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A Hazard of "Militarized Police" I hadn't considered.

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  • A Hazard of "Militarized Police" I hadn't considered.

    I can already hear AJ warming up in the bullpen.

    Yesterday PBS ran documentary/discussion program titled "Peace Officer". In it they review the issue of rising number of SWAT teams (I know that term annoys you AJ but I will point out that the guy who formed the first SWAT team uses that term himself). It was an interesting program that featured interviews and advocates on both sides of the issue and it brought up a hazard of using SWAT or tactical teams that I hadn't even considered.

    The issue of "militarized police" has always been a discussion over how this impacts public safety, since you have police officers drawing weapons on people and assuming they are threats before they have actually demonstrated themselves to be so. But now I also find myself wondering whether the overuse of tactical teams is endangering police lives. I've already mentioned the dangers of forcing a confrontation and how kicking the door open basically increases the possibility of being in a firefight but it goes beyond that.

    First, I use the term "militarized police" in quotes because what we are dealing with isn't really a militarized police. AJ himself has frequently pointed out that there is no national standard or regulation for tactical teams and each police force has their own way of doing things. This means that a large number of officers don't have the necessary small unit tactical training to be doing what they are doing. They aren't militarized police, they just have gear that makes them THINK they are militarized police. And that can have deadly consequences FOR THE OFFICER.

    One of the SWAT shootings they had covered in the program involved a night time raid against a pot farmer that resulted in one officer being killed and several wounded. This was an assault being conducted against a pothead with a handgun. These guys had body armor and assault weapons and suffered multiple casualties. And, most compelling of all, a crime scene investigator went through the evidence and discovered a strong possibility that the fatally wounded officer was shot by his own men.

    This, unfortunately, makes tragic sense. Night raids are a dicey thing to perform even when you DO know what you're doing. In darkness and confusion it can be very easy to shoot the wrong person. Special forces operators have to undergo intense training to be able to conduct paramilitary raids without getting themselves killed but SWAT officers aren't getting that level of training. Here we have a case of a tactical team thinking they were big boy soldiers and that it would be cool to do a night raid and even though their opposition had less training and less firepower they got seriously worked over as a consequence.

    One thing I have noticed about the whole SWAT team debate is the focus people place on the equipment. They get antsy when they see tactical teams with light armor and automatic weapons. For my part I didn't really mind the equipment as long as they didn't tear up our roads too much with the friendly neighborhood sturmpanzer, I was more concerned with the tactics. But I got to thinking this could actually be a problem, though not for the reasons people typically think.

    My Dad is fond of the phrase "he knows know enough to be dangerous" or "knows enough to get themselves into trouble". We have police officers being issued "tacticool" gear but not training to operate with minimal risk to themselves and others. And I wonder if this combination isn't giving tactical teams a false sense of security. They have the gear of a soldier and this leads them to think they have the skills of one as well and it leads them into trying things they aren't qualified to handle. Like a night raid.

    The justification for using tactical teams is that, however dangerous they may be to the general public, at least they are making police lives safer. Except that more and more this really doesn't seem to be the case. Because we have officers that "know enough to be dangerous" they are forcing confrontations they can't handle and getting in over their heads. If those poor sods from the night raid had encountered any serious resistance they probably wouldn't have gotten out of that house alive.

    So it really seems to me that the undertraining and overuse of tactical teams is a public safety issue on multiple fronts. It's not just a danger to the general public. Tactical teams are an equal if not greater danger to themselves. A poorly trained tactical team only endangers innocent people when they confront innocent people. But they endanger themselves with every confrontation, period.

    Okay AJ, let fly.
    Last edited by Pirateship1982; 10 May 16, 11:39.
    A new life awaits you in the off world colonies; the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

  • #2
    A very sensible presentation, PS. I agree with you, although I think that such teams are an unfortunate necessity in this day and age. However, there is no question that they bring a combat mentality onto the scene whenever they appear and are spring loaded to bring overwhelming lethal force into the equation.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
      A very sensible presentation, PS. I agree with you, although I think that such teams are an unfortunate necessity in this day and age. However, there is no question that they bring a combat mentality onto the scene whenever they appear and are spring loaded to bring overwhelming lethal force into the equation.
      I agree they are a necessity. I think perhaps the biggest problem is the fact that they are trendy. Every PD wants one. So instead of having a small number of tactical response teams who are professional, elite, and the absolute cream of the crop, you get dozens of scratch teams with questionable capability. It's a classic case of quantity vs. quality and since they popular and being overused the PDs are erring on the side of quantity.
      A new life awaits you in the off world colonies; the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

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      • #4
        Question is just how offten is a SWAT team really needed. It seems that we've reached the point ifvyou have one then use them even if a bubble gum machine was broken in to. It seems that to offen LEO reacts with max force when it isn't called for.
        "Ask not what your country can do for you"

        Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

        you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
          Question is just how offten is a SWAT team really needed. It seems that we've reached the point ifvyou have one then use them even if a bubble gum machine was broken in to. It seems that to offen LEO reacts with max force when it isn't called for.
          Isn't that the typical bureaucratic response to funding? "If we don't spend it, if we don't daily show the need, they'll never fund it again." You should've seen the circus that was the UFT store back in the day: every year NYC public teachers were given some amount to spend on "classroom supplies," the definition of which was rather loose. They could only spend that sum at their union's store. When they came out, they had Christmas gifts for the whole family. Likewise, if a law enforcement agency receives funds for a SWAT-type unit, then they have to show that it's being used as advertised, even if some of the uses are overboard, otherwise they won't get that funding again the next fiscal year.
          I was married for two ******* years! Hell would be like Club Med! - Sam Kinison

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          • #6
            I just happened to catch this show last night. I would highly suggest people watch it. I will say one thing though, in the two use of deadly force instances the documentary focuses on, the involved police departments did not come off looking very well. In one they claimed the "suspect" shot himself in the chest, there was no wounds to his chest. In the other, where an officer had died in a raid, they claimed the "suspect" shot the officer. Dub Lawrence, if you watch the show you'll figure out who he is, conducted his own investigation into the raid, he was pretty much able to prove that the officer died by friendly fire.

            http://www.guns.com/2016/05/09/pbs-l...o-night-event/

            http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...ed-police.html

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
              Question is just how offten is a SWAT team really needed. It seems that we've reached the point ifvyou have one then use them even if a bubble gum machine was broken in to. It seems that to offen LEO reacts with max force when it isn't called for.
              How often is it needed? In my experience, for a mid-sized agency, about twice a year. The problem is, when it's needed, nothing else will really do. The two call-outs that I was involved in the past year, (from a patrol side, I wasn't on the team yet) were a wanted murderer out of NYC that had fled to my county and we narrowed his hide down to a hotel room......and a lady who had just shot her husband and barricaded herself in the house with several long guns.

              There are some other things that SWAT (or ERT, or SRT, or whatever you call it), can do that can help the agency and make things safer. Those being major crime warrant service (bringing the ability to respond with overwhelming force if it goes bad), or high risk Search Warrants (crack houses, etc).

              I agree that tools don't make a team, there has to be a training protocol in place, along with other things. Most teams follow the guidelines set by the NTOA to one degree or another. But one thing to consider when you're thinking about 'standards' is that policing isn't 'standard' at all. What works in NYC would get you killed out in the woods and fields of my section, and vice versa. Tactics and training have to be tailored to the particulars of your jurisdiction.
              Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
                Question is just how offten is a SWAT team really needed. It seems that we've reached the point ifvyou have one then use them even if a bubble gum machine was broken in to. It seems that to offen LEO reacts with max force when it isn't called for.
                John, I would argue that the real question is how many communities really need a SWAT team? Thanks to grants from the DHS relatively small towns (think Mayberry with a heavily armed Andy Griffith) currently have SWAT teams. The issue is that DHS hands gear without requiring training and once this gear is acquired there is the temptation to use it, even when the emergency is the town drunk throwing beer bottles at the neighbors car while dropping F-bombs. The end result in some cases has been an escalation of the problem with the attendant overkill on the part of the cops.
                Give me a fast ship and the wind at my back for I intend to sail in harms way! (John Paul Jones)

                Initiated Chief Petty Officer
                Hard core! Old School! Deal with it!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by phil74501 View Post
                  I just happened to catch this show last night. I would highly suggest people watch it. I will say one thing though, in the two use of deadly force instances the documentary focuses on, the involved police departments did not come off looking very well. In one they claimed the "suspect" shot himself in the chest, there was no wounds to his chest. In the other, where an officer had died in a raid, they claimed the "suspect" shot the officer. Dub Lawrence, if you watch the show you'll figure out who he is, conducted his own investigation into the raid, he was pretty much able to prove that the officer died by friendly fire.

                  http://www.guns.com/2016/05/09/pbs-l...o-night-event/

                  http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...ed-police.html
                  Seconded. The town hall they had after the show was spectacular.

                  Here is the discussion:

                  A new life awaits you in the off world colonies; the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!

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                  • #10
                    lodestar on the 'image' problem of urban US police forces

                    One of our Australian colleagues, lodestar, raised this issue in April 2015 on his thread-starter:

                    “Are some American police forces more an occupying army than a civil institution?”

                    An edited version of the OP is presented below:

                    “To what extent are some American police forces more like an occupying army than a civil institution?

                    As I’ve explained now I’ve retired, I’m hoping to do some assistant-tutoring at tertiary level sometime in the next 237 years.

                    As well as history, I may just get a chance at something in Political Science / International Relations.
                    I’m very interested in the areas of international security and police studies.

                    Back in the seventies (the period 1969- 1977 being the Glory Days of lodestar)I remember the topic of American policing methodologies and police / security / gun culture being briefly but very vigorously debated in some tutes I helped out with.

                    Recent events in the US involving police shooting (essentially within the black community) most recently of course the murder of a man by a police officer in Charleston have revived and provoked my interest in this area.

                    In short the ‘style’ of American policing outside ‘mainstream’, middle-class, essentially Caucasian milieus looks alien and very threatening too many non-American observers.

                    The fear, mistrust, loathing, the dysfunctional and fractious relationship between some local police forces and certain communities creates the impression that, as I said on my thread title, some American police forces often seem closer to an occupying army than a properly constituted, respected and lawfully valid national institution.
                    Just after the latest incident, a typical news website I consulted had numerous comments from posters saying for example, American Police are ‘armed, ignorant and trigger happy’, ‘on a power trip’, ‘a virtual ‘law’ unto themselves’ etc.

                    Others suggest US police forces in same jurisdictions are politicized (robustly right of centre, elected Police leaders in the ‘County’ system!?), becoming increasingly militarized and either consciously or sub-consciously racist.

                    I realize if course this of course, may be grossly generalized stereo-typing, but the image is very difficult to shake.

                    Regards lodestar”

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                    • #11
                      I agree whole heartedly about the necessity of regulated training.

                      Tac Covert brings up a good point, and makes me wonder what the standards are for Federal agencies and places like Los Angeles where terrain varies wildly.

                      Still, keep in mind that regulation in training is usually looked upon in a very negative light.

                      The fact still remains though. If seeing moderately trained police trying to execute SWAT type scenarios troubles people, the idea of common people doing the same job is more troubling.

                      Therefore, it's best to allocate the funding to training rather than gear.

                      Also, lodestar does bring up a few good (though exaggerated) points.

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