Cops storm a house wearing masks covering their faces, dressed in military special forces-style black uniforms and battle helmets. They bust down the door using a battering ram, then rush the occupants, seizing and breaking one camera and preventing another from recording the remarkable scene.
What was the heinous and violent crime of which the intended target of the raid was charged? Murder? Rape?
Credit card fraud.
This is the incredible, incomprehensible story told by Radley Balko in an op-ed published February 4 in the Washington Post.
Balko includes a video of the incident and the aftermath in his story. If you are concerned about the militarization of American law enforcement, watch this video and pass it around.
Regarding the police department’s response, Balko explains:
Finally, note that police department officials say they “do not have a written policy governing how search warrants are executed.” That’s inexcusable. Most police departments do. But whether or not they’re governed by a formal policy, the use of these kinds of tactics for nonviolent crimes like credit card fraud is hardly unusual, and it’s happening more often, not less. I’ve reported on jurisdictions where all felony search warrants are now served with a SWAT team. At least one federal appeals court has now ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, there’s nothing unreasonable about using a SWAT team to perform regulatory inspections. To be fair, two others have ruled that such tactics are not reasonable. But it’s concerning that this would even be up for debate. We have plenty of discussion and analysis about when searches are appropriate. We also need to start talking about how.
Steadily and speedily, the force of the militarized police is denying citizens the protections of fundamental civil liberties afforded us by the Bill of Rights. While there remain legions of law enforcement officers devoted to protecting and serving their fellow citizens, the federal government’s proffer of powerful, free or almost free, weapons, vehicles, gear, and tactical training is making the allure of becoming an unofficial branch of the armed forces irresistible.
To his credit, Balko turns to the experience of our Founding Fathers with armed and aggressive enforcers of “the law” to inform our own understanding of the rising threat of a militarized police. As Public Affairs Books, the publisher of Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop book, explains:
Click here to read the entire article.
Photo of Seattle Police SWAT team: AP Images