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'Dangerously Militarized' Cops Misusing SWAT Teams

Army tactics, equipment used for drug raids
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2014 4:12 AM CDT
Updated Jun 25, 2014 7:18 AM CDT
'Dangerously Militarized' Cops Misusing SWAT Teams
Seattle SWAT team members are seen with an armored vehicle.   (AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)

(Newser) – Police forces across America have become "dangerously militarized" and are using equipment and tactics taken straight from the Army to do things like serve search warrants and search homes for drugs, a new American Civil Liberties Union report finds. Among the findings of the report on police militarization, as per NPR, the Guardian, and the Washington Post:

  • SWAT teams were designed for hostage situations, but almost 80% of the raids studied were to serve a search warrant. Some 62% of the total were for drug searches—and just 7% were for "hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios."

  • Almost two-thirds of SWAT raids resulted in forced entry into a private home, whether by battering ram, boot, or explosive device.
  • No contraband at all was found in at least 36% of raids, and the ACLU says this figure could be as high as 65%.
  • In raids where the stated purpose of using a SWAT team was the possibility of a weapon being present, a weapon was found just 35% of the time.
  • Black people and other minorities were disproportionately targeted by the SWAT raids. With the help of federal funds, "state and local law enforcement agencies have amassed military arsenals purportedly to wage the failed War on Drugs, the battlegrounds of which have disproportionately been in communities of color," an ACLU spokeswoman says. "But these arsenals are by no means free of cost for communities."
  • The Pentagon has channeled huge amounts of equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan to local police forces, including hundreds of armored personnel carriers. "If the federal government gives the police a huge cache of military-style weaponry, they are highly likely to use it, even if they do not really need to," the ACLU says.
The report cited numerous incidents where the use of a SWAT team appears to have caused unnecessary injuries, including a 2010 case in Detroit where a 7-year-old girl was shot dead after police threw a flash grenade into her home, burning her. More recently, a 19-month-old boy in Georgia is still fighting for his life after police threw a flash grenade into his playpen during a drug raid last month. Police later found the suspect they were looking for at a different house, and he surrendered peacefully. (Read more ACLU stories.)

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