The Army of SWAT

Last week, I discussed whether the United States military can attack or imprison Americans. I received a number of thoughtful emails in response to the information and resources I provided.

Several members of the Self-Reliance Institute raised the issue of law enforcement agencies and police departments that act like they are military units. Or, as it is usually called, the militarization of police.

In recent years, due to the excellent work of a handful of journalists and specific events that have pushed the issue to the forefront, there has been increased attention to the proliferation of police SWAT teams (special weapons and tactics) at the local, state and federal levels of policing. There has also been warranted attention to the increased use of those specialized units for routine police tasks.

In other words, there is growing concern over heavy-handed police tactics being used in non-threatening circumstances.

Additionally, there is growing concern that SWAT units are morphing into armies.

Earlier this year, John Fund raised this issue in National Review Online with an excellent piece, “The United States of SWAT?”

Fund opens by referencing the Cliven Bundy standoff and quickly points out that the force marshalled against Bundy is part of a troubling trend.

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.”

Fund goes on in his article to cite a number of specific incidents and statistics that should trouble us all.

He also notes:

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.”

Did you catch that?

From 3,000 SWAT raids a year in the 1980s to over 50,000 a year today!

Amazing, considering that there is far less crime today than there was in the 1980s.

And it’s the point that Fund makes about homeland-security grants being used to arm local police with military equipment – including grenade launchers, armored vehicles and aircraft – that brings me to a resource I want members of the Self-Reliance Institute to have so that you can determine what your local police may have obtained in recent years when it comes to military equipment.

The resource is an interactive chart titled “Mapping the Spread of the Military’s Surplus Gear” and it can be found by scrolling down to the interactive map of the U.S. on this page, “What Military Gear Your Police Department Bought.”

That page begins with this fact:

Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”

I suggest you ignore the additional verbiage on the page about the Ferguson, Missouri situation (let’s wait until all the facts are in before making conclusions about that specific case) and focus on the raw data the chart provides. You can place your cursor over your county on the map and determine what military equipment the police in your area have obtained in recent years.

Also take note of the other worthwhile links on the page that will help keep the data up to date.

Finally, Fund mentioned Radley Balko – author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop.” I interviewed Balko several years ago and he is a true patriot who is concerned about escalating police militarization and the threat that militarization poses to innocent Americans. If you’d like to follow his work, he now posts regular pieces to a blog that can be found HERE.

What do you think about the increased militarization of the police? Write me at [email protected]

Be safe and secure,

Rob Douglas – Former Washington DC Private Detective, Information Security Consultant and Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist

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