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Neuman writes: "U.S. law enforcement at all levels has undergone a dangerous militarization in recent years, with heavily armed SWAT teams being deployed to serve warrants and for drug searches, but rarely for the hostage situations they were designed for, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new report."

During a drill, SWAT team members prepare to secure a ship in Bainbridge Island, Washington. (photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)
During a drill, SWAT team members prepare to secure a ship in Bainbridge Island, Washington. (photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

ACLU Report Points to 'Dangerous Militarization' of US Law Enforcement

By Scott Neuman, National Public Radio

25 June 14


SEE ALSO: Full ACLU Report

.S. law enforcement at all levels has undergone a dangerous militarization in recent years, with heavily armed SWAT teams being deployed to serve warrants and for drug searches, but rarely for the hostage situations they were designed for, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new report.

In "War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing," the ACLU says its investigation corroborates the unnecessary use of a proliferation of Special Weapons and Tactics teams made possible by federal programs that incentivize aggressive weapons and battlefield tactics at the local level.

The study looked at 800 SWAT deployments among 20 local, state and federal police agencies in 2011-2012.

"Using these 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. But these arsenals are by no means free of cost for communities," says Kara Dansky, senior counsel with the ACLU's Center for Justice.

The ACLU's report highlights a number of cases where it says the use of SWAT teams led to unnecessary deaths and injuries, and echoes in some ways a much earlier report (in 2006) put out by the libertarian Cato Institute that showed much the same trend.

A few of the incidents highlighted in the report:

- "In 2010, 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed when, just after midnight, a SWAT team threw a flashbang grenade through the window into the living room where she was asleep. The flashbang burned her blanket and a member of the SWAT team burst into the house, firing a single shot, which killed her."

- Jose Guerena, a 26-year-old Iraq War veteran, whose wife heard a noise that turned out to be a SWAT team. Guerena "picked up his rifle, with the safety on, and went to investigate. A SWAT team fired 71 shots at Guerena, 22 of which entered his body and killed him."

Among the ACLU's findings:

- 62 percent of SWAT raids were for the purpose of conducting drug searches.

- Just 7 percent of SWAT raids were "for hostages, barricade, or active shooter scenarios."

- SWAT raids are directed disproportionately against people of color — 30 percent of the time the "race of individual people impacted" was black, 11 percent of the time Latino, 20 percent white and 30 percent unknown.

- Armored personnel vehicles that local law enforcement agencies have received through grants from the Department of Homeland Security are most commonly used for drug raids and not school shootings and terrorist situations.

- In cases in which police cited the possible presence of a weapon in the home as a reason for utilizing a SWAT team, weapons were found only 35 percent of the time. your social media marketing partner


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+58 # Barbara K 2014-06-25 17:26
There is a big problem with the way that the police have morphed into military roles who view the citizens they should be protecting into "the enemy". We are not the enemy, we are American citizens, Treat us as such, after all we are paying their wages, and they are supposed to be there to "Protect and Serve", not "Beat and Kill". How did they ever morph into that stance?

+28 # Rangzen 2014-06-25 19:28
I just returned from a driving trip in the Republic of Ireland. Was so struck that the Garda are there to help, not to act as punitive aggressors. It gave me a sense of peace and safety I no longer feel here. It's so sad to experience how it could be...
+55 # Blackjack 2014-06-25 17:37
All one has to do is to look at how "Occupiers" were treated to know how rampant and serious this has become. Law enforcement departments are getting upgraded militarized equipment at every turn. Tasers are more common now than billy clubs once were.
+12 # grandma lynn 2014-06-25 21:57
When Concord, NH, had public comment / feedback about getting its military-surplu s "tank" or whatever it is, for civilian combat, it used Occupy as one of the reasons it needs it. I thought that our police chief landed independently on that reason. Reading this, however, I think it must have been a selling point on some list of selling points. He backed off on Occupy as a reason, when the public objected. So much of the public did Occupy stints in various small ways, usually, in NH. Or they knew someone who did.
+44 # Lucretius 2014-06-25 18:01
The failure to protest fascist wars of aggression is coming home to America now where they are starting to implement the agenda and blueprint they've used around the world for decades against hte American people.

The true purpose of he patriot Act and Homeland Security, both of which should have been dismantled, now revealed.
Both parties are complicit.

So stop pretending there is any more room for liberalismn or change within the Democratic party.
+34 # Steve B 2014-06-25 18:03
This is the perfect issue to bring awakening folks on the progressive left and libertarian right together on the "rules of governance" -- i.e., who's in charge of who's in charge?
+8 # tm7devils 2014-06-25 18:21
Does anyone know when the civil war is starting...???
+25 # akpinbend 2014-06-25 18:42
Let's face it...America is being run by the Arms Industry AKA the NRA whose sole purpose is the proliferation of guns, preferably military style, and the waging of war to sell more guns to both sides. With America at war with itself, both the cops and the citizens are urged to pack heat, the bigger and badder the better. The war on drugs was just an excuse to wage war on people of color and youth.
-29 # skylinefirepest 2014-06-25 21:25
Well now, that's just got to be the freaking stupidest comment I've read today. Don't you know that the NRA is the ONLY group in the entire country to teach gun safety?? Apparently not! Don't you know that according to the Dept. of Justice and the FBI that guns save lives and that American citizens with guns stop more crime that the law enforcement of the country? Apparently not! Just another firearms illiterate comment!!
+9 # Saberoff 2014-06-25 22:16
ya, and did you know that I'm the pope? Probably not!
-2 # skylinefirepest 2014-06-26 17:58
Saber...before making stupid anti-gun, firearms illiterate comments how about checking the FBI Uniform Crime Reports?? You'll be absolutely amazed how wrong you are to think that guns don't save lives...and as you guys always like to whimper..."if it just saves one life"!!!
+10 # anarchteacher 2014-06-25 20:14
The militarization of local police began in the 1960s with the development of SWAT teams in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Establishment mainstream conservatives (such as those clustered around William F. Buckley’s National Review magazine), progressives, and liberal Democrats of that time ridiculed reports of these trends because they came from sources such as the John Birch Society, whose “Support Your Local Police and Keep Them Independent” organized nation-wide educational campaign detailed this concerted nationalization of law enforcement.

This ominous trend started to accelerate with the Nixon administration’ s War on Drugs in the 1970s, continuing into the 1980s and 1990s with the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations .

With the draconian response to 9/11, we may confidently ask: Who’s laughing now?

The two best observers of today’s American Police State are researcher William Norman Grigg and constitutional law expert John W. Whitehead.

William Norman Grigg

John W. Whitehead
+19 # Radscal 2014-06-25 20:48
Those of us on the far left were quite vocal in opposition to the militarization of police going back to the 19th century.

If we didn't respond well to the John Birch Society, maybe that was because the JBS considered us traitorous Communists who should be wiped out.

Haymarket Square, Chicago; Union busting nationwide, but most notoriously perhaps with the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado; Civil Rights marches,back to Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Convention, anti-Vietnam War protests, anti-WTO protests, Occupy... the list goes on and on.

The most frequent targets of police militarization have always been on the left.
+4 # DaveM 2014-06-25 20:54
Jose Guerena was hit by 22 shots out of 72 fired, all presumably from close range. The moral of the story: don't leave your safety on. I assume that a veteran could have gotten one of his attackers at least. In the long run, that's a strategic advantage: there are more of "us" than there are of "them".

Those who throw around phrases like "civil war" will recall, I hope, that people die horrible deaths in war. That said, they fired first. And I believe the standard rules of engagement in quasi-military permit one to fire if fired upon.
+5 # E-Mon 2014-06-25 23:57
I noticed many years ago (80's 90's) that increasingly the police depicted in movies were being depicted as seen in the photo above… Black uniforms with no identification, assault rifles, helmets, etc. Point being that I believe we were being deliberately "conditioned" to accept this as the new "normal" while we were being "entertained". i.e. You don't really stop to think about what you're actually seeing.. It's just a movie. Unfortunately I can only remember a few as examples. One was a (at least one) Bruce Willis "Die Hard" where the police actually had an armored vehicle kind of like a tank rolling through the streets of LA. Another was "The Professional"… I think that was the movie that put Natalie Portman "on the map"… The police show up to an Apt. building in full military regalia all in black with machine guns and helmets and black ski masks, in full "shoot first, ask questions later" mode. Sure it was adreneline pumping fast paced ACTION!!! But I was sitting there going "wait a minute". Is that supposed to be normal police procedure? Oh it's just a movie… Yeah right. Another one (unfortunately don't remember the name) was so blatant it was almost laughable. A helicopter descends in the middle of a city block, unloads a full SWAT team, and the people are just walking by like everything is completely normal… Yup! Guess they're right. It sure is now.
+3 # Glen 2014-06-26 07:02
"Another one (unfortunately don't remember the name) was so blatant it was almost laughable. A helicopter descends in the middle of a city block, unloads a full SWAT team, and the people are just walking by like everything is completely normal… Yup! Guess they're right. It sure is now."

Reminds me of a week I spent in New Orleans in the early 2000s. While in the French Quarter, folks were going about their sightseeing, buying, eating, strolling the streets. Three times a SWAT type team would arrive, rush a building, then more sirens or not. Not one person even turned to look, including tourists. After a bit I asked my friends if I was the only one seeing the action. Yep. Folks were already blind to it.
+12 # fredboy 2014-06-26 07:39
Studies have indicated up to 50 percent (or more) of those seeking law enforcement careers due so to control and bully others. Add to that the "hire the vets" ingredient--str ict military plus possible PTSD--and you get a nightmare.

One fuel is the vast amount of hatred in our severely divided nation. It is everywhere, and reflected in almost everything we do: our driving, the way we treat employees and neighbors, business and its disregard for everything but profit (including disregard for ethics and the law), etc. All of this provides "reasons" for a "strong" police system.

Plus fear, the greatest selling point of America's intended destruction. Fear shatters the very notion of courage, justice, and so many of our founding principles. And prompts calls for more "protection."

Lincoln said a house divided cannot stand. I wonder what he would think of a nation savaged by division, hatred, fear, and the evolving military-police process?
+1 # Dirt Road 2014-06-26 14:10
The US population recently turned 300 million. It is soon to be 400 million. Robotics have taken over manufacturing; automobiles are made almost entirely without human hands. It is expected that within ten years over-the-road trucks will be driverless (there are currently 4.3 million truck drivers in the country). 1.9 million kids pour out of school and into the workforce every year. Where are all these people going to get jobs? Who is going to feed them?
A parent with hungry children will get food "By any means necessary" (I know I would). There could be food riots in the streets. The ruling class knows capitalism is collapsing and they are preparing for the coming uprising. Unfortunately, those helmeted police in those tanks will be on the wrong side; they almost always are.

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