The Mindset Responsible for Turning SWAT Teams into Death Squads

police-state-deesillustrations

A government which will turn its tanks upon its people, for any reason, is a government with a taste of blood and a thirst for power and must either be smartly rebuked, or blindly obeyed in deadly fear.John Salter

How many children, old people, and law-abiding citizens have to be injured, terrorized or killed before we call a halt to the growing rash of police violence that is wracking the country? How many family pets have to be gunned down in cold blood by marauding SWAT teams before we declare such tactics off limits? And how many communities have to be transformed into military outposts, complete with heavily armed police, military tanks, and “safety” checkpoints before we draw that line in the sand that says “not in our town”?

The latest incident comes out of Atlanta, Georgia, where a SWAT team, attempting to execute a no-knock drug warrant in the middle of the night, launched a flash bang grenade into the targeted home, only to have it land in a crib where a 19-month-old baby lay sleeping. The grenade exploded in the baby’s face, burning his face, lacerating his chest, and leaving him paralyzed. He is currently in the hospital in a medically induced coma.

If this were the first instance of police overkill, if it were even the fifth, there might be hope of reforming our system of law enforcement. But what happened to this baby, whose life will never be the same, has become par for the course in a society that glorifies violence, turns a blind eye to government wrongdoing, and sanctions any act by law enforcement, no matter how misguided or wrong. Indeed, as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this state-sponsored violence is a necessary ingredient in any totalitarian regime to ensure a compliant, cowed and fearful populace.

Thus, each time we as a rational, reasoning, free-minded people fail to be outraged by government wrongdoing—whether it’s the SWAT team raids that go awry, the senseless shootings of unarmed citizens, the stockpiling of military weapons and ammunition by government agencies (including small-town police), the unapologetic misuse of our taxpayer dollars for graft and pork, the incarceration of our fellow citizens in forced labor prisons, etc.—we become accomplices in bringing about our own downfall.

There’s certainly no shortage of things to be outraged about, starting with this dangerous mindset that has come to dominate law enforcement and the courts that protecting the lives and safety of police officers (of all stripes) is more important than the lives and safety of the citizenry. This is true even if it means that greater numbers of innocent civilians will get hurt or killed (police kill roughly five times more often than they are killed), police might become laws unto themselves, and the Constitution will be sidestepped, or worse disregarded, at every turn.

For example, where was the outrage when a Minnesota SWAT team raided the wrong house in the middle of the night, handcuffed the three young children, held the mother on the floor at gunpoint, shot the family dog, and then “forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour” while they searched the home?

Or what about the SWAT team that drove an armored Lenco Bearcat into Roger Serrato’s yard, surrounded his home with paramilitary troops wearing face masks, threw a fire-starting flashbang grenade into the house in order, then when Serrato appeared at a window, unarmed and wearing only his shorts, held him at bay with rifles? Serrato died of asphyxiation from being trapped in the flame-filled house, and the county was ordered to pay $2.6 million to Serrato’s family. It turns out the father of four had done nothing wrong; the SWAT team had misidentified him as someone involved in a shooting. Even so, the police admitted no wrongdoing.

And then there was the police officer who tripped and “accidentally” shot and killed Eurie Stamps, who had been forced to the floor of his home at gunpoint while a SWAT team attempted to execute a search warrant against his stepson. Equally outrageous was the recent four-hour SWAT team raid on a California high school, where students were locked down in classrooms, forced to urinate in overturned desks and generally terrorized by heavily armed, masked gunmen searching for possible weapons that were never found.

The problem with all of these incidents, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”

This battlefield mindset has so corrupted our law enforcement agencies that the most routine tasks, such as serving a search warrant—intended to uncover evidence of a suspected crime—becomes a death warrant for the alleged “suspect,” his family members and his pets once a SWAT team, trained to kill, is involved.

Unfortunately, SWAT teams are no longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. For example, police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games. A Connecticut SWAT team was sent into a bar that was believed to be serving alcohol to underage individuals. In Arizona, a SWAT team was used to break up an alleged cockfighting ring. An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.

Yet the tension inherent in most civilian-police encounter these days can’t be blamed exclusively on law enforcement’s growing reliance on SWAT teams. It goes far deeper, to a transformation in the way police view themselves and their line of duty. Specifically, what we’re dealing with today is a skewed shoot-to-kill mindset in which police, trained to view themselves as warriors or soldiers in a war, whether against drugs, or terror, or crime, must “get” the bad guys—i.e., anyone who is a potential target—before the bad guys get them. The result is a spike in the number of incidents in which police shoot first, and ask questions later.

Who could forget what happened to 13-year-old Andy Lopez? The teenager was shot seven times and killed after two sheriff’s deputies, a mere 20 feet away, saw him carrying a toy BB gun in public.

Then there was the time two Cleveland police officers mistook the sounds of a backfiring car for gunfire and immediately began pursuing the car and its two occupants. Within 20 minutes, more than 60 police cars, some unmarked, and 115 officers had joined the pursuit, which ended in a middle school parking lot with more than 140 bullets fired by police in less than 30 seconds. The “suspects”—dead from countless bullet wounds—were unarmed.

Miriam Carey’s family still can’t get past the shock of her death. Police in Washington, DC, shot and killed the 34-year-old woman after she collided with a barrier leading to the White House, then fled when pursued by a phalanx of gun-wielding police and cop cars. Carey’s 1-year-old daughter was in the backseat. Seventeen gun shots later, Carey was dead and her toddler motherless.

Just as troubling as this “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset is what investigative journalist Katie Rucke uncovered about how police are being trained to use force without hesitation and report their shootings in such a way as to legally justify a shot. Rucke reports the findings of one concerned citizen, “Jack,” who went undercover in order to attend 24 hours of law enforcement training classes organized by the private, for-profit law enforcement training organization Calibre Press.

“Jack says it was troubling to witness hundreds of SWAT team officers and supervisors who seemed unfazed by being instructed to not hesitate when it comes to using excessive, and even deadly, force,” writes Rucke. “‘From my personal experience, these trainers consistently promote more aggression and criticize hesitation to use force,’ Jack said. ‘They argue that the risk of making a mistake is worth it to absolutely minimize risk to the officer. And they teach officers how to use the law to minimize legal repercussions in almost any scenario. All this is, of course, done behind the scenes, with no oversight from police administrators, much less the public.’”

Rucke continues:

According to the learning materials, … there isn’t time for logic and analysis, encouraging officers to fire multiple rounds at subjects because “two shots rarely stops ‘em,” and outlines seven reasons why “excessive use of force” is a myth. Other lessons Jack learned from the “Anatomy of Force Incidents” training in January include a need to over-analyze one’s environment for deadly threats by using one’s imagination to create “targets of the day” who could be “reasonably” shot, to view racial profiling as a legitimate policing technique, even if the person is a child, pregnant woman or elderly person, and to use the law to one’s advantage to avoid culpability.

What we’re dealing with is what author Kristian Williams describes as the dual myths of heroism and danger: “The overblown image of police heroism, and the ‘obsession’ with officer safety, do not only serve to justify police violence after the fact; by providing such justification, they legitimize violence, and thus make it more likely.”

If ever there were a time to de-militarize and de-weaponize police forces, it’s now, starting at the local level, with local governments and citizens reining in local police. The same goes for scaling back on the mindset adopted by cops that they are the law and should be revered, feared and obeyed.

Police have been insulated from accusations of wrongdoing for too long and allowed to operate in an environment in which whatever a cop says, goes. The current practice is to let the police deal with these transgressions internally by suspending the officer involved with administrative pay, dragging out the investigation until the public forgets about the incident, and then eventually declaring the shooting incident justified based on the officer’s fear for his safety, and allowing him to go back to work as usual. And if, on the off chance, a shooting incident goes before the courts, the judiciary defers to police authority in almost all instances. Just recently, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.

Meanwhile, the epidemic of police violence continues to escalate while fear of the police increases and the police state, with all its surveillance gear and military weaponry, expands around us.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He is the author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State andThe Change Manifesto.

Courtesy of Activist Post.

Don't forget to follow the D.C. Clothesline on Facebook and Twitter. PLEASE help spread the word by sharing our articles on your favorite social networks.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Mindset Responsible for Turning SWAT Teams into Death Squads

  1. Keep promoting the murder of police officers and see what happens.

  2. anarchyst says:

    I hope it never comes to this, but there may come a time where aggrieved groups “take things into their own hands” . . .

    Find out where one rogue officer lives. case his home. Wait until early one morning and catch him as he comes out of his house- bring a gang. Once you have successfully beaten him into unconsciousness, go into his home- tie up his family. Break everything in sight. Pour sugar in all the gas tanks of their vehicles. Get all the info you can off their cell phones and computers. move on to the next rogue officer until you have visited them all. Then case the rogue chief of police. Keep doing this and they might start to back off being such assholes. When these bastards have to “grow eyes in the backs of their heads”, they might decide to “behave themselves’. Give these so-called SWAT bastards a “taste of their own medicine”.

    The above is just a thought. I hope it will never come to that, but . . . with the amount of unjustified murders that cops get away with . . . it is a possibility.

    There have been individual cases where rogue cops have been “black bagged”, tied to a tree and warned to start behaving themselves. Of course, these cases are never publicized.

    Look up “the battle of Athens, Tennessee”. This is one instance of the townspeople “taking back” their town from corrupt “law enforcement”.

    Obtain and read “Unintended Consequences” by John Ross. In it, are history lessons, law lessons, and ways to take back our country . . .

  3. If the government can record our every movement then we care record them, there is equal laws for everyone one, the people in higher power has not the right to place themselves above the laws…These wacko will fall at the righteous feet.. And even the Obama people will not trust these abusers because they figure anyone who turn on their own people ,will some day turn on them, Obama will get rid of them also…When government get so powerful, they will not even trust their own supporters…and they will wipe them out and replace them with others, so on and so on….They are here today and gone tomorrow… Obama can not even trust the Military , especially knowing that will not fire on the Americans…
    People who cover their faces to hide their identity things they are protecting their own love ones, but they are doing them more harm then a muslim terrorist…They all can hide behind their covered faces, but they can not hide too long before someone will rat them out…. God is not going to let all his people die… those above the law people are going to be hit by God one way or the other..The swat team is just anti-Americans that are as worthless as tits on a bull.. and slaves to Government and money…It is people like them that gives good Policemen a bad name…

  4. 5warveteran says:

    Absolute Immunity

    There are things that could be done to reign in questionable behavior by police and other public officials.
    1. Eliminate both “absolute and qualified immunity” for ALL public officials. If public officials (yes, this includes police officers and their administrators, firefighters, prosecutors, court officials and all other “public servants”). If they knew that they could be sued personally (and possibly lose everything they own), they would tend to behave themselves.
    2. Establish and enforce an “video audit trail” whenever there is interaction by any public official with the public. In the case of police and firefighters, no “video audit trail” would mean the inadmissability of “evidence” as well as censure and immediate dismissal with loss of pension if public officials’ fail to assure that this “video audit trail” is present. “Equipment malfunction” would not be a valid excuse. A “video audit trail” works both ways and would also do much to eliminate the possibility of frivolous lawsuits by the public against public officials as well as assure that public officials “behave themselves”. This is especially true in police interrogation rooms where police-coerced “false confessions” occur with alarming frequency.
    3. Prosecutors should be subordinate to the grand jury. Grand juries should be able to indict without needing the prosecutor’s “permission”. Of course, there would be NO absolute or qualified immunity for prosecutors or grand jurors.
    Police agencies should not be allowed to “investigate themselves”. Outside, disinterested agencies should do the investigating.
    4. Civilian police review boards should be mandatory–they should exclude anyone who has a police background or relatives of police from serving. Civilian police review boards should be able to bring up charges against corrupt police officials and officers as well.
    These three changes would put the public on an equal footing with our “leaders” (who are actually supposed to be subordinate to us citizens).
    There have been many cases where people who have been legally recording police (mis)behavior have been harassed by police, their equipment damaged or destroyed, and charges brought against them. This police misconduct must stop! Severe punishment should be meted out to those public officials who interfere with lawful recording by citizens.

    Yes I stole this! Hold them responsible.

Leave a Reply