Monday, April 06, 2009

Botched SWAT and Paramilitary Police Raids

We hear about these raids more and more often. A SWAT team raids the wrong house, someone is killed or seriously injured. Does it just seem to happen fairly often, or are these botched raids a reality.

Here is an interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids," by Radley Balko.

The proliferation of SWAT teams, police militarization, and the Drug War have given rise to a dramatic increase in the number of "no-knock" or "quick-knock" raids on suspected drug offenders. Because these raids are often conducted based on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants, police sometimes conduct SWAT-style raids on the wrong home, or on the homes of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug users. Such highly-volatile, overly confrontational tactics are bad enough when no one is hurt -- it's difficult to imagine the terror an innocent suspect or family faces when a SWAT team mistakenly breaks down their door in the middle of the night.

But even more disturbing are the number of times such "wrong door" raids unnecessarily lead to the injury or death of suspects, bystanders, and police officers. Defenders of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics say such incidents are isolated and rare. The map below aims to refute that notion.
An Epidemic of "Isolated Incidents"

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids


An executive summery of the book "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America".

Americans have long maintained that a man’s home is his castle and that he has the right to defend it from unlawful intruders. Unfortunately, that right may be disappearing. Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

This paper presents a history and overview of the issue of paramilitary drug raids, provides an extensive catalogue of abuses and mistaken raids, and offers recommendations for reform.
Click here for more information.

H/T to Fits for the idea.


Anonymous said...

Isolated, huh? I can see where they might get that. (smirk)

Mulligan said...

sobering to see it on the map like that.

JT said...

I've been following Radley Balko's blog for a long time, the stuff he uncovers and links to is unbelievable. He's still posting so-called "isolated incidents" on just about a daily basis. The current one that's taken on a life of its own is where a botched raid occurred on the house of a town's mayor in (I think) Maryland - the mayor has become a proponent of greater discretion on the part of SWAT teams to make forced entries. More here.

All-Mi-T [Thought Crime] Rawdawgbuffalo said...

That map is frightening