Friday, July 07, 2017

The Militarization of America’s Local Police Proceeds Unabated


nationalinterest |  A recent incident in Hutto, Texas, a sleepy, outlying suburb of Austin, illustrates just how dangerously promiscuous the utilization of SWAT teams has become. On June 26, local police conducted a raid to implement a search warrant on a house in a low-crime, middle-class neighborhood. The alleged crime? Police suspected that some residents of the target house were involved in gambling. Investigators were backed up by a SWAT unit with nearly a dozen officers in full combat regalia pouring out of an armored vehicle.

Needless to say, the neighbors were both stunned and alarmed to see such an operation take place in their quiet community. One mother stated: “I went to my daughter’s room and looked outside their window to see if I could get a better view of what was going on, and there was a man in fatigues with a sniper rifle laying in my neighbor’s driveway.”

What was even more striking is that the police spokesman admitted to a reporter that the authorities “had no reason to believe” that the residence undergoing the search was involved in any violent activity. In other words, police were using paramilitary tactics and forces to execute a search warrant involving a nonviolent (indeed, victimless, crime) in a low-crime neighborhood. Such arrogant bullying should alarm anyone who cherishes domestic civil liberties.

Unfortunately, such incidents have become all-too-common as local authorities seek new missions to justify the existence of SWAT teams and to keep the personnel alert and well trained. The expansion of SWAT units and missions is closely correlated to the existence of federal programs making surplus military hardware available at little or no cost to local police forces.

Such deadly toys have become a prime justification for law enforcement budget increases and the receipt of federal grants in communities around the country.