States Slowly Demanding SWAT Team Transparency

By:  Bob Adelmann
States Slowly Demanding SWAT Team Transparency

Examples around the country of no-knock raids performed by SWAT teams on innocents has many concerned that the police have become too militarized.

Examples of no-knock raids performed by SWAT teams on innocents across the country have even raised the consciousness of the London-based Economist magazine, which declared in its most recent issue that “America’s police have become too militarized.” It opened with the story of the raid on the home of Sally Prince in Ankeny, Iowa, by a SWAT team fully helmeted and masked with guns drawn and carrying shields. They performed a no-knock raid, blasting the front door off its hinges with a battering ram and rushing inside. They were searching for $1,000 worth of clothes and electronics allegedly bought with a stolen credit card, none of which they found.

The writers could just as easily opened with the story of Hank McGee sleeping in his trailer house near Dallas, Texas, early Thursday morning, December 19, 2013 when a SWAT team entered without knocking, looking for drugs. Or they could have opened with the botched no-knock raid in Ross County near Chillicothe, Ohio, a few days earlier when a SWAT team member, preparing to enter a home in a no-knock raid, accidentally discharged his firearm, instantly killing a visitor sitting inside.

Or they could have highlighted the ghastly miscarriage of justice that took place back in 2008 when a SWAT team entered, without knocking first, the home of Tracy Ingle, who was sound asleep at the time. Standing outside his bedroom window, team members observed Ingle getting out of bed in what they thought was a threatening manner, and shot him — five times.

In fact, there have been so many SWAT team raids — estimated to be just 3,000 in 1980 but, according to Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, now exceeding 50,000 a year — that author Radley Balko has filled 400 pages of his book Rise of the Warrior Cop with them. There have been so many, declared Balko, that “the home is no longer a place of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and police today have been conditioned to see citizens they serve as … an enemy.” Balko is also the author of the 2006 book Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

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