Feed on Posts or Comments 22 January 2018

Conservatives Richard Falknor on 15 Aug 2008 01:09 pm

End SWAT Team Overreach in Maryland and Virginia

The security of one’s family and property against gross misuse of state power must always be a central conservative concern. Thus we invite the attention of readers to the case of the SWAT team here invasion of the home of mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Maryland.

Here is what the DC Examiner said this week about the Berwyn Heights case:

Editorial: Stop using SWAT teams on civilians.

“WASHINGTON (Map, News) – The violent assault on Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo’s home late last month was certainly not the first bungled raid by a government SWAT team, but the bad publicity it generated should make it the last time these trigger-happy squads target innocent civilians.

Tracking a 32-pound package of marijuana that had been addressed to Calvo’s wife, Trinity Tomsic, Prince George’s sheriff’s deputies forcibly entered the mayor’s home on July 29 and killed his two dogs before handcuffing him and his mother-in-law.

But like so many other SWAT team raids across the country, this one turned out to be a big mistake. After reviewing the case, State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey acknowledged that the Calvos were victims of a multistate drug ring that used innocent people’s names and addresses to hide shipments of contraband drugs. But the mayor and his family were also victims of a home invasion by the SWAT team, based entirely on what turned out to be a false premise.”

Read the entire Examiner editorial here.

SWAT here teams have deviated from their original purpose of “defusing dangerous situations like riots, hostage-takings, or bank robberies” to becoming an overused, under-supervised police tool with often lamentable results, according to an exhaustive Cato Institute white paper “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America” by Radley Balko here

Here is a recent Virginia example from the Cato white paper:

“. . . [I]n January 2006, . . .police in Fairfax used a SWAT team to serve a search warrant on Salvatore Culosi Jr., whom they suspected of gambling on sporting events. When the SWAT team confronted Culosi as he came out of his home, one officer’s gun discharged, striking Culosi in the chest and killing him. Police concede that Culosi had no weapon and made no menacing gestures as police prepared to arrest him.”

Former Cato Institute investigator Radley Balko in his “Drug War Police Tactics Endanger Innocent Citizens” declared:

“The problem is, these violent, highly-confrontational SWAT raids are conducted based on information first gleaned from informants. Which means the information isn’t always accurate. Which means an untold number of innocent Americans have been subjected to the horrifying predicament of having armed men invade their homes in the middle of the night, and needing to decide immediately upon waking if the intruders are cops or criminals, and if they should submit or resist.”
* * * * *
Have a look at this map. It plots nearly 300 botched SWAT raids I’ve found over the course of about a year of research. It is by no means comprehensive. My guess is that it doesn’t even begin to make a full accounting for how many times this has happened, both because police are reluctant to report their mistakes, and because the victims of botched raids are often too afraid or embarrassed to come forward.
* * * * *
Increasingly, these raids are moving beyond the drug war. SWAT teams are now being employed to serve white collar warrants, too . . .. Sad as it is, perhaps that’s what it will take. Perhaps once upper-class people with more power and social leverage begin to feel the brunt force of this blunt law enforcement tool, we’ll begin to see some change.”
(Underscoring Forum‘s.)

Read analyst Balko’s recital of these troubling developments here.

We suggest the attorneys-general of Maryland and Virginia should develop sensible state-wide guidelines for the use of SWAT teams along the lines originally intended. They should hold public hearings to illustrate the dimensions of the current SWAT problem in their respective states and weigh possible remedies. The attorneys-general themselves should do so, taking responsibility for the ultimate recommendations – – – not distancing themselves through some “blue-ribbon” commission.

As Mr. Balko has written: “L.A. police chief Darryl Gates invented the [SWAT] concept in the 1960s shortly after the Watts riots. Gates wanted an elite team of police who could defuse dangerous situations like riots, hostage-takings, or bank robberies. For about a decade, that’s how SWAT teams were used, and they performed marvelously.”

Conservatives should seek Congressional review of Federal SWAT team employment, and the extent of past and current Federal SWAT subsidies to local police departments. Critics suggest this Federal help (including large quantities of “surplus military gear”) is responsible for the “mission creep” of SWAT teams.

Even though much SWAT activity today is apparently used in illegal-drug investigations, we would caution against linking SWAT reform to any larger public discussion about whether some or all kinds of drugs should be legalized. Don’t go there to fix the SWAT problem. That is, in our view, a sure-fire means of diverting attention from, and preventing follow-up on SWAT reform.

This is rather a tale of blind Federal largesse here to local police departments. It is a story of pork gone rancid.

Gun owners might consider this extract from the Cato white paper: “Police say that [one suspect’s] concealed-carry permit indicated he was potentially dangerous, which necessitated the involvement of the SWAT team.”

Mr. Balko’s report suggests that the use of SWAT teams now extends to so-called white-collar warrants.

Conservatives and libertarians might consider how the Green Governmentalists could urge the use of SWAT teams to do dawn military-style raids on suspected “green criminals.”


Trackback This Post | Subscribe to the comments through RSS Feed

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.