Monday, October 02, 2006

Good Entertainment but is it Good Reality?

I caught a good article on another blog called "The Nijafication of Police". The link is here.

Basically, the article is questioning the need for local police to use SWAT teams to execute search warrants for relatively minor ALLEGED offenses. Alleged could be an operative word here.

The example given was a local SWAT team tossing in a "flashbang" grenade, breaking down a door, and storming the house with a fully outfitted SWAT team to serve a search warrant for a small amount of pot. The resident hid upstairs and refused to surrender in fear of being shot by one of the officers running around his house with an automatic weapon.

In a way, I kinda' understand this guy's fear.

From what courts have ruled, the police can basically knock once, identify themselves, and then kick the door in. Actually, they can just kick the door in and scream "POLICE! SEARCH WARRANT!" at their discretion. Tossing in a flashbang is just icing on the cake, I guess.

The reason for doing this is to keep drug dealers from flushing evidence down the drain or destroying it in other ways. Okay, it sort of makes sense. I can see that. Sort of . . .

On the other hand, there's no qualification for determining when to knock on the door to serve the warrant and when to assault the house with machine guns and grenades.

Of course, do we really care if some drug dealers get rousted? Isn't it cool on COPs when they bust a bunch of meth cookers, throw people to the ground, put the cuffs on them, and then toss the place for drugs? I mean, every Sunday night we all get a kick out of these morons getting busted by the cops. Isn't it cool?!

Again, sort of. I think it's "cool" when the cops shoot the bad guy before he can hurt innocent by-standards. Then again, I don't want every cop in America shooting at bad guys as the first tactic of law enforcement, either.

Okay, let's qualify "cool". It's cool as long as they get the right guy(s) and nobody gets hurt. Much like any other situation in life, everything is "right" as long as nothing goes "wrong".

One thing COPs DOESN'T show is when they bust the wrong house and "detain" the wrong people. And this DOES happen. The ATF has a particularly poor record of raiding the wrong home and, on occasion, shooting the wrong people. I think it was 2 years ago when they raided a nice home and shot two occupants in one of the bedrooms. After turning on the lights, it turned out to be an elderly couple in bed. The house belonged to them. Instead of drug dealers, the man was a retired lawyer and the woman was his wife of 30+ years. What covers this? "Ooops, my bad" just isn't quite enough.

As it turns out, a snitch turned over a random address as part of an agreement to be set free. Nice, huh? Two people die, and it's legally "nobody's" fault.

And these are our Federal guys who probably have 10 times the training and 100 times the resources as our local SWAT team.

I guess it worries me that we're arming thousands of local beat cops across America with threat 4 suits, submachine guns, explosives, grenades, sniper rifles, and, in some cases, assault vehicles (tanks without cannons). Within the last year, a medium machine gun was removed by the ATF from a local SWAT team because the police aren't allowed to use such a device. Now, this wasn't the LAPD or NYPD. This was a small county in Tennessee.

Now, there's nothing against these officers wanting to have the best of the best weaponry. Hey, if I were a cop, I'd want an MP10, a REALLY nice assault rifle, some of the best armor, and a good long-range rifle. I'd want to be prepared for ANYTHING. However, I'm not a cop, and possibly, that's one of the reasons. LOL!

I'm afraid that, one of these days, some poor guy is going to be the wrong address to get raided. Some father of 3 is going to be watching the UT game when a flashbang is going to be flung through his door. The police are going to fly in, and when the dog barks, they're going to open fire with machine guns on Rover (and they will . . . dogs get shot on raids quite frequently). Dad's going to, at worst, get hosed with bullets, or at least get pummeled by three hyped up SWAT guys. God hope mom is not in the kitchen chopping up beans for supper. "Your honor, she rushed the team with a knife." If the kids dodge stray bullets, they get cuffed and tossed onto the floor next to their dead dog. Later, after everything in the house has been ransacked, some poor SWAT schlup comes in and says "this is 1200 MayFAIR Street . . . not 1200 MayBERRY Street."

My bad? That just doesn't cover it.

Our hometown police force got funding to issue semi-automatic M4's in the squad cars. For the non-gun people, this is a semi-automatic version of the standard issue "special forces" M16. Now, this rifle is not a machine gun, and it's not going to blow holes in a tank. It's legal for anyone to own. Crap, I OWN ONE. Fine piece of weaponry. However, it's now an issue weapon in a small town patrol car because small town officers feel they need the firepower. Do they need it? Probably not. Yeah, IF they do, it will probably be justification for having them, naturally, but IF they need something that heavy, they'd probably be better off with something a lot heavier oddly enough. But, I digress . . .

I guess I'm afraid that we're slowly changing police roles from crime prevention and law enforcement to a quasi urban assault force. And this trend towards forming assault teams in local police forces is a little scary, too. It gives me the creeps to see local cops with automatic weapons dressed in black pajamas attacking, well, homes just like mine.

I think we, as a country, have been lucky for the most part. Every day some SWAT team somewhere blows open a door and 10-20 heavily armed and armored men charge in with little or no resistance. However, what happens when the "drug dealers" inside don't comply? What happens when 10 or 20 guys open up in an apartment complex with automatic weapons?

I can tell you what happens when specially trained law enforcement troops take the glamorous path and raid a well defended position. See Waco. Whether they were nutso or not isn't the point. They were well defended and trained . . . and GENERALLY, their weapons were of the legal variety. Granted, 2 or 3 BATF agents were wounded and/or killed by the dreaded and feared "cop killer" bullets. That's true. Oddly enough, the BATF were the only people in the U.S. that had the bullets, though . . . and they were issued to many of the agents involved in the raid. A "cop killer" bullet has never been either used or even found in civillian hands that I'm aware of.

Okay, long, rambling post. I know. It may SEEM "anti-cop", but it's not. On an individual basis, I have lots of people in my life that I care about who are police officers. They're good people. I try to respect the law, as well. However, when we not only arm the police with military weapons and tactics, but we also allow them almost 100% discretion in using these tactics for things such as search warrant service, then the POTENTIAL for real abuses and tragic errors goes up tremendously.

I'm all for the safety of the officer, but when does it become abuse? Hey, for the safety of the officer, one could argue that every traffic stop should start with having the offender get out of the car so the officer can "safely" TAZER the person, cuff them, and then conduct a license and I.D. check. That WOULD be a lot safer.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll get the "you don't understand what it's like to be a cop" responses, and that's true. I don't. I couldn't be a cop. The stupid people would eventually drive me nuts. However, I think that we really need to look at the permissions that we're giving our authority figures more often than we do.

I think as you get older and the illusion of "those older people are smarter and wiser than me, and they wouldn't do anything wrong" starts to fade. Maybe that's what's happening to me.

The reason for doing this is to keep drug dealers from flushing evidence down the drain or destroying it in other ways. Okay, it sort of makes sense.

The police could just get a warrant to disable the plumbing.

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