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The State Of Police

21 April 2014 @ 19:30

John Fund writes of the troubling trends found in our police departments and is worth quoting in full [tip of the fedora to Mark Steyn][emphasis mine]:

Regardless of how people feel about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over his cattle’s grazing rights, a lot of Americans were surprised to see TV images of an armed-to-the-teeth paramilitary wing of the BLM deployed around Bundy’s ranch.

They shouldn’t have been. Dozens of federal agencies now have Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to further an expanding definition of their missions. It’s not controversial that the Secret Service and the Bureau of Prisons have them. But what about the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? All of these have their own SWAT units and are part of a worrying trend towards the militarization of federal agencies — not to mention local police forces.

“Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier,” journalist Radley Balko writes in his 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop. “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 proliferation of paramilitary federal SWAT teams inevitably brings abuses that have nothing to do with either drugs or terrorism. Many of the raids they conduct are against harmless, often innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.

Take the case of Kenneth Wright of Stockton, Calif., who was “visited” by a SWAT team from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011. Agents battered down the door of his home at 6 a.m., dragged him outside in his boxer shorts, and handcuffed him as they put his three children (ages 3, 7, and 11) in a police car for two hours while they searched his home. The raid was allegedly intended to uncover information on Wright’s estranged wife, Michelle, who hadn’t been living with him and was suspected of college financial-aid fraud.

The year before the raid on Wright, a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.

Brian Walsh, a senior legal analyst with the Heritage Foundation, says it is inexplicable why so many federal agencies need to be battle-ready: “If these agencies occasionally have a legitimate need for force to execute a warrant, they should be required to call a real law-enforcement agency, one that has a better sense of perspective. The FBI, for example, can draw upon its vast experience to determine whether there is an actual need for a dozen SWAT agents.”

Since 9/11, the feds have issued a plethora of homeland-security grants that encourage local police departments to buy surplus military hardware and form their own SWAT units. By 2005, at least 80 percent of towns with a population between 25,000 and 50,000 people had their own SWAT team. The number of raids conducted by local police SWAT teams has gone from 3,000 a year in the 1980s to over 50,000 a year today.

Once SWAT teams are created, they will be used. Nationwide, they are used for standoffs, often serious ones, with bad guys. But at other times they’ve been used for crimes that hardly warrant military-style raids. Examples include angry dogs, domestic disputes, and misdemeanor marijuana possession. In 2010, a Phoenix, Ariz., sheriff’s SWAT team that included a tank and several armored vehicles raided the home of Jesus Llovera. The tank, driven by the newly deputized action-film star Steven Seagal, plowed right into Llovera’s house. The incident was filmed and, together with footage of Seagal-accompanied immigration raids, was later used for Seagal’s A&E TV law-enforcement reality show.

The crime committed by Jesus Llovera was staging cockfights. During the sheriff’s raid, his dog was killed, and later all of his chickens were put to sleep.

Many veteran law-enforcement figures have severe qualms about the turn police work is taking. One retired veteran of a large metropolitan police force told me: “I was recently down at police headquarters for a meeting. Coincidently, there was a promotion ceremony going on and the SWAT guys looked just like members of the Army, except for the police shoulder patches. Not an image I would cultivate. It leads to a bad mindset.

Indeed, the U.S. Constitution’s Third Amendment, against the quartering of troops in private homes, was part of an overall reaction against the excesses of Britain’s colonial law enforcement. “It wasn’t the stationing of British troops in the colonies that irked patriots in Boston and Virginia,” Balko writes. “It was England’s decision to use the troops for everyday law enforcement.”

There are things that can be done to curb the abuses without taking on the politically impossible job of disbanding SWAT units. The feds should stop shipping military vehicles to local police forces. Federal SWAT teams shouldn’t be used to enforce regulations, but should focus instead on potentially violent criminals. Cameras mounted on the dashboards of police cars have both brought police abuses to light and exonerated officers who were falsely accused of abuse. SWAT-team members could be similarly equipped with helmet cameras.

After all, if taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill and cede ground on their Fourth Amendment rights, they have the right to a transparent, accountable record of just what is being done in their name.

Mr. Fund is right on the mark, except for his last two paragraphs.  As Mark Steyn remarks:

…Americans will end their days in a very dark place unless this vile trend is reversed.

In the Second World War, when the Japanese took Singapore and inflicted what Churchill called the most ignominious defeat in British military history, it was famously said of the colony’s ill-prepared defenses that the guns were pointing the wrong way. In America today, the guns seem to be pointing the wrong way.

There’s no ‘seem’ about it.  Our police departments have become militarized — paramilitary in their thinking — infected with a fever that in America must always be restricted to our soldiers, sailors, and Marines.  We, the People of The United States, are not the enemy.

Respect for the police is rapidly turning into fear of the police — you’d be a fool these days not to.

Whereas but a few years ago, we — the Law-Abiding — could place our trust in them, now we must be very wary of them, because we can no longer be sure that the police are on our side.  The youngest members of law enforcement are to be feared the most because the vast majority of them have been educated in Leftist controlled schools, where they have not been taught Morals and Virtue, where the example of The Founding Fathers is denigrated or ignored.  Despite their Kevlar vests, too many young police officers are Men Without Chests.

As to Mr. Fund’s last two paragraphs: I don’t know about you, but I have never ceded my Fourth Amendment rights to the government and I sure as Hell will not in the future.

Also, I would never trust the FBI.

Further, it is unrealistic to think these abuses can be curbed under the present Despotism governments at all levels have descended to.

Face it: we’re the Bad Guys in this story.

We’re the Outlaws.

4 Comments
  1. 21 April 2014 @ 21:49 21:49

    As a veteran, the idea of a warrior cop scares me quite a bit. I’m supposed to be defending these people, not be an occupying force.

    • 21 April 2014 @ 23:38 23:38

      Exactly.

    • Starless permalink
      22 April 2014 @ 08:36 08:36

      SWATing should be a clear indication to all LEOs that their missions in theory and in practice have diverged so far from each other that it’s time to reevaluate their practices. The media is very much responsible for the current state of things: every time a lone whack job goes nuts in a shopping mall or school, or tries to start his underpants on fire on an airplane, or a gangbanger gets shot in the worst part of the worst city, the media goes into hysterics and the statists demand that Something (Anything) must be Done. The unintended consequences of Doing Something (Anything!) are never good, and when the people charged with Doing Something are given M4s and MRAPs, you end up in an upside down world where an LA County Deputy District Attorney finds himself handcuffed in the back of a squad, his wife being patted down against the garage door, and his kids being terrified in their beds by screaming, armed men, for no other reason than for writing something on a blog. Is there no sane person within that system who can stand back and say, “We’re doing something very wrong here, our response is disproportionate to the actual threat, and we need a fundamental change.”

      I always think back to this story. When the cops end up in a shoot-out with an innocent civilian because they went to the wrong address, instead of chalking it up to a mere mistake which can be corrected with procedural changes, someone sane and competent at a high level should have realized that there is something very, very wrong at a basic level. The arms and armor, while disturbing, are secondary to the evident fact that those who are given the arms and armor can’t, or won’t, realize that they have such a basic problem and resist the screams from the most hysterical of the hysterics to Do Something.

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