers. The look was usually accessorized with sensory-enhancement gear like night-vision goggles to achieve what Kraska calls a 'techno-warrior' image. He notes that one purveyor of SWAT gear and clothing calls its line 'Cyborg 21st'" (ch. 7, p. 213)


 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko 



When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, crime in America was still climbing. The concept of community policing was growing increasingly popular. […] Rather than taking a "call-and-response" approach to policing […] cops walk regular beats. They go to community meetings. They know the names of the principals of the schools in their districts […].

          In 1994 Clinton started a new grant program under the Justice Department called Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. For its inaugural year, Clinton and leaders in Congress (most notably Sen. Joe Biden) funded it with $148.4 million. [* * *]

          The style of community policing embraced by officials like [Nick] Pastore [in New Haven, CT] and [Norm] Stamper [in San Diego] aims to make police a helpful presence in the community, not an occupying presence. But theirs is not the only way to be proactive about law enforcement. Street sweeps, occupation-like control of neighborhoods, SWAT raids, and aggressive anti-gang policies are also proactive. These police activities are aggressive, often violent, and usually a net loss for civil liberties, but they are proactive. [218]

          When Clinton, Biden, and other politicians touted the COPS program, they did so in language that evoked the Peace Corps approach (though both Clinton and Biden also supported policies that promoted militarization). Although Clinton described the goal of COPS as "build[ing] bonds of understanding and trust between police and citizens," it wasn't clear if he or any other politician really believed this. The majority of the funding in COPS grants was given simply to hire more police officers. The program said little about how those officers should be used, or what sort of attitude they should bring to the job. […] And so as the COPS program threw billions at police departments under the pretense of hiring whistling, baton-twirling Officer Friendlies to walk neighborhood beats […] many police agencies were actually using the money to militarize (ch. 7, pp. 218-19).


Portland, OR:

From work by Paul Richmond, 1997 article in "the alternative newspaper PDXS":

"The unfortunate truth about community policing as it is currently being implemented is that it is anything but community based […]." Instead […] in Portland [OR] the grants had resulted in "increased militarization of the police force." Richmond also found in Portland that […] a federal program touted as a way to encourage local police to get more involved with local communities was actually federalizing local law enforcement. At the same time Clinton was pushing COPS, the administration and Democrats in Congress were pushing policies like "troops to cops" bills, management training programs for police agencies based on federal models of policing, and a bill that would allow local police departments to fund community policing programs with asset forfeiture money obtained through the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program — the program that allows [219] local police to ignore state forfeiture laws by teaming up with the federal government. (ch. 7, pp. 219-20)


          Richmond found that while the overall cops-to-citizens ratio fell in the early 1990s, in Portland, [OR,] between 1989 and 1994, the number of officers in the city's tactical operations department jumped from two to fifty-six. The two officers in charge of the city's tactical teams had formerly been in charge of the city's Department of  Community Policing. Richmond also obtained a copy of the city's "Community Policing Strategic Plan," passed by the city council in 1994. Among the plan's objectives was to increase the police department's involvement with the federal ATF and the Oregon National Guard. It included implementing at a local level Clinton's "one strike and you're out" plan for drug use in public housing, which allowed for raids on public housing tenants, followed by their possible eviction, based on no more than an anonymous tip. Richmond was alarmed that so many progressives in the city were embracing the community policing plan based on little more than its pleasant-sounding name and that it was coming from a Democratic administration in Washington and administered by a progressive city government. The devil was in the details, and no one had bothered to look at the details.

          Little of this would have surprised Peter Kraska. All of the police departments he surveyed that had a SWAT team "also claimed to place high emphasis on the democratic approach to community policing." Kraska found that when most law enforcement officials heard "community policing," they thought of the militarized zero-tolerance model. (ch. 7, p. 220)



          In 2001, a Madison Capital Times investigation found that sixty-five of Wisconsin's eighty-three local SWAT teams had come into being since 1980 — twenty-eight of them since 1996, and sixteen in just the previous year. In other words, more than half of the state's SWAT teams had popped up since the inaugural year of the COPS program. The newer tactical units had sprung up in absurdly small jurisdictions like Forest County (population 9950), Mukwonago (7,519), and Rich Lake (8,320). Many of the agents who populated these new SWAT teams […] had been hired with COPS grants. A local criminologist was incredulous: "Community policing initiatives and stockpiling weapons and grenade launchers are totally incompatible." Perhaps that was true in theory, but not in how community policing was being practiced.

          Of course, Byrne grants* and the 1033 program** had also contributed to the SWAT-ification of the Dairy State. The paper found that in the 1990s, Wisconsin police departments hauled in over 100,000 pieces of military equipment valued at more than $1.75 million. Some of the bounty was benign, items like computers and office equipment, but it also included "11 M-16s, 21 bayonets, four boats, a periscope, and 41 vehicles […]."Columbia County also received "surveillance equipment, cold water gear, tools  battle dress uniforms, flak jackets, [and] chemical suits." The county put its tactical team to use by sending it to "Weedstock" in nearby Saulk County, an event where cops in full SWAT attire intimidatingly stood guard while "hundreds of young people gather[ed] peacefully to smoke marijuana and listen to music." (ch. 7, p. 221)


* <>

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          This is how the game is played. Drug arrests brought in federal money. Federal money and 1033 [Law-Enforce Support] let police departments buy cool battle garb to start a SWAT team, which they justify to local residents by playing to fears of terrorism, school shootings, and hostage takings But those sorts of events are not only rare, they don't bring in any additional money. Drug raids bring in more federal funding, plus the possibility of asset forfeiture. All in the name of community policing.

          During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama and Joe Biden — but especially Joe Biden — credited the COPS program as the reason behind America's historic crime drop that began in 1994. Biden's campaign website during the 2008 primaries exclaimed, "In the 1990s the Biden Crime Bill [an incarnation of the final bill establishing COPS] added 100,000 cops to America's streets. As a result, murder and violent crime rates went down eight years in a row."

The Justice Department's inspector general put the new cops number closer to 60,000, and a Heritage Foundation analysis found that, accounting for attrition [sic], the total number of cops on the streets increased between 6,000 and 40,000 [sic]. More to the point, there's little evidence that the crime drop was a result of the program. A 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found that while the violent crime rate dropped 32 percent between 1993 and 2000, at most, the COPS program accounted for 2.5 percent of that decrease, and at a cost of $8 billion. A 2007 analysis in the peer-reviewed academic journal Criminology concluded that "COPS spending had little to no effect on crime." (ch. 7, p. 222)


          In 2007 I was asked to speak about police militarization at a "crime summit" hosted by Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime. During a question-and-answer session, someone asked about community policing and the possibility of restoring full funding to the COPS grants. (The Bush administration had phased the program out.) Everyone seemed to be in favor of the "Peace Corps" model of community policing, and they also seemed to believe that this was what the COPS grants were funding. Pointing to the Madison Capital Times investigation and [Peter] Kraska's research, I explained that these idealized visions of community policing didn't appear to have much to do with how the grants were actually being used. Representative Scott stopped me.

          "Are you telling me that our community policing grants are being used to start and fund . . . SWAT teams?"

          I responded that, yes, that was what Kraska and the Madison paper had found.

          Scott replied, with a bit of whimsy, "Well, that's not really what we intended."

          The room had a good chuckle. The next year the Democrats increased funding to the COPS program by $40 million. The following year, with Obama in the White House, the program's budget increased 250 percent, to $1.55 billion. (ch. 7, p. 223)


Joseph McNamara at a "groundbreaking drug policy conference in 1997 at the Hoover Institution," where McNamara was a fellow. He'd worked as police chief in Kansas City and San José (spelled in Warrior  w/o the accent). "Among cities with a population of 400,000 or more, San Jose also had the lowest crime rate in the country for the last three years of McNamara's tenure. […] McNamara pulled this off with one of the smallest per capita police departments in America." This — plus generally conservative politics — gave McNamara "clout with the right, despite his vocal criticism of the war on drugs, police abuse, and police militarization." McNamara lays out a hypothetical starting with a tip on crack at a house.

          After laying out the hypothetical […] McNamara turned to Chief [Bernard] Parks [LAPD]. What was his next move. Parks responded that he'd attempt to verify the tip. If it checked out, he'd send in the SWAT team. McNamara asked what sort of ammunition the SWAT team used. Weren't their bullets capable of going through walls? "They'll go through a car engine two blocks away," Parks answered. McNamara then changed the hypothetical. What if it wasn't crack but marijuana? Would he still send in an armed-to-the-teeth SWAT team? Parks said he would. What if it was a shipment  of bootlegged Valium. Still with the SWAT team. Black market booze? SWAT team. (ch. 7 p. 225)


          The police chief of the second-largest city in America [Bernard Parks, LAPD] had just told the audience that he was willing to use extraordinary force to confiscate a supply of illegal drugs. It was a level of force that could well result [in] death or injury to innocents — and indeed by that point [1997] already had, countless times. What's more, he added that what drug he was pursuing and how much actual harm that particular drug caused had no relevance on the amount of force he elected to use. Every public official on the panel who had the power to check that decision then told the same audience that they had no interest in second-guessing him.

          "It really showed the extent of the problem," McNamara said. "You get this robot mentality with these officials. The mayor said she knew nothing about these raids and didn't want to know anything about them until they were over. The judge wasn't interested in scrutinizing the raid until it was over — when any damage would already be done. Everyone else said it wasn't their job to worry about it. And so you end up with this dangerous decision made by people of lower rank with little training, with little incentive to care much about constitutional rights, with no oversight — no checks or balances.. Collateral damage is just part of the game." (ch. 7, p. 227)


North Hollywood Shoot-out 28 February 1997: bank robbery by heavily armed and armored perpetrators, Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu



          In the fifteen years since it happened, the North Hollywood Shoot-out has become the go-to incident for proponents of police militarization. For years now it has been regularly cited as the prime example of why cops need bigger guns, and why police departments need SWAT teams. There's some merit to these arguments. A strong argument could be made, for example, for allowing patrol officers to store powerful weapons in the trunks of their squad cars in the event that they're the first on the scene of such an incident — and the SWAT team is still ten or twenty minutes away. But the incident isn't an argument for proliferation of SWAT teams to small towns, for more militarized uniforms, or for using increasingly militarized tactics for increasingly petty crimes.

          […] That the best anecdote defenders of police militarization can come up with is fifteen years old may attest to the rarity of such incidents. In any case, even most critics of the SWAT phenomenon acknowledge that there are some situations were a paramilitary police response is appropriate — and a heavily armed bank robbery would be right at the top of that list. The criticism of SWAT proliferation is that the overwhelming majority of SWAT deployments today are to break into private residences to serve search warrants for nonviolent crimes. (ch. 7, p. 230)


Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado, 20 April 1999

                        < >


          The other major incident from the late 1990s that proponents of militarization often cite in justifying SWAT teams is the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School […]. Columbine is a particularly unfortunate example. Though there were eventually eight hundred police officers and eight SWAT teams in the Columbine campus, the SWAT teams held off from going inside to stop shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris because they deemed the situation too dangerous [i.e., for the police]. A spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department justified the SWAT team's [sic: singular] actions after the shooting. "A dead police officer would not be able to help anyone." Added SWAT team leader Donn Kraemer, "If we went in and tried to take them and got shot, we would be part of the problem." David Kepel of the Independence Institute in Colorado explained how that panned out for the victims:

While one murder after another was being perpetrated, a dozen police officers were stationed near [the] exit. These officers made no attempt to enter the building, walk 15 steps, and confront the murderers. (According to police speaking on condition of anonymity, one Denver SWAT officer did begin to enter but was immediately "ordered down" by commanders.)

                  Twenty minutes after the rampage began, three SWAT officers  were finally sent into the building — on the first floor, on the side of the building furthest from […] where killings were in progress. Finding students rushing out of the building, they decided to escort students out, rather than track down the killers. This began a police program to "contain the perimeter."


          Instead of confronting the killers, then, the   SWAT team frisked the victims [… and] then passed on another chance to confront Harris and Klebold. (ch. 7, pp. 231)

                  Students in the [cafeteria] room had called 911 and the line was open, so again the killers' location was known. Many officers were massed near the cafeteria door. They knew where the murderers were. They knew that the murderers were attempting to get into a room to kill more people. The police stood idle.


Columbine was precisely the sort of incident for which the SWAT team had been invented. It was the sort of incident often cited by defenders of SWAT teams to justify their existence. And it was the sort of incident for which even critics of SWAT teams concede the use of a SWAT team would be appropriate. Yet not only did the SWAT teams at the scene not confront the killers, potentially costing innocent lives, but the most respected SWAT team in the country then reviewed the Jefferson County team's actions and found their actions were appropriate. (ch. 7, p. 232)


          […T]hough they make huge headlines and spark weeks of breathless coverage, school shootings (and mass shootings in general) are exceedingly rare. University of Virginia psychologist and education professor Dewey Cornell, who studies violence prevention and school safety, has estimated that the typical school campus can expect to see a homicide about once every several thousand years — hardly justification to rush out to get a STAT team. Yet many college campuses now have their own paramilitary police teams, and many cited Columbine and Virginia Tech as the reason they needed one. (ch. 7, p. 233)


          The "Battle for Seattle" [1999]is commonly considered the start of the modern antiglobalization movement. But it was also a landmark event in the way police and city officials react to protests. In spite of the fact that there were few injuries and no fatalities, the images that emerged from Seattle depicted a city that had lost control. Going forward, "control would be the prevailing objective for police handling protests. In the years to come, the Darth Vader look would become the standard police presence at large protests. Cities and police officials would commit mass violations of civil and constitutional rights and deal with the consequences later. There would be violent, preemptive SWAT raids, mass arrests, and sweeping use of police [236] powers that ensnared violent protesters, peaceful protesters, and people who had nothing to do with the protest at all.

          That's why [Seattle Police Chief Norm] Stamper calls his decisions in Seattle "the worst mistake" of his career. He's seen how the police response to protest has changed since 1999. "We gassed fellow Americans engaged in civil disobedience," Stamper says. "We set a number of precedents [not counting the Civil Rights Movement, and other 1950/60s actions — RDE], most of them bad. And police departments across the country learned all the wrong lessons from us. […] I mean, look at what happened to those Occupy protesters at UC Davis, where the cop just pepper sprays them down like he'd watering a bed of flowers, and I think that we played a part in making that sort of thing so common — so easy to do now." (ch. 7, pp. 236-37)


The Numbers (ch. 7, pp. 237-38)

            • Number of SWAT raids conducted by the Minneapolis Police Department in 1987: 36

            • Number of SWAT raids conducted by the Minneapolis Police Department in 1996: over 700

            • Number of raids carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from 1993 to 1995: 523

            • Percentage of these ATF raids that used dynamic entry: 49 percent

            • Percentage of these ATF raids that turned up weapons of any kind: 18 percent

            • Approximate number of paramilitary police raids in the United States in 1980: 3,000

            • Approximate number of paramilitary police raids in 2001: 45,000

            • Number of SWAT deployments in Orange County, Florida, from 1993 to 1997: 619

            • Percentage of those SWAT deployments undertaken to serve drug warrants: 94 percent [237]

            • Number of police officers in the tactical operations branch of the Portland, Oregon, Police Department in 1989: 2

            • Number of Portland police officers in the tactical operations branch in 1994: 56

            • Percentage of police departments in cities of 100,000 or more that had a SWAT team in 1982: 59 percent

            • … in 1995: 89 percent

            • Average number of times each of those SWAT teams was deployed in 1980: 13

                        … in 1989: 38

                        … in 1995: 52

            • Percentage increase in the number of police departments using tactical units for proactive patrol from 1982 to 1997: 292 percent.


 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko


Chapter 8, "The 2000s — A Whole New War

Betty Taylor, detective in sheriff's department in Lincoln County, Missouri (rural), drafted into SWAT team (ch. 8, pp. 239-40). After a raid in November 2000 —

          Taylor was shattered. "Here I come in with all my SWAT gear on, dressed in armor from head to toe, and this little girl looks up at me, and her only thought is to defend her little brother. I thought, How can we be the good guys when we come into the house looking like this, screaming and pointing guns at the people they love? How can we be the good guys when a little girl looks up at me and wants to fight me? And for what? […]

          [TAYOR:] "Good police work has nothing to do with dressing up in black and breaking into houses in the middle of the night. And the mentality changes when they get put on the SWAT team. I remember a guy I was good friends with, it just completely changed him. The us-versus-them mentality takes over. You see that mentality in regular patrol officers too. But it's much much worse on the SWAT team. They're more concerned with the drugs than they are with innocent bystanders. Because when you get into that mentality, there are no innocent people. There's us and there's the enemy. Children and dogs are always the easiest casualties. (ch. 8, p. 241)


Police militarization would accelerate in the 2000s. [… Federal funding for anti-terrorism equipment. Plus:] The 1990s trend of government officials using paramilitary tactics and heavy-handed force to make political statements or to make an example of certain classes of nonviolent offenders would continue, especially in response to political protests. The battle gear and aggressive policing would also start to move into more mundane crimes – SWAT teams have recently been used even for regulatory inspections.

          But the last few years have also seen some trends that could spur some movement toward reform. Technological advances in personal electronic devices have armed a large percentage of the public with the power to hold police more accountable with video and audio recordings. The rise of social media has enabled cities to get accounts of police abuses out and quickly disseminated. [242]

          […] Over just the six years I've been covering this issue, I've noticed that media accounts of drug raids have become less deferential to police. Reporters have become more willing to ask questions about the appropriateness of police tactics and more likely to look at how a given raid fits into broader policing trends, both locally and nationally. Internet commenters on articles about incidents in which police may have used excessive force also seem to have grown more skeptical about police actions, particularly in botched drug raids. (ch. 8, pp. 242-43)


Perversely, actual success in reducing crime is generally not rewarded with federal money, on the presumption that the money ought to go where it's most needed — high crime areas. So the grants reward police departments for making lots of easy arrests (i.e., low-level drug offenders) and lots of seizures (regardless of size), and for serving lots of warrants. When it comes to tapping into federal funds, whether any of that actually reduces crime or makes the community safer is irrelevant — and in fact, successfully fighting crime could hurt a department's ability to rake in federal money. (ch. 8, p. 243)


          As a result [of a series of court decisions and policies, including the U.S. Federal Byrne grant program], we have roving squads of drug cops, loaded with SWAT gear, who get more money if they conduct more raids, make more arrests, and seize more property, and they are virtually immune to accountability if they get out of line. In 2009 the Justice Department attempted a cost-benefit analysis of these [primarily narcotics] task forces but couldn't even get to the point of crunching the numbers. The task forces weren't producing any numbers to crunch. "Not only were data insufficient to estimate what take forces accomplished," the report [cited p. 360 n.2] read, "data were inadequate to even tell what the task forces did for routine work."

          Not surprisingly, the proliferation of heavily armed task forces that have little accountability and are rewarded for making lots of busts has resulted in some abuse.

          The most notorious scandal involving these task forces came in the form of a massive drug sting in the town of Tulia, Texas. On July 23, 1999, the task force donned black ski-mask caps and full SWAT gear to conduct a series of coordinated predawn raids across [244] Tulia. By 4:00 AM, forty black people — 10 percent of Tulia's black population — and six whites were in handcuffs. The Tulia Sentinel declared "We do not like these scumbags doing business in our town. [They are] a cancer on our community, it's time to give them a major dose of chemotherapy behind bars." The paper followed up with the headline  "Tulia's Streets Cleared of Garbage."

          The raids were based on the investigative work of Tom Coleman, a sort of freelance cop who, it would later be revealed, had simply invented drug transactions that had never occurred. [Later, "Coleman was […] named Texas lawman of the year.] […] In 2005, Coleman was convicted of perjury. […]

          The following year, it all happened again. In November 2000, SWAT teams from Byrne-funded South Central Texas Narcotics Task Force rolled int Hearne, a town of about five thousand people […], to wage another series of coordinated raids. The raids netted twenty-eight arrests — twenty-seven of the suspects were black. One of them was Regina Kelly [245 …].

          In part because of Kelly's courageous refusal to accept a plea bargain for a crime she didn't commit, we now know that all twenty-eight indictments were based on the word of a single confidential informant. […] At the civil trial for the lawsuit brought by Kelly and other defendants, the informant testified that [District Attorney John] Paschall had given him a list of twenty black men. He promised leniency for the informant's own burglary charge if he helped Paschall convict the men on the list. The informant also testified he was promised $100 for every suspect he helped convict beyond that list of twenty. The lawsuit was settled in 2005. Of the twenty-eight people charged, seventeen were later exonerated. The 2008 movie American Violet was based on Kelly's experience after she was arrested.

          But similar mass round-up raids had been going on in Hearne [Texas] for fifteen years. "They come on helicopters, military-style, SWAT style [….] In the apartments I was living in, in the projects, there were a lot of children outside playing. They don't care. They throw kids on the ground, put guns to their heads. They're kicking in doors. They just don't care." (ch. 8, pp. 245-46)

 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko


Bush into Obama/Biden Years


          In the following years, there were numerous other corruption scandals, botched raids, sloppy police work, and other allegations of misconduct against the federally funded task forces in Texas. Things got so [bad?] that by the middle of the 2000s Gov. Rick Perry began diverting state matching funds away from the task forces to other programs. The cut in funding forced many task forces to shut down. The stream of lawsuits shut down or limited the operations of others. In 2001 the state had fifty-one federally funded task forces. By the spring of 2006, it was down to twenty-two.

          Funding for the Byrne grant program had held steady at about $500 million through most of the Clinton administration. Just as it had done with the cops [COPS?] program, the Bush administration began to pare the program down […]. This was more out of an interest in limiting federal influence in law enforcement than concern for police abuse or drug war excesses.

          But the reaction from law enforcement was interesting. In March 2008, Byrne-funded task forces across the country staged a series of coordinated drug raids dubbed Operation Byrne Blitz. The intent was to make a series of large drug seizures to demonstrate how important the Byrne grants were to fighting the drug war. In Kentucky alone, for example, task forces uncovered 23 methamphetamine labs, seized more than 2,400 pounds of marijuana, and arrested 565 people for illegal drug use. Of course, if police in a single state could simply go out and find 23 meth labs and 2,400 pounds of marijuana in twenty-four hours just to make a political point about drug war funding, that was probably a good indication that twenty years of Byrne grants and four decade of drug warring hadn't really accomplished much.

          During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized Bush and the Republicans for cutting Byrne, a federal police program beloved by his running mate Joe Biden. Despite Tulia, Hearne, a growing pile of bodies from botched drug raids, and the objections of groups as diverse as the ACLU, the Heritage Foundation, La Raza, and the Cato Institute, Obama promised to restore full funding to the program, which, he said, "has been critical to creating the anti-gang [247] and anti-drug task forces our communities need." He kept his promise. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act resuscitated the Byrne grants with a whopping $2 billion infusion, by far the largest budget in the programs twenty-year history. (ch. 8, pp. 247-48)


13 September 2000: Alberto Sepulveda killed in raid in a series around Modesteo, CA

          "Back in the early 1970s, nationwide outrage over a series of wrong-door drug raids had inspired furious politicians to hastily call congressional hearings; as a consequence, the law that had authorized those raids was repealed. Now, in 2000, an eleven-year-old boy had just been obliterated at close range with a shotgun as his parents and siblings lay on the ground beside him. And even that wasn't enough to stop his own town from discontinuing the aggressive tactics that caused his death" (ch. 8, pp. 249-50).


The George W. Bush Administration quickly made it clear that the drug war would once again be fought as a culture war. […] But when the 9/11 attacks happened eight months after Bush was inaugurated, they presented a new opportunity. Instead of exploiting the fear of crime or tapping into what remained of anti-counterculture sentiment, they could now exploit the fear of terrorist attacks. They would use the 9/11 attack for drug war propaganda.

          And so, starting in the February following the attacks [i.e., 2002], the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) started the "I helped …" campaign, which consisted of commercial and print ads claiming that casual drug users in the United States were supporting the very sort of terrorists that had attacked America. The television commercials featured a series of young people portrayed as casual drug users. One by one, the young actors rattled off the varieties of atrocity allegedly funded by recreational drug use. "I helped kill a policeman," one said. "I helped murder families," said another. […]

          The campaign was not only shamefully exploitive, it was simply false. The claim that casual drug users supported terrorism was dubious at best. To the extent that black market drug purchases in the United State did support terror groups, it was the "black market" part that made it possible. Nearly all the terror attacks listed on the DEA's website at the time had been attacks by drug-smuggling groups related to the drug trade, and nearly all had taken place in Latin America and Mexico. The only widely used drug in the United [250] States with any tangible connection to terrorism was heroin, and even that link was tenuous. (ch. 8, pp. 250-51)


          If anything, there was a stronger argument that the country's antidrug efforts were sponsoring terrorism. In May 2001 […,] the US State Department announced a $43 million aid gift to Afghanistan, which at the time was ruled by the Taliban. The grant was intended to be used to compensate Afghan farmers who had been hurt by a Taliban edict (encouraged by the United States) banning the cultivation of heroin poppies. Of course, the edict didn't really stop the heroin from flowing out of Afghanistan. It simply enabled the Taliban to consolidate heroin production so that more of the revenue went directly to the regime. The United States had also given aid to support a drug war in Thailand that included government "death squads" that human rights groups accused of carrying out as many as four thousand extrajudicial executions of suspected drug offenders. US aid had also gone to right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia that were accused of mass human rights abuses.

          From a broader view, the ads weren't all that different from prior attempt to associate drugs and intoxicants with whatever bogeyman the country happened to be facing at the time. But by tying even casual drug users to terrorism so soon after one of the most horrific attacks on US soil in the country's history — particularly an attack that took the lives of so many police officers — the federal government afforded drug cops yet more license to treat suspected drug offenders as enemy combatants not as citizens with rights. (ch. 8, p. 251)


          The trendy new drug throwing the media and politicians into hysterics was Ecstasy. Raves were the new, weird, and different dance parties where teenagers were allegedly taking this crazy sex drug. Cue the moral panic, political grandstanding, and ensuing aggressive crackdown. Prior to the raid in Racine [2 Nov. 2002], Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware seemed particularly obsessed with rave parties. Politicians seemed to think that any party with techno music, pulsing lights, and neon inevitably degenerated into underage kids getting high on Ecstasy and engaging in mass orgies. In the summer of 2002, Biden was pushing his RAVE Act, an absurdly broad law that would have made venue and club owners liable for running a drug operation if they merely sold the "paraphernalia" common to parties where people took Ecstasy — accessories like bottled water and glow sticks. After attempting to sneak the bill through Congress with various parliamentary maneuvers, Biden was finally able to get a slightly modified version folded into the bill that created the Amber Alert for missing children. Once again a politician had demagogued worries over a mostly harmless drug into a climate of fear. And once again that fear led to aggressive, whole disproportionate crackdowns across the country. (ch. 8, p. 257)

{Balko misses the point that Amber Alerts — if in themselves useful — participate in another  moral panic: "The publicity and horror associated with extreme cases of child kidnapping create a socially constructed perception that such crimes are pervasive and can induce “moral panic” about predatory threats to children. This often leads to arguably irrational and excessive policy responses." <>.}


Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah: August 2005, rave raid by > 90 cops + SWAT against 1500 at an outdoor dance party


          The other new concept at work in Racine and Spanish Fork was the willingness to subject large groups of people to commando tactics in hopes of catching even a few offenders. By the late 2000s, SWAT teams were increasingly called out to raid entire bars and nightclubs for drug activity. […] In November 2003, police in Goose Creek, South Carolina, raided an entire high school, conducting a blanket commando-style raid on Stratford High School. Students were ordered at gunpoint to lie face-down on the floor while police searched their lockers and persons for drugs. Some were handcuffed. […] The raid turned up no illicit drugs, and the police made no arrests. (ch. 8, p. 258)


            Largely black student "caught up" in raid:



          One particularly aggressive action peppered with war rhetoric occurred in April 2006, when police in Buffalo, New York, staged a series of drug raids throughout the city under the moniker Operation Shock and Awe. [* * *]

          City leader were furious, not because city police had just terrorized innocent people with fruitless SWAT raids, but because so many petty offenders were let off. City officials demanded tougher drug laws, and discussed the possibility of sending drug cops and SWAT teams out with housing code inspectors to clean up suspected crack houses without those pesky Fourth Amendment warrant requirements. (ch. 8, p. 259).


          In the 2000s, the US Supreme Court somehow managed to inflict more damage on the already crippled Castle Doctrine. […]

          In 2003 the Supreme Court unanimous ruled that fifteen to twenty seconds is sufficient time for police to wait after knocking before forcing entry. […] The opinion, written by Justice David Souter [….] indicated that even shorter wait times might be justified in narcotics cases because of the disposableness of the evidence. Here again, a US Supreme Court opinion had taken a position that makes it easier to use violent dynamic-entry tactics on low-level drug offends than major ones (because smaller quantities are easier to destroy than larger ones) and for nonviolent offenses like drugs or gambling (where the incriminating evidence is generally disposable) than for crimes like weapons violations or murder (guns and bodies being tougher to destroy quickly). (ch. 8, p. 260)


[…T]he knock-and-announce rule arose out of the common-law tradition and the Castle Doctrine valued so highly by the American Founders. To protect the sanctity of the home, the police were obligated to give a homeowner the opportunity to grant them entrance in order to prevent a violent confrontation, the destruction of the door and property, and the infliction of terror upon him and his family. Souter's direction to police to consider disposal time instead of the time it would take an occupant to come to the door not only does away with the notion that the purpose of the knock-and-announce rule is to give citizens the opportunity to avoid a violent confrontation, it all presupposes that all drug suspects are guilty. […]

          In [United States vs.] Banks [2003], a unanimous Court decided that preserving the evidence needed to convict people suspected of nonviolent, consensual drug crimes was more important than protecting innocent people from the violence of a paramilitary-style police raid. Thirty years after it began, the modern drug war had finally killed the Castle Doctrine. (ch. 8, p. 261)


Alberto Spruill: 57-year-old described as "'devout churchgoer'"; Harlem, 16 May 2003, "no-knock warrant" (p. 263) and "'flash-bang' grenade" (p. 264).

Timothy Brockman: "a frail, sixty-eight-year-old former Marine" (violent raid; p. 264)

          In its own follow-up piece, the Village Voice found that reports of botched no-knocks had been pouring into the NYPD for years. "Until Spruill's death, the NYPD had done nothing to stem the number of incidents,' the Voice wrote, "despite receiving a memo from the Civilian Complaint Review Board in January noting the high number of raid complaints. Last March the NAACP also approached NYPD commissioner Raymond W. Kelly about the raids." The raids were straining already tense relations between police and minority communities. One of the wrongly raided, Orlando Russell, told the Voice that while he had once been an "upstanding citizen," he was fed up with the number of no-knock raids on low-income and minority communities. (ch. 8, pp. 264-65)


Assault Weapons Ban expiring 2004 / National Institute for Justice Study: assault weapons and violent crime (p. 269)

          The NIJ study was used by gun rights groups to argue against renewing the assault weapons ban. But it was also a strong piece of evidence undercutting the common argument from law enforcement officials that SWAT teams and military gear were essential because the police were in a nonstop arms race with drug dealers and other criminals — call it the North Hollywood Shoot-out argument [North Hollywood Shoot-out 28 February 1997: bank robbery by heavily armed and armored perpetrators].

          And in fact the 2004 NIJ study was only the most recent to cut against that argument. In 1995 the Justice Department had released a study showing that 86 percent of violent gun crimes in the United States involved a handgun. […] Just 3 percent of murders in 1993 were committed with rifles, and just 5 percent with shotguns. […] A five-year investigation in Orange County, Florida, in the mid-1990s likewise found that just 13 percent of SWAT raids turned up weapons.

          In 2007 I asked David Doddridge, a retired narcotics cop and LAPD veteran, about the argument that SWAT tactics are necessary because drug dealers are increasingly well armed. "It just isn't true," he said. "In twenty-one years at LAPD, I never once saw any assault weapons on a drug raid. Drug dealers prefer handguns, which are easier to conceal. Occasionally you'll find a shotgun. But having a bunch of high-powered weaponry around is just too much trouble for them. […]" Doddridge's experience isn't universal, but it is common among drug cops I've talked to. There do seem to be more higher-powered arms around the border, and obviously cops who investigate the sale and smuggling of illegal guns will tend to find a greater quantity of more powerful weapons in the course of their work.

          But even when the crime rate was peaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was little evidence that murderers were using high-powered weapons. In a 1991 paper for the Independence In-[270]statute (a libertarian think tank), researchers David Kopel and Eric Morgan ran a survey of dozens of American cities and found that, in general, fewer than 1 percent of the weapons seized by police fit the definition of an "assault weapon." Nationally, they found that fewer than 4 percent of homicides involved rifles of any kind. And fewer than one-eighth of 1 percent of homicides involved weapons of military caliber. Even fewer homicides involved weapons commonly called "assault" weapons. The proportion of police fatalities caused by assault weapons was around 3 percent, a number that remained relatively constant throughout the 1980s.

          [* * *] But more generally, the argument that well-armed criminals have made cop's jobs more dangerous than ever just isn't backed up by the data. The job of police officer has been getting progressively safer for a generation. The number of officer fatalities peaked in 1974 and has been steadily dropping since. In fact, 2012 was the safest year for police officers since the 1950s. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, the homicide rate for police officers in 2010 […] was about 7.9 per 100,000 officers. That's about 60 percent higher than the overall homicide rate in America, which is 4.8. But it's lower than the homicide rates in many large cities, including Atlanta (17.3), Boston (11.3), Dallas (11.3), Kansas City (21.1), Nashville (8.9) […] and Tulsa (13.7). In fact, of the seventy-four US cities with populations of 250,000 or more, thirty-six have murder rates higher than that of police in America. You are more likely to be murdered just by living in these cities than the average American police officer is to be murdered on the job. (ch. 8, pp. 270-71)


Flash-Bang Grenades killed an officer in his car, plus other cops

Every day SWAT teams across the country use the very same explosives that inured [these] agents […] — and they use them against American citizens. Granted, they aren't deployed in quite as tight an area as an enclosed car. But garages [as with one cop casualty]? Certainly. Also bedrooms, kitchens, hallways, and living rooms. […] [T]he vast majority of the time they're used in service of warrants for nonviolent crimes — and not even against people convicted of those crimes, but people merely suspected of them. They're also used against anyone else who happens to be in the house at the time of the raid. And against the victims of wrong-door raids. (ch. 8, p. 276)


          By the end of the decade, state and local SWAT teams were regularly being used not only for raids and poker games and gambling operations but also for immigration raids (on both businesses and private homes) and raids on massage parlors, cat houses, and unlicensed strip clubs. Today the sorts of offenses that can subject a citizen to the SWAT treatment defy caricature. If the government wants to make an example of you by pounding you with a wholly disproportionate use of force, it can. It's rare that courts or politicians even object, much less impose consequences.

 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko

Child Porn and Killing Dogs

          Another example is the use of these tactics on people suspected of downloading child pornography.

          Because people suspected of such crimes are generally considered among the lowest of the low, there's generally little objection to using maximum force to apprehend them. But when police use force to demonstrate disgust for the crimes the target is suspected of committing, three's always a risk of letting disgust trump good judgment. [… 286]

          There have been several instances in recent years of police waging child porn raids on people after tracing IP addresses, only to learn after the fact that the victims of the raid had an open wireless router that someone else had used to download the pornography. Inevitably, the lesson drawn by police and by the media covering these stories is not that a SWAT team may be an inappropriate way to arrest someone suspected of looking at child porn on a computer, or that police who insist on using such tactics should probably factor the possibility of an open router into their investigation before breaking down someone's door, but rather that we should all make sure our wireless routers are password protected — so we don't get wrongly raided by a SWAT team, too. (ch. 8, pp. 286-87)


In the 2000s talking about the raid on the Branch Davidians and lack of sympathy Tim Lynch of Cato Institute found among his audience: "[…] he finds that people are somewhat sympathetic to the argument that the government overreacted, but that they still can't get past the weirdness of the Branch Davidians themselves — their stockpile of weapons and the claims of sexual abuse and drug distribution in the community. Even the children who died are sometimes [289] dismissed with guilt by association." But —

But when he mentions that the ATF agents killed the Davidians' dogs […] people become visibly angry. I have found the same thing to be true in my reporting on drug raids.

          At first, that may seem to indicate that people callously value the lives of pets more than the lives of people. But the fact that killing the dogs during these raids has become nearly routine in many police agencies demonstrates just how casually these agencies have come to accept drug war collateral damage. When I started logging cop-shoots-dog incidents on my blog (under the probably sensational term "puppycide"), people began send me new stories as they happened. Cops are now shooting dogs at the slightest provocation. As of this writing, I'm sent accounts of a few incidents each week. (ch. 8, pp. 289-90)

What is clear is that police are almost always cleared of any wrongdoing in these shootings. An officer's word that he felt a dog posed a threat to his safety is generally all it takes. Whether or not the officer's fear was legitimate doesn't seem to matter. Thanks to smart phones and surveillance cameras, a growing batch of these incidents have been caught on video and have shown that officers' claims [290] that the dog was threatening often aren't matched by the dog's body language. In recent years, police officers have shot and killed chihuahuas, golden retrievers, labs, miniature dachshunds, Wheaton terriers, and Jack Russell terriers. In 2012 a California police officer shot and killed a boxer and pregnant chihuahua, claiming the boxer had threatened him. The chihuahua, he said, got caught in the crossfire. Police officers have also recently shot dogs that were chained, tied, or leash, going so far as to kill pets while merely questioning neighbors about a crime in the area, cutting across private property in pursuit of a suspect, and after responding to false burglar alarms.

          It is possible that these incidents could just be attributed to rogue cops. But the fact that the police are nearly always excused in these cases — even in the more ridiculous examples — suggests there may be an institutional problem. (ch. 8, pp. 290-91)

Possibility of institutional problem reinforced by the fact that "both the ASPCA and the Humane Society […] offer such training [in reading and responding to dogs] to any police department that wants it, while few take advantage of the offer. Joseph Pentangelo, the ASPCA's assistant director for law enforcement [… and veteran of NYPD] told me, 'New York is the only state I know of that mandates formalized training, and that's during academy. There are some individual departments in other parts of the country that avail themselves of our training, but not many, not enough." To which Balko contrasts USPS, where such training is common (ch. 8, p. 291).

          The fact that the Postal Service offers such training and most police departments don't lends some credence to the theory that dog shootings are part of the larger problem of a battlefield mentality that lets police use lethal force in response to the slightest threat […]. It's an evolving phenomenon," says Norm Stamper, the former Seattle police chief. "It started when drug dealers began to recruit pit bulls to guard their supply. These dogs weren't meant to attack cops. They were meant to attack other drug dealers who came to rob them. But of course they did attack cops. And yes, that's awfully scary if one of those things latches on to your leg."

          But Stamper says that like many aspects of modern policing, dog shootings have had a legitimate origin, but the practice has since become a symptom of the mind-set behind a militarized police culture. "[…] These guys think that the only solution to a dog that's yapping or charging is shooting and killing it. That's all they know. It goes with the notion that police officers have to control every situation, to control all the variables. That's an awesome responsibility, and if you take it on, you're caving to delusion. You no longer exercise discrimination or discretion. You have to control, and the way you control is with authority, power, and force. With a dog, the easiest way to take control is to simply kill it […], especially if there are no consequences for doing so." (ch. 8 p, 292)



          2009 G20, Pittsburgh, David L. Lawrence Convention Center

The most egregious police actions seemed to take place on the Friday evening before the summit, around the university [of Pittsburgh], when police began ordering student who were in public places to disperse, despite the fact that they had broken no laws. Students who moved too slowly were arrested, as were students who were standing in front of the dormitories where they lived.

          A University of Pittsburgh spokesman later said that the tactic was to break up crowds that "had the potential of disrupting normal activities, traffic flow, egress and the like.... Much [sic] of the arrests last [294] night had to do with failure to disperse when ordered." Note that no one needed to have broken any actual laws to get arrested. The potential to break a law was more than enough. That standard was essentially a license of the police to arrest anyone, anywhere in the city, at any time for any reason.

          Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak said the problem was that police didn't bother to attempt to manage the protests. They simply suppressed them. In the process, they rounded up not only innocent protesters but innocent students who had nothing to do with the protests at all. In all 190 people were arrested. […] The police presence "seemed to focus almost exclusively on peaceful demonstrators," Walczak said. "On [Friday] night they didn't even have the excuse of property damage […] or any illegal activity. It's really inexplicable."

          Inexcusable perhaps, but not inexplicable. Since Seattle, this had become the template. At the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, police conducted peremptory raids of the homes of protesters before the convention had even started. (ch. 8, pp. 294-95)


          There were similar problems at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Police in Denver showed up for the protests decked out in full riot gear. One particularly striking photo from Denver [295] showed a sea of cops in shiny black armor, batons in hand, surrounding a small, vastly outnumbered group of protesters. The most volatile night of the convention featured one incident in which Jefferson County, Colorado deputies unknowingly clashed with and then pepper-sprayed undercover Denver cops posing as violent protesters. The city later paid out $200,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that a Denver SWAT team was making indiscriminate arrests, rounding up protesters and bystanders alike.

          Perhaps the best insight into the mentality of the police brought to the DNC protests could be found on the T-shirts the Denver police union had printed up for the event. The shirts should a menacing cop holding a baton. The caption: DNC 2008: We Get Up Early to Beat the Crowds. Police were spotted wearing similar shirts at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. At the 1996 DNC convention in Chicago, cops were seen wearing shirts that read We kicked your father's ass in 1968 … Wait 'till you see what we do to you!

          The default militaristic response to protest of overkill was then given an extended national stage during the Occupy protest of 2011. In the most infamous incident […] Lt. John Pike of the University of California—Davis campus police casually hosed down a peaceful group of protesters with a pepper-spray canister. But that was far from the only incident. […]

          One thing the Occupy crackdowns did seem to do was focus renewed attention on police tactics and police militarization. Big-picture stories about the Pentagon buildup, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding for antiterror gear, and the proliferation of SWAT teams started streaming out of media outlets, giving the militarization issue the most coverage it had received since Kraska's [296] studies came out in the late 1990. Part of that was due to social media. The ubiquity of smart phones and the viral capacity of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and blogs were already bringing unprecedented accountability to police misconduct and government oppression […]. But the Occupiers, who tended to be young, white, and middle- to upper-middle-class knew social media like few other demographics. (ch. 8, pp. 295-97)


          The political reaction to the Occupy crackdowns was interesting to watch. In the 1990s, it had been the right wing — particularly the far right — that was up in arms over police militarization. Recall the outrage on the right over Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the raid to seize Elián González. The left had largely either remained silent or even defended the government's tactics in those cases. But the right-wing diatribes against jackbooted thugs and federal storm-troopers all died down once the Clinton administration left office, and they were virtually nonexistent after September 11, 2001. By the time cops started cracking heads at the Occupy protests, some conservatives were downright gleeful. The militarization of federal law enforcement certainly didn't stop, but the 9/11 attacks and a friendly administration seemed to quell the conservatives' concerns. So long as law enforcement was targeting hippie protesters, undocumented immigrants, suspected drug offenders, and alleged terrorist sympathizers, they were back to being heroes. (ch. 8, p. 297)


            "As long as partisans are only willing to speak out against aggressive, militarized police tactics when they're used against their own and are dismissive or even supportive of such tactics when used against those whose politics they dislike, it seems unlikely that the country will achieve enough of a political consensus to begin to slow down the trend" (ch. 8, p. 300).


          Just as with Bill Clinton, there was hope among progressives that Barack Obama would take a more conciliatory, less militaristic approach to the drug war. And just as with Bill Clinton, Obama has come up short. According to a tally by Current TV, by [300] the end of his first term, Obama had overseen more federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in four years than George W. Bush had presided over in eight. Obama also stepped up immigration raids and continued the raids on doctors and pain clinics suspected of overprescribing opioids. He continued to encourage Mexico's policy (aided by US foreign aid and weapons) of fighting its drug war with the military, despite the horrifying carnage cause by that policy. And as previously discussed Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress refunded Byrne grant and COPS programs that contributed to the rise in SWAT teams and multi-jurisdictional anti-drug and anti-gang task forces — and at record levels.

          The 1033 program gas also soared to new heights under Obama [… leading to more military becoming cops and more] Pentagon giveaways […]. (ch. 8, pp. 300-01)


The Numbers [for 1980s]

            • Number of drugs raids in New York City in 1994: 1,447 … in 1997: 2,977 … in 2002: 5,117

            • Approximate number of raids each year by the Toledo, Ohio, SWAT team, as of 2008: 400

            • Percentage of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people with a SWAT team in 1984: 25.6 percent

                        … in 1990: 52.1 percent

                        … in 2005: 80 percent

            • Approximate number of SWAT raids in the United States in 1995: 30,000

                        … in 2001: 45,000

                        … in 2005: 50,000-60,000

            • Total number of federal agencies employing law enforcement personnel in 1996: 53

                        … in 2008: 73

            • Total number of federal law enforcement officers as of 1996: 74,000 (28 per 100,000 citizens)

                        … in 2008: 120,000    (40 per 100,000 citizens)

            • Number of SWAT teams in the FBI alone in 2013: 56

            • Unlikely federal agencies that have used SWAT teams: US Fish and Wildlife Services, Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, US National Park Service, Food and Drug Administration

            • Value of surplus military gear received by Johnston, Rhode Island, from the Pentagon in 2010-2011: $4.1 million

            • Population of Johnston, Rhode Island, in 2010: 28,769

            • Partial list of equipment given to the Johnston police department: 30 M-16 rifles, 599 M-16 magazines containing about 18,000 rounds, a "sniper targeting calculator," 44 bayonets, 12 Humvees, and 23 snow blowers. (ch. 8, pp. 307-308)


 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko 

Chapter 9, Reform

Maryland (more dogs)


Cheye Calvo, part-time job of mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland. Raid 29 July 2008. Lived with wife, mother-in-law, and two black Labradors (Payton and Chase). "In 2004, at thirty-three, he was the youngest elected mayor in Prince George's County, Maryland" (ch. 9, p. 309. Calvo upstairs, changing clothes for a meeting.

          The next thing Calvo remembers is the sound of his mother-in-law screaming. He ran to the window and saw heavily armed men clad in black rushing his front door. Next came the explosion. He'd later learn that this was when the police blew open his front door. Then came the gunfire. Then boots stomping the floor. Then more gunfire. Calvo, still in his boxers, screamed, "I'm upstairs, please don't shoot!" He was instructed to walk downstairs with his hands in the air, the muzzles of two guns pointed at him. He still didn't know it was the police. He described what happened next at a Cato Institute forum six weeks later. "At the bottom of the stairs, they bound my hands, pulled me across the living room, and forced me to kneel on the floor in front of my broken door. I thought it was a home invasion. I was fearful that I was about to be executed." I later asked Calvo what might have happened if he'd had a gun in his home for self-defense. His answer: "I'd be dead." In another interview, he would add, "The worst thing I could have done was defend my home."

          Calvo's mother-in-law was face-down on the kitchen floor, the tomato-artichoke sauce she was preparing still sitting on the stove. Her first scream came when one of the SWAT officers pointed his gun at her from the other side of the window. The police department would later argue that her scream gave them the authority to enter the home without knocking, announcing themselves, and waiting for someone to let them in.

          Rather than obeying the SWAT team demands to "get down" as they rushed in, Georgia Porter simply froze with fear. They pried the spoon from her hand, put a gun to her head, and shoved her to the floor. [310 …]

          Calvo's dogs […] were dead by the time Calvo was escorted to the kitchen. Payton had been shot in the face almost as soon as the police entered the home. One bullet went all the way through him and lodged in a radiator, missing Porter by only a couple of feet. Chase ran. The cops shot him once, from the back, then chased him into the living room and shot him again.

          Calvo was turned around and put on his knees in front of the door the police had just smashed to pieces. He heard them rummaging through his house, tossing drawers, emptying cabinets.

          Calvo and Porter were held for four hours. Calvo asked to see a search warrant. He was told it was "en route." […]

          Even after they realized they had just mistakenly raided the mayor's house, the officers didn't apologize to Calvo or Porter. Instead they told Calvo that they were both "parties of interest" and that they should consider lucky that they weren't arrested. Calvo in particular they said, was still under suspicion because when armed men blew open his door, killed his dogs, and pointed their guns at him and his mother in law, he hadn't responded "in a typical manner."

          Trinity Tomsic came home […] to find a blur of flashing police lights and a crowd gathering on her front lawn. She was told that her husband and mother were fine. Then she was told that her dogs were dead. She broke down in tears. When she was finally able to enter her home, she found her dogs' blood all over her house. The police had walked through the two large pools of blood that collected under Payton and Chase, then tracked it all over the home. Even once the police realized they had made a mistake, they [311] never offered to clean up the blood, to put the house back together, or to fix the front door.

          As Calvo and Porter were being interrogated, one of Calvo's own police officers saw the lights and stopped to see what was going on. Berwyn Heights officer Amir Johnson knew this was his mayor's house, but had no idea what the commotion was about because the Prince George's County Police Department hadn't bothered to contact the Berwyn Heights police chief, as they were required to do under a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies. Johnson told the Washington Post that an officer on the scene told him "Th guy in there is crazy. He says he is the mayor of Berwyn Heights."

          Johnson replied, "That is the mayor of Berwyn Heights."

          Johnson then called Berwyn Heights police chief Patrick Murphy. Eventually, Murphy was put in touch with the supervising officer, Det. Sgt. David Martini. Murphy recounted the conversation to the Post. "Martini tells me that when the SWAT team came to the door, the mayor met them at the door, opened it partially, saw who it was, and then tried to slam the door on them" […]. "And at that point, Martini claimed, they had to force entry, the dogs took aggressive stances, and they were shot."

          If that indeed was what Martini told Murphy, he was either lying or repeating a lie told to him by one of his subordinates. There was never any further mention of Calvo shutting the door on the SWAT team — because it never happened . Falco later had his dogs autopsied — the trajectories the bullets took through the dogs bodies weren't consistent with the SWAT team's story.

          But the lies, obfuscation, and stonewalling were only beginning. (ch. 9, pp. 311-12)


          Perhaps even more baffling, officials continued to insist that the raid [on Mayor Calvo's house] shouldn't have happened any other way. […] In 2010 Sheriff Michael Jackson [sic] was asked during his campaign for Prince George's County executive if he had any regrets about the raid. [… He had none.] Or, as Jackson put it [8 September, ~ 5 weeks after the raid and the cops being cleared by an internal investigation], "the guys did what they were supposed to do. [A second investigation by Jackson's office also cleared the deputies. …]
          The officials in Prince George's County, two of them elected, openly and without reservation stated that they had no problem with the collateral damage done to the Calvo family. It was part of the war against getting high — which even they had to know is a war that can't be won. […] As Calvo himself pointed out on several occasions, this  isn't a problem that can be laid at the feet of the police officers who raided his home. This problem can't be fixed by firing the police involved. This is a political problem. It's a policy problem. (ch. 9, pp. 314-15).

          As Calvo continued to advocate for reform, he started to hear from other victims of mistaken police raids, both in Prince George's County and around the state of Maryland. Several included the routine, sometimes callous killing of the family dog. Within a week of the raid, for example, Prince George's County residents Frank and Pam Myers came forward to say that they too were raided by sheriff's department deputies. […] When the couple told the deputies that the address on the warrant was two doors down, the police refused to leave. They continued to look around the couple's house for another forty-five minutes. Then two shots rang out from the backyard. A deputy had gone into the backyard and shot the couple's fie-year-old oxer, Pearl. He claimed that he feared for his life. Pam Myers told a local news station, "I said, 'You just shot my dogg.' I wanted to go our and hold her a bit. They wouldn't even let me go out." (ch. 9, p. 316)


          A series of police raid horror stories from Howard Count, Maryland, also emerged. Kevin and Lisa Henderson said they were the victims of a mistaken raid. At 10:00 PM the night of January 18, a raid team opened the family's unlocked door. Inside were the couple, a twenty-eight-year-old houseguest, their two teenage sons, and their sons' friend. The police first met the family dog, a twelve-year-old lab/Rottweiler mix named Grunt. According to the lawsuit, one officer distracted the dog while another shot it point-bland in the head. When one of the couple's sons asked why they had shot the dog, one officer pointed his gun at the boy's head and said, "Ill blow your fucking head off if you keep talking." The police found marijuana in a jacket pocket of the Hendersons' house guest. He was arrested. Four days later, after Lisa Henderson called to complain about the raid, she and her husband were also arrested for possession of marijuana, even though the police hadn't found any drug anywhere else in the house. Ten months later, a state judge acquitted the couple of all charges. The Hendersons believe that the police intended to raid a different house in the neighborhood that looked a lot like their own. A subsequent raid on that house turned up marijuana, scales, and cash.

          Karen Thomas, also a resident of Howard County, told a Maryland State Senate hearing in 2009 that police shot and killed her dog during a mistaken raid on her home in January 2007. Even after they had surrounded her in her bedroom, she said they still hadn't yet identified themselves, and she though the gunshot had been directed at her son. "In my mind, terrorists had just killed my son, and they were going to kill me next." (ch. 9, p. 317)


For the last half of 2009, SWAT teams were deployed 804 times in the state of Maryland, or about 4.5 times a day, In Prince George's County alone, which has about 850,000 residents, a SWAT team was deployed about once a day. According to an analysis by the Baltimore Sun, 94 percent of the state's SWAT deployments were to serve search or arrest warrants, leaving just 6 percent that were raids involving barricades, bank robberies, hostage takings, and other emergency situations. Half of Prince George's County's SWAT deployments were for what were called "misdemeanors and nonserious felonies." More than one hundred times over a six-month period, Prince George's County sent police barreling into private homes for nonserious, nonviolent [319] crimes. Calvo pointed out that the first set of figures confirm what he and others concerned about these tactics have suspected: SWAT teams are being deployed too often as the default way to serve search warrants, not as a last resort. (ch. 9, pp. 319-20)


          How do we return to a more robust embrace of the Castle Doctrine, the Fourth Amendment, and an unbreachable divide between the police and the military? Overcoming a trend that has extended across two possibly three, generations sounds like an impossibly difficult task. […] Donald Santarelli, the no-regretful father of the no-knock raid, say, "I don't think it's possible to roll any of this back now. … It would take serious leadership, probably from nobody less than the president. It would take a huge scandal, which doesn't seem likely. … But we're not given to revolutionary action in this country. Each generation is a little more removed from the deep-seated concerns about liberty of the generation before. We just don't seem to value privacy and freedom anymore." (ch. 9, p. 320)

  * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko

"The Drug War"

          But just ending the federal drug war and the federal incentives toward militarization would help. SWAT teams would probably continue to exist and, at least in the short term, would find other, probably equally objectionable missions. But ending the federal drug war could begin to unwind the violent paramilitary task forces and the us-versus-them, black-and-white [sic] drug-war mentality. If the federal government were to end the Byrne grants, cut off federal funding tied to drug enforcement, end the Pentagon giveaway program, and get rid of the federal equitable sharing program that lets local police departments get around state asset forfeiture laws, and makes drug warring more lucrative (and therefore a higher priority), we'd see more of these tactical teams begin to disband because of the expense of maintaining them. We'd almost certainly see the multi-jurisdictional task forces start to dry up, since they're often funded exclusively through federal grants and forfeiture. Those tactical teams that remained would no longer be incentivized to go on drug raids. […W]ithout the money to [321] lure them, it seems likely that the expanse of deploying them would persuade police departments to reserve them for the sorts of missions for which they were originally intended.

          At the very least, the federal government should respect the states that have already expressed a desire to ease up on the drug war and stop sending in heavily armed battle teams to raid medical marijuana dispensaries and growers who are licensed and regulated under state law.

          Legislatures or city councils could also pass laws restricting the use of SWAT teams to those limited, rare emergencies in there's an imminent threat to public safety. They could prohibit the use of no-knock raids or even forced entry to serve warrants people suspected of violent crimes [non-violent?]. Failing that, policymakers could simply put more restrictions on search warrants. For example, they could prohibit the use of dynamic-entry tactics for any warrant obtained with only the word of an informant. (ch. 9, pp. 321-22)


"Halt the Mission Creep"

"There is no need for regulatory agencies at any level to be conducting SWAT raids" (ch. 9, p. 322). Etc.



"Legislatures should pass laws that not only clearly establish a citizen's right to record on-duty cops but provide an enforcement mechanism so that citizens wrongly and illegally arrested have a course of action. As even many police officials have pointed out, such policies not only expose police misconduct […] but can also provide exonerating evidence in cases where police officers have been wrongly accused.

            All forced-entry police raids should be recorded in a tamper-proof format, and the videos should be made available to the public through a simple open records request. (ch. 9, p. 323)


"Community Policing"

"Police departments and policymakers should embrace real community policing. [… This] means taking cops out of patrol cars to walk beats and become a part of the communities they serve. It means ditching statistics-driven policing, which encourages the sorts of petty arrests of low-level offenders and use of informants the foment anger and distrust" (ch. 9, p. 325).


"Changing Police Culture"

          Changing a culture sounds like a tall order. And it probably is. "I think there are two critical components to policing that cops today have forgotten," says the former Maryland cop Neill Franklin. "Number one, you've signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you've agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don't get to start [325] stepping on others' rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it's to protect those you've sworn to protect. But I don't know how you get police officers today to value those principles again. The 'us and everybody else' sentiment is strong today. It's very, very difficult to change a culture." […]

          "It's really about a lack of imagination and a lack of creativity," says Norm Stamper. "When your answer to every problem is more force, it shows that you haven't been taught and trained to consider other options."

          The thing is, when law enforcement officials face suspect who present a genuine threat to officer safety, they do tend to be more creative.[Example given: capturing Whitey Bulger in 2010, a truly dangerous man brought in by a bit of research of his habits.] […][326]

          Why can't investigators handle common drug offenders the same way. A big reason is lack of resources. […] A second reason is that drug offenders simply aren't all that likely to shoot at cops, and it's easier to use violent tactics against people who aren't going to fire back.

          Police today are also given too little training in counseling and dispute resolution, and what little they do get in the academy is quickly blotted out by what they learn on the street in the first few months on the job. When you're given an excess of training in the use of force but little in using psychology, body language, and other noncoercive means of resolving a conflict, you'll naturally gravitate toward force. "I think about the notion of command presence, Stamper says. […] What I see today is that this well-disciplined notion of command presence has been shattered. Cops today think you show command presence by yelling and screaming. In my day, if you screamed […] you had failed in that situation as a cop" (ch. 9, pp. 325-27).



          In numerous states […] police unions have lobbied legislatures to pass variations on a "law enforcement bill of rights." [… These vary, but] the general thrust of these laws is to afford police officers accused of crimes additional "rights" abouve and beyond what regular citizens get. Or as Reason magazine's Mike Riggs puts it, the intent of such laws is "to shielf cops from the laws they're rapid to enforce." These laws have made it nearly impossible [328] to fire bad cops in many jurisdictions, and worse, they have instilled in them the notion that they're above the law — and above the regular citizens they're supposed to serve. […]

          […] When city officials make it more difficult to fire bad cops, they are rarely affected […]. At worst, a lawsuit might take a bite out of a city budget. But no cops will be harassing or beating the politicians themselves. That happens to other people.

          Police unions also help enforce the "Blue Code of Silence." The unwritten rule that police officers never rat out or testify against other police officers. [Cites case in 2006 of Albuquerque police officer Sam Costales, who testified against sheriff dept. deputies, who were not disciplined — Costales was. And his union rep apologized to the disciplining police admin. For Costales's actions. 329].[…]

          Only in law enforcement would a union rep apologize to the management for the actions of one of its members. Former narcotics cop Russ Jones says that unions reinforce the notion among cops that it's just them and their brother cops against the world. […]

          Perhaps the biggest problems with police unions, however, is that they present a major obstacle to real reform. […] Democrats don't cross them because of the traditional alliance of unions and public employees. Republicans rarely cross them because of the party's law-and-order reputation. […]

          Good ideas for accountability policies include civilian review boards, but only if they have subpoena power, are granted the authority to impose discipline, and can't be overruled by arbitrators. […][330]

          The most productive accountability policy — and thus the most controversial and least likely to be adopted — would be to impose more liability on police officers who make egregious errors. Under the qualified immunity from civil lawsuits currently afforded to police under federal law, a police officer can't be sued for mere negligence — or even for gross negligence that results in a fatality. To even get into court against a police officer, a plaintiff must show not only that a police officer intentionally violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights, but that said rights were well established at the time they were violated. With this protection, police officers aren't required to keep informed on the latest court decisions that pertain to their job. In fact, in a perverse way, it even discourages police departments and officers from doing so. A cop who is aware he was violating someone's rights is much more likely to be found liable than a cop who isn't.

          Some commentators […] have suggested that SWAT teams that conduct forced-entry raids be held to a strict liability standard. […] Such a policy would be difficult to apply in many cases. […] Still, adopting the policy just for cases of clear, unambiguous mistakes would probably encourage more caution, more restraint, and fewer errors. (ch. 9, pp. 328-31)


Final appeal, for the sine qua non: "The public needs to start caring about these issues" (ch. 9, p. 331).

 * * *


Balko, Radley. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. 2013. New York: Public Affairs, 2014. © 2014 by Radley Balko



1 comment:

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