The militarization of our police and raids gone wrong

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(Click image above or here for Google mashup of botched paramilitary police raids.)

Dan says:

A sagacious fellow by the name of Radley Balko, whose chief journalistic endeavor has been exposing the excesses of the War on Drugs, has compiled an impressive list of botched raids conducted by hyper-agressive police units acroos the country.

The militarization of our police forces, with SWAT units armed with weapons designed for warfare against foreign enemies, has been spreading from the inner city to the suburbs, and from small towns to farm country.

All across America, local police units are arming and training officers to bust down doors, destroy personal property and mercilessly manhandle all living creatures in their path. Dogs, children and even elderly women have been shot by rampaging SWAT teams, usually in the hunt for trivial amounts of drug contraband.

Here's a recent example:

Williams said he believes the team was supposed to be raiding a parolee's home Aug. 24 when they inadvertently hit the wrong door. Officers ended up at the home of David and Lillian Scott, just off Rancho California Road.

Lillian Scott said she and her husband were in the living room discussing family plans, their 15-year-old daughter was in the garage with two friends and their 16-year-old son was in another room feeding the Scotts' 5-month-old baby.

That all changed at 9:35 p.m. she said, when Temecula police officers –- four or five, she's not sure –– carrying rifles charged though the unlocked front screen door and ordered the couple to the floor.

"Two of them came over and put handcuffs on the two of us," Lillian Scott said. "We asked what we had done wrong and didn't get an answer."

Elsewhere in the house other officers handcuffed their daughter and her two friends.

"(The officers) told them to get down on the f–ing floor," she said.

Her 16-year-old son, who was feeding the baby, was also ordered to the floor and handcuffed, Scott said.

From the other room, Scott heard her infant crying.

"I asked if my baby was OK and the officer told me if I moved he was going to put a bullet in my head," Scott said."



Radley Balko of Reason says:

I think I sent a copy of my [Cato Institute] paper on the rise of paramilitary police forces last year, but if you didn't get it, you can download it for free here.

I recommend sipping a glass of something stiff while reading.

We also did a Google Maps mashup of about 300 botched raids to go with the paper. But it's already out of date. There have been a couple of dozen more botched SWAT raids since I left Cato for Reason magazine last November.