American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war with almost no public discussion or oversight.
SWAT, or Special Weapons and Tactics, teams came into prominence during the 1960s and 1970s to provide rapid response to situations mostly involving an active shooter, hostage, or barricade. But over time, the report found, the primary use of SWAT has changed. Of the hundreds of SWAT deployments the ACLU studied, only seven percent were for an active shooter, hostage or barricade situation, while the vast majority, almost 80 percent, were instead for the purpose of executing a search warrant, most commonly in drug investigations.
The job of law enforcement officers is inherently dangerous, but when police use military style weapons and tactics to make routine arrests without so much as a knock at a door, they more often than not are the ones introducing violence into an otherwise nonviolent situation. Neighborhoods are not war zones, and officers should not be treating the residents they are sworn to serve and protect as wartime enemies.
- Use of SWAT Teams Affects Minorities More (usnews.com)
- New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States (washingtonpost.com)