Rise of the Warrior Cop

Members of the 60th Security Police Squadron's Base Swat TeamIs it too late to stop our cops looking like they’re about to go into battle? Radley Balko on the rise of the warrior cop for the Wall Street Journal:

…Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to “clear” a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.

The country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education’s SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]


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9 Comments on "Rise of the Warrior Cop"

  1. Tchoutoye | Jul 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm |

    Special Weapons and Tactics have been so overused that there’s nothing special about them any more.

    • Hadrian999 | Jul 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

      they are very costly to train and maintain, if you have them you are going to want to use them. what is special today is ordinary tomorrow. creep is inevitable unless military style law enforcement is banned and that just isn’t going to happen.

  2. Ted Heistman | Jul 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm |

    I talked to a cop the other day who sees this as a bad trend also.

  3. DrDavidKelly | Jul 22, 2013 at 10:40 pm |

    What did Rogan say recently … stuck in my head something like: ‘You shouldn’t be in law enforcement if you can defend yourself.”

  4. AManCalledDa-da | Jul 23, 2013 at 12:46 am |

    What all cops need now: The Andy Griffith Police Training Academy.


  5. JudgeDredd | Jul 23, 2013 at 3:29 am |

    Sad when u can get shot for speeding. Cops first reach for their gun before anything else. The wrong kinda person is also joining trigger happy goons.

  6. lilbear68 | Jul 23, 2013 at 10:51 am |

    the pigs need to do a lil thinkin first before they go busting some ones head. considering detroit and that most major cities are going in that direction now the pigs should realize that they are only a couple steps away from finding themselves on the Other Side of that thin blue line and that cities and the political machines that run them have No loyalty to anyone or thing unless it keeps them in power.
    if the pig finds himself out of a cop job and on the street like many are starting to find out like in detroit and elsewhere the street might not welcome them or in a worst case scenario may remember the brutality that the pig showed when he was hiding behind the badge

  7. ManwithnoCountry | Jul 23, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

    A selection from Shock and Awe: the War on Words (an excellent book), says that /on/ is the word connecting an enticement with the excuse for it. Jam on bread, for instance: one wants jam, but puts it on bread; bread is an excuse. War on terror: people want war, but having a war for its own sake would be like eating jam from the jar, so they put it on something so you won’t get too sick, like terror, poverty, or drugs.

  8. I’ll only allow Warrior Cops if there are also Wizard Scientists, and Cleric Psychologists etc.

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