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Conservatives Richard Falknor on 30 May 2013 04:46 pm

Strengthening SWAT-Use Reporting: In Maryland, and Nationally

Ann Corcoran’s PTPR post “Sharpsburg: Case that brought a SWAT team to rural town ends with plea deal” (click here) ably sums up the legal conclusion of the Sharpsburg affair — where authorities brought very expensive and potentially dangerous SWAT forces to bear on what turned out to be infractions easily investigated, then addressed by local authorities.

SWAT transparency is one way Maryland citizens can hold law-enforcement organs accountable for the right use of this serious practice.

A measure to extend the sunset of the reporting law and expand the scope of Maryland’s SWAT reporting program passed the Maryland Senate unanimously as summarized in our letter to state senator Christopher Shank.

Below (click here) is the full text of our April 16, 2013 letter, which Mr. Shank, a member of the Judicial Proceedings panel,  apparently did not see:

“Email to Christopher Shanks from Richard Falknor, April 16, 2013
Dear Chris:
As you know, we are a conservative blog covering policy and politics in Maryland and Virginia, and we are particularly interested in — and supportive of — swat-team monitoring and regular reporting.
Click on our March 17, 2013 post – –
UPDATED! Tracking The Right Use & Misuse of SWAT Teams
UPDATE MARCH 22: Hear yesterday’s testimony (click here) from delegate Neil Parrott on his HB 1520 where he states that a ‘friendly amendment’ would incorporate the substance of his measure into HB 1178. Listen (click here) to the extensive March 12  testimony from mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Maryland on delegate Kriselda Valderrama’s HB 1178 as well as the pushback from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. HB 1178’s companion measure SB 590 (click here) passed the Maryland Senate yesterday 47-0. Several members of both parties on the House Judiciary panel were clearly not taken in by the thinly reasoned opposition to SWAT reporting requirements from Maryland law-enforcement voices.
Click on, as well, our August 15, 2008 post —
End SWAT Team Overreach in Maryland and VirginiaThe 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.
We have two questions:
(1)  In view of the state senate’s unanimous approval of SB 590
here and earlier in committee here, what figures or organizations or both (presumably in the House of Delegates? or in the governor’s office?) blocked enactment of this expanded approach?
(2)  We have heard that the existing statewide program of SWAT team reporting in Maryland is unique, that no other state has such a requirement.  Is this a fact?
Thank you,
Richard Falknor”

But, as we noted, even though the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee held hearings on a similar measure, HB 1178, no committee vote was held on HB 1178.

The central question for voters  is this: Who stopped the House of Delegates from acting on extending the life and scope of this simple reporting measure? (Listen to mayor Cheye Calvo’s testimony here on what he has found in these reports.)

Were the objections of a member (of either party) on the House Judiciary Committee enough to stop the measure?

The Maryland Law Enforcement Establishment surely drew enough legislative water to slow HB 1178 down. Were they the effective obstacle?

There are cases where SWAT use is clearly appropriate (click here to see author Radley Balko’s 2006 Cato whitepaper and scroll down to page 4):

“The use of paramilitary police units began in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Through the 1970s, the idea slowly spilled out across the country. But at least until the 1980s, SWAT teams and other paramilitary units were used sparingly, only in volatile, high-risk situations such as bank robberies or hostage situations. Likewise, ‘no-knock’ raids were generally used only in situations where innocent lives were determined to be at imminent risk.”. . . . “[Note] [t]he militarization of domestic policing, not just in big cities, but in small towns, suburbs, and exurbs….” (Highlighting Forum’s.)

But indiscriminate use is not only wasteful, but subject to grave abuse — while militarizing the police which should be accountable to citizens, not a means of intimidating them.

Sunlight on the use of SWAT teams is, as elsewhere, the best means of accountability.

Friends of freedom should work to strengthen SWAT reporting — not just in Maryland, but nationally.

* * * * * * * * *

Faithful readers may wish to revisit our posts on this troubling topic:

UPDATED! Tracking The Right Use & Misuse of SWAT Teams

Another Swatting! But Who Else in the GOP ‘Will Keep the Bridge?’

Protecting Free Speech: Where Is the Other 64% of the House GOP?

New Threat to Our Free Political Speech: “SWATTING” Bloggers

No longer “Live Free or Die” in the Granite State?

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.”

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