LA Times: One sheriff's deputy shot himself in the leg while pulling out his gun to confront a suspect. Another accidentally fired a bullet in a restroom stall. A third deputy stumbled over a stroller in a closet as he was searching for a suspect, squeezing off a round that went through a wall and lodged in a piece of furniture in the next room. Accidental gunshots by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have more than doubled in two years, endangering bystanders and occasionally [read more]
Recommended that SWAT units around the country stand down and relax just a bit, I have. Regarding the ATF SWAT failure in Greeley, Colorado:
… apprehension can be done safely and without ugly incidents such as this one. According to my friend, Captain Dickson Skipper of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, most apprehensions can be done physically, or with the really belligerent ones, using pepper spray. But military tactics have replaced basic police work in America, with the behavior of tacti-cool “operators” justified by judges looking the other way, as if all of this is necessary to maintain order and peace.
And regarding D.C. Police bullying:
That night it would have been perfectly reasonable to send over a couple of uniformed officers (common uniforms, shirts and ties), knock on the door, and then communicate their concerns: “Sir, we received a phone call concerning a potential problem or disturbance in this area, and we would like to sit and chat with you for a few minutes. May we come in, or perhaps you would like to come down to the precinct to chat with us?”
But with the increasing militarization of police activities in America, this is rarely good enough any more. But the police aren’t the military, and even if they were, such tactics are inherently dangerous. PoorEurie Stamps perished in a mistaken SWAT raid due to an officer, who had no trigger discipline, stumbling with a round chambered in his rifle and shooting Mr. Stamps (due to sympathetic muscle reflexes) who was prone on the floor. Mr. Jose Guerena was shot to death in his home in a SWAT raid that looked like it was conducted by the keystone cops. Such tactics are also dangerous for the police officers conducting the raids.
But a recent raid in Evansville, Indiana, proved just how reflexive it has become to conduct military-style raids on unsuspecting victims – and how unnecessary and dangerous it has all become.
The long-standing, heavily documented militarization of even small-town American police forces was always going to create problems when it met anonymous Internet threats. And so it has, again—this time in Evansville, Indiana, where officers acted on some Topix postings threatening violence against local police. They then sent an entire SWAT unit to execute a search warrant on a local house, one in which the front door was open and an 18-year old woman sat inside watching TV.
The cops brought along TV cameras, inviting a local reporter to film the glorious operation. In the resulting video, you can watch the SWAT team, decked out in black bulletproof vests and helmets and carrying window and door smashers, creep slowly up to the house. At some point, they apparently “knock” and announce their presence—though not with the goal of getting anyone to come to the door. As the local police chief admitted later to the Evansville Courier & Press, the process is really just “designed to distract.” (SWAT does not need to wait for a response.)
Officers break the screen door and a window, tossing a flashbang into the house—which you can see explode in the video. A second flashbang gets tossed in for good measure a moment later. SWAT enters the house.
On the news that night, the reporter ends his piece by talking about how this is “an investigation that hits home for many of these brave officers.”
But the family in the home was released without any charges as police realized their mistake. Turns out the home had an open WiFi router, and the threats had been made by someone outside the house. Whoops.
So the cops did some more investigation and decided that the threats had come from a house on the same street. This time, apparently recognizing they had gone a little nuts on the first raid, the police department didn’t send a SWAT team at all. Despite believing that they now had the right location and that a threat-making bomber lurked within, they just sent officers up to the door.
“We did surveillance on the house, we knew that there were little kids there, so we decided we weren’t going to use the SWAT team,” the police chief told the paper after the second raid. “We did have one officer with a ram to hit the door in case they refused to open the door. That didn’t happen, so we didn’t need to use it.”
Their target appears to be a teenager who admits to the paper that he has a “smart mouth,” dislikes the cops, and owns a smartphone—but who denies using it to make the threats.
De-escalation is the order of the day. There is no reason to reflexively assume that a SWAT raid is in order, and every reason to take more care and concern for the unintended consequences of the use of such military tactics on American citizens. Note to police departments around the nation: relax, call a uniform, and let him tell you what needs to be done, if anything.