Sixty ATF agents invited television crews to film them while they raided the Oklahoma home of John Lawmaster. They had received a tip that Lawmaster had illegally converted one of his semiautomatic weapons to an automatic. They ripped Lawmaster’s home to shreds, but found no evidence that he’d broken any law. Lawmaster wasn’t home at the time. When he returned, he found his doors open, his house in ruins, and a note from the federal agency that read, “Nothing found.” And just three weeks before the raid in Waco, ATF agents raided a woman’s home in Portland. They held her at gunpoint for several hours and wouldn’t let her call her attorney. They finally admitted that they had raided the wrong home. These were just a few examples of the agency’s excesses.38 The ATF abuses that came to light in the 1990s were a good indication that the warrior like, us-against-them mentality wasn’t limited to drug policing.
Some 43 percent of the police departments in Kraska’s survey told him they had used active-duty military personnel to train the SWAT team when it was first started, and 46 percent were training on a regular basis “with active-duty military experts in special operations,” usually the Army Rangers or Navy Seals. This was the goal of the joint task forces set up during the Bush administration—to encourage cooperation between local police, federal police, and the military in order to foster a battlefield approach to drug enforcement.
In the September 2011 issue of Tactical Edge magazine, Ed Sanow, a SWAT leader in Benton County, Indiana, and a well-published author and consultant on police tactics, suggests doing exactly that—practicing SWAT raids on low-level offenders. “Team commanders must raise the profile of their teams,” Sanow writes. “Stay active. Yes, I mean do warrant service and drug raids even if you have to poach the work. First, your team needs the training time under true callout conditions. If all your team does is train, but seldom deploy, you will end up training just to train. You need to train to fight. . . . Make deploying SWAT something that is routine, not something only done after much hand-wringing.”
===Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (Radley Balko)
It’s 3:00 a.m. Your children are screaming and your dog is lying dead in a pool of blood. Scorch marks and shattered glass cover the floor. You’re being held at gunpoint by towering figures wearing black and holding AK-47s.
This isn’t a Hollywood movie set. Odds are this is a predawn SWAT raid targeting a family of color. Mission objective: search the home for a small amount of drugs.
There are an estimated 45,000 SWAT raids every year. That means this sort of violent, paramilitary raid is happening in about 124 homes every day – or more likely every night – not in an overseas combat zone, but here in American neighborhoods. The police, who are supposed to serve and protect communities, are instead waging war on the people who live in them.
Our new report, War at Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, takes a hard look at 800 of these raids – or at least what state and local law enforcement agencies are willing to tell us about them. We found that almost 80% of SWAT raids are to search homes, usually for drugs, and disproportionately, in communities of color. During these drug searches, at least 10 officers often piled into armored personnel carriers. They forced their way into people’s homes using military equipment like battering rams 60 percent of the time. And they were 14 times more likely to deploy flashbang grenades than during SWAT raids for other purposes.
Astounding Propaganda from the History Channel, and then Reality