Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ACLU: Militarized SWAT teams treat citizens as an enemy. Report finds little oversight, racial disparities and federal policies that encourage military-style weapons, tactics.

The increasing use of military-style tactics and weapons by police forces across the United States puts civilians at needless risk of death and injury, according to a strongly worded ACLU report slamming the development.

The study, called “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” warned that police departments across the country have been offered incentives by the federal government to arm up, and now risk alienating communities as a result of heavy-handed raids.

Federal policies that allow the military to distribute unwanted military hardware to local jurisdictions are a big part of the problem, the ACLU found.

Employed primarily to search for drugs, military-style SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) raids happen far more often in poor and minority communities.

“It is widely known that policing tactics across the country often unfairly target communities of color,” the ACLU said. “According to our investigation, the use of paramilitary weapons and tactics appears to be no different.”

A training manual from the National Tactical Officers Association included in the report reveals that police officers are increasingly using language more common among commandos.
“STEEL YOUR BATTLEMIND,” one slide reads.
“TALK — FIGHT — SHOOT — LEAVE,” reads another.

By employing a shock-and-awe style of serving search warrants on suspects in low-level drug cases, the ACLU said, authorities risk alienating communities. Serving a search warrant accounted for 79 percent of raids the ACLU reviewed for the report.

The ACLU said SWAT teams are not being used for their original purpose — confronting the armed and dangerous.

“When SWAT teams were created back in the 1960s, they were created for true emergencies like active shooter situations,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the ACLU and the report's author. “With the war on drugs in the 1980s and 1990s, police started using paramilitary tactics to wage the war on drugs.”
SWAT squads often employ armored personnel carriers (APCs), high-powered rifles, battering rams and flash-bang grenades designed to stun and disorient people in apartments and homes raided by police officers, according to the report.
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