Modified SWAT Tactics After The Death Of Eurie Stamps

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 2 months ago

Let’s rehearse for a moment the details of the SWAT raid on the home of Eurie Stamps (completely innocent of any wrongdoing).  The SWAT team entered the home, and while one officer stumbled and fired his AR into the body of Eurie Stamps.  “Authorities say Duncan shot and killed Stamps, a 68-year-old grandfather, when he lost his balance and accidentally pulled the trigger.”  Stamps was prone on the floor when he was killed by the officer.

Sympathetic muscle reflexes and awful trigger discipline are to blame.

The term sympathetic contraction refers to the fact that an involuntary contraction may occur in the muscles of one limb when the same muscles in the other limb are performing an intended forceful action. In physiology literature this effect is known as a mirror movement, with the intensity of the sympathetic contraction depending on the amount of force exerted during the intended action. In policing, a common situation that may evoke such a sympathetic contraction would be, for example, a law enforcement officer attempting to restrain a struggling suspect with one hand while holding a handgun in the other.

The second scenario described by Enoka involves loss of balance. When balance is disturbed the human body evokes rapid involuntary contractions to return itself to a position of equilibrium. Thereby the involuntary contractions used to prevent a fall depend on the options available to counteract the disturbance of balance. Usually, compensatory movements following gait perturbations primarily involve correcting movements of the lower limbs to keep the body in balance, whereas movements of the arms are restricted to their extension forwards as a safeguard to counter an eventual fall. When an individual is holding a handle for support, there is, however, a tendency to use the arm muscles to maintain balance rather than the leg muscles. Under such circumstances the focal point of automatic postural activity is any contact point an individual has with his or her surroundings. In other words, if an individual’s posture is disturbed while grasping an object, for instance a handgun, he or she is likely to grasp it more forcefully.

Startle reaction, the third scenario identified by Enoka, is a whole-body reflex-like response to an unexpected stimulus, possibly a loud noise. It evokes rapid involuntary contractions that begin with the blink of an eye and spread to all muscles throughout the body. The reaction of the hands occurs less than 200ms after the stimulus and leads to individuals clenching their fists. Enoka concludes: “Accordingly, an officer who is startled by a loud, unexpected noise while searching for a suspect with his weapon drawn would surely increase the grip force on the weapon, perhaps enough to cause an involuntary discharge.”

A “investigation” occurred as part of the post mortem followup to this incident, and here is where it becomes really bizarre.

Police Chief Carl outlined the committee’s recommendations and the SWAT responses. One of the biggest policy changes is to the Policy of Firearms and Weapons, which will shift to “off safe,” meaning “only when the officer is ready to shoot does the weapon come off safe.”

When questioned by a member of the public about whether this policy would have prevented the death of Eurie Stamps, Chief Carl ultimately said yes, it would have.

Examination of the revised SWAT protocol yields no discussion whatsoever of any policy on whether an officer’s weapon is on safe or the circumstances under which he can change the state of his weapon.  Apparently this is a verbal directive, or tribal knowledge, but it’s not written down anywhere that can be readily found.

This resolution to the incident is obscene in the superlative degree.  It is well know among regular readers that I oppose SWAT raids for situations that don’t involve the commission of violent felonies (such as the acquisition of evidence regarding illicit drugs).  That evidence can be oftentimes obtained when residents are not in the home, and there is no need to place the residents in danger when there are other options.

But leaving aside that position, if they intend on conducting these stupid no-knock raids for drug evidence, they should do so with qualified personnel.  In this case the officer has no concept of trigger discipline, and shouldn’t even own a weapon himself, much less be trusted with one as a law enforcement officer.

And the review conducted as a result of this incident only continues the obscenity.  There is no discussion of trigger discipline, but discussion of keeping the weapon on safe during a raid, a policy which now endangers the lives of the officers.  If they confessed to awful trigger discipline, they would be admitting culpability in the death of Eurie Stamps.  As it is now, they can deflect this blame with ridiculous narratives about whether the weapon is “on safe.”

Summary: (1) They should be more judicious as to when they use SWAT raids, (2) their weapons shouldn’t be on safe, (3) law enforcement officers should understand their weapons and have good trigger and muzzle discipline, and (4) this revised directive is useful for no other reason than to deflect criticism.

The conclusion of this is as obscene as the beginning, where an innocent man died because a man who should be bagging groceries at the local store was stumbling with an AR towards a prone man and killed him.  And the local police department justified it all by implementing a ridiculous, sophomoric policy which won’t add any benefit, and probably will make things worse for the law enforcement officers.

Fail from front to finish.  Utter fail.

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Comments

  1. On February 3, 2012 at 8:11 am, RJ said:

    Step back for a moment and ask yourself: “The last time I saw an advertisement on television by a police department seeking new recruits, the ad was promoting what kind of police event?”

    SWAT has become the major tool for police recruitment, followed in general with the female officer showing up in front of a house with some kid or kids smiling in the shot…domestic abuse solved!

    Ever since that bank robbery in California some years back when the cops were outgunned, police departments all over this country went crazy in demanding more weapons, more “tools” to fight crime.

    Now you’ve got a “para-military” police force. Don’t you just love those cop sunglasses that rage “I’m a prick” as he or she turns to face you…the citizen. Can’t graduate from cop school until one has mastered the yell “get down, get down!” right?

    It’s called an “emerging” police state…

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You are currently reading "Modified SWAT Tactics After The Death Of Eurie Stamps", entry #8206 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Police,SWAT Raids and was published February 2nd, 2012 by Herschel Smith.

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