Yesterday, Salon published a fantastic interview with Radley Balko, author of a new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop. The interview focused on the fact that the number of SWAT team raids has soared from a few hundred annually in the 1970′s to more than 50,000 per year by 2005. To make matters worse, most of these raids are focused on non-violent crimes. Radley identifies three main forces behind this disturbing trend. The “war on drugs,” the national overreaction to 9/11, and the creation and massive funding behind the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, once these SWAT teams are in place, the individual police departments feel pressured to use them in order to justify their existence. More from Salon:
Radley Balko’s new book, “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” details how America’s police forces have grown to look and behave more like soldiers than neighborly Officer Krupkes walking the beat. This new breed of police, frequently equipped with military weapons and decked out in enough armor to satisfy a storm trooper, are redefining law enforcement.
Since 9/11, the newly formed Department of Homeland Security has distributed billions in grants, enabling even some small town police departments to buy armored personnel carriers and field their own SWAT teams.
Once you have a SWAT team the only thing to do is kick some ass. There are more than 100 SWAT team raids every day in this country. They’re not chasing murderers or terrorists. For the most part they go after nonviolent offenders like drug dealers and even small time gamblers. As you’d expect when there is too much adrenaline and too much weaponry, there have been some tragedies.
Balko talked to Salon about the decline of community policing, the warrior cop mentality, why so many dogs get killed by police. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There are several levels of militarization. The rise of SWAT teams nationwide, the number of annual SWAT deployments in the U.S., has gone from a few hundred in the ’70s, to 30,000 per year in the early ’80s, to 50,000 in 2005. That’s 100, 150 times a day in this country you have these heavily armed police teams breaking into homes, and the vast majority of times it’s to enforce laws against consensual crimes.