Monday, July 22, 2013

The Militarization of America's Police Forces - Part III

In this third and final post regarding recent stories focusing on the militarization of America's police forces and the resulting consequences, I look at an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week.

The story is entitled, "Rise of the Warrior Cop: Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?" and is written by Radley Balko.  Mr. Balko is the author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," published this month by PublicAffairs (Mr. Balko is also the author of the first article discussed in this three part blog series). 

Below are a few excerpts from his Wall Street Journal piece.
The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education's SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.
Mr. Balko's piece also includes the following.
In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn't a suspect in the investigation.
The entire Wall Street Journal piece is available here.

Mr. Balko's book, "Rise of the Warrior Cop," is available here.

For more information of this topic, visit the Cato Institute, which has a report by Mr. Balko entitled "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America" and a map showing botched paramilitary raised in the U.S. - report available here and map available here.

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