Let me start this post out by talking about the good guys. There are many cops out there today that are decent folk who actually care about protecting the general population. Every day they go up against bad people who’d love nothing more than to see them on the sidewalk with a bullet in their head. I can understand how this would make a person paranoid and this article has nothing to do with you guys and gals out there, getting the job done in the face of adversity day after day.
This post has more to do with politics and the militarization of the police force today. I wrote a post about this awhile back, but I’d like to explore it in a little more depth as new events transpire in this grand country of ours. There was a recent article in the news about military gear coming back from the Middle East and being given to police departments across the country. All they have to do is some paperwork and pretty soon they’ve got an LAV (light armored vehicle) rolling up to their doorstep.
Photo courtesy of Naypong / FreedigitalPhotos.net
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against police arriving on the scene of a shootout in an armored vehicle that will help keep them safe. The inherent problem with this type of gear, and SWAT teams in general, is this: once you have it you have the urge to use it. If you don’t use it you lose it, right?
Many of the smaller towns and cities don’t need these kinds of elite teams around, but nonetheless many have them. If there’s a hostage situation and there’s need of a SWAT team I hope there’s one nearby to help get matters sorted out. If a couple of crazies go on a rampage like those two guys in California years ago we’ll want a special weapons team to take them down.
But lately there’s been a rash of injuries and deaths due to SWAT teams breaking down doors during no-knock entries. A lot of the entries happen because of drug searches. Unfortunately, many times the information they’re moving on is flawed and innocent people find themselves at the end of a gun with the family dog dead. All a cop has to say is, “I was afraid for my life,” and he has carte blanch to shoot your dog. They can also use that same argument for you.
The SWAT team was first developed in response to the bell tower shooting back in 1954. It was shown that if a team with special weapons and tactics were on hand during that emergency it most likely would have ended sooner than it did.
It wasn’t until the war on drugs that things really started to spiral out of control. These days all you need is someone to point a finger at a house and say, “There’s drugs in there,” and they have the right to break your door in and put your family under the gun. If you’re really smart you won’t try and defy them. When you’ve got six or ten guys with assault weapons running through your house all charged up it wouldn’t take much for an accident to happen. I’ve read comments from readers who say, “They better never try that at my house or I’ll shoot the bastards,” and other stupid stuff. First, if you pull a wallet out of your pocket during this tense time you’re likely to take a bullet or twenty. I’d say your best chance of surviving with minimal injuries is just do whatever it is they want and hope you do it fast enough. You figure out the right and wrong of it later. Let me assure you that when someone is holding a machine gun on you that he is going to be right – even when he’s wrong.
Thirty years ago cops didn’t have the same tactical gear they have today with the exception of the SWAT teams. Nowadays many cops have “tacticool” gear. Black military looking uniforms and tactical weapons are common place.
Accidents happen. Even with the best planning and training they still happen, but in my mind it’s what happens after that really counts. Awhile back a SWAT team performed a no-knock raid on a house a family displaced by fire were staying in. As they went in they threw a flash grenade into the house and unfortunately it landed in the baby’s crib. When it went off it caused serious injuries to his face and chest.
Now this is bad. Really bad. As the father of a 2 ½ year old I have to tell you I cringed when I read this story.
Then the mother starts asking for her baby and the cops tell her to shut up and sit down. One of the cops grabs the infant and takes him outside and disappears. When the mother goes out all she sees is a puddle of blood on the ground. Later on they catch up with the baby at the hospital and he’s in a medically induced coma.
So far, state and federal agents, including the Georgie Bureau of Investigations and investigators from two district attorneys’ offices, have found no wrongdoing in last month’s predawn raid.
At a news conference Tuesday, the tot’s father, Bounkham Phonesavanh said the officers who lobbed the explosive into his sleeping child’s playpen showed no remorse afterward, and lied to he and his wife about the extent of his injuries, saying the boy had only lost a tooth, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The officers cursed and yelled at us and threatened to arrest me after we expressed our concern for our son,” Phonesavanh said, according to NBC Atlanta.
It’s terrible that these things happen, but what I find especially detestable is the complete lack of accountability for their actions. No wrongdoing was found and apologies are almost never given in these situations. I believe it’s because people believe an apology is the same as an admission to guilt and they don’t want to go down that path as it might boomerang back on them in a court of law.
Whatever happened to accountability?
One of the first things I learned in boot camp that stuck with me is that you are accountable for your actions. The DI’s didn’t want to hear excuses and we quickly learned not to even try. If you screwed up and the DI called you on it you said, “The private screwed up, Sir!”
It seems that accountability in these situations is nowhere to be found giving the SWAT teams the belief that sometimes you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. It might not be that big a deal to you… until you’re one of the eggs. Think it couldn’t happen to you? Think again. It can happen to anybody. There are many documented cases of people being pulled over for traffic violations and being subjected to cavity searches because they were acting suspicious according to the arresting officers.
What about the danger to police officers who are involved in “no knock” warrants? In this case an officer was killed conducting a no knock search of a guy’s house. The man’s crime? He was accused of having some pot plants and illegal weapons at his house. After the raid they found that he had four weapons legally owned and the pot was only a misdemeanor amount. They could have taken the guy when he went to the store to buy beer, but instead they bang on the door of someone they know to have guns. When the police came through the door the guy picked up a gun and started shooting and killed an officer. The cops then file a murder charge against the man, which were later dropped.
I could totally see myself doing something like that. Imagine waking up and there are guys with guns trying to get into your house. You hear a shot and your dog is killed and men are yelling and brandishing guns. The first thing I’d do is go for a gun too because who the hell but a bad guy is going to be breaking down your door in the middle of the night?
It’s tragic that this officer had to die and I hope that these kinds of raids are looked at more closely before it happens again.
These kinds of weapons and training have a tendency to spill over into everyday life as well. There has been an increasing feeling of “us against them” among police against citizens in the last twenty or thirty years. To be fair to the police in question, I’ve watched many videos about police brutality and a lot of them are citizens baiting cops until something occurred, and many times that something wasn’t even what I’d consider brutality. Other times it’s exactly what it looks like. A cop gets mad or thinks there’s been some challenge to his or her authority and lashes out at a cuffed or otherwise defenseless victim and hurts or even kills them.
These are just the times when the officers are being over enthusiastic. This doesn’t touch on the aspect when it’s outright abuse of their power. It seems like recently there have been many more instances of police brutality. Some offices have a shorter fuse than others and it doesn’t take much for them to snap and cause you serious injury or even death.
Many times officers will be beating someone and yelling, “Stop resisting!” as they continue to beat the victim into unconsciousness or sometimes to death. It’s as if by shouting these magic words for any cameras or bystanders they’ll be able to justify what they did when the case goes to court.
Again, many times the officer is found not to be responsible and walks away with nothing, not even a reprimand.
Many cops today feel that because they wear a badge they’re entitled to respect, but a lot of times I don’t respect the man behind the badge. Here’s an example recently that happened to my wife’s friend. This woman’s mother hurt herself with a saw of some kind. She sustained serious cuts to her fingers and lost the tips of one or two others. The husband – a man in his 70’s – put her in the car and started driving her to the hospital. On the way he saw a police officer on the side of the road in town and rolled down his window and asked if the cop could escort them to the hospital about two miles up the road. Instead the cop ordered him to pull over. The man decided to keep on going so he could get his wife to the hospital before she lost more blood. The cop followed them the whole distance to the hospital, inadvertently doing exactly what the older gentleman had requested in the first place and clearing traffic for them. When they got to the emergency department the cop hauled the guy out of the car, threw him over the hood, wrenched his arms behind his back causing injury, kicking his legs apart causing more injury, and finally cuffing him in the parking lot. In the meantime the guy is yelling at his wife to go inside and get treatment before she passed out. The cop couldn’t have cared less about the injured woman instead focusing on the fact that this old man had dared defy his order to pull over. An 8 year old boy seated in the Emergency Room saw the incident and once the elder gentleman was allowed in to see his wife the little boy went up and said, “Geez mister, I’m real sorry that happened.” The police have yet to apologize. My wife was astounded by the story. I wasn’t.
It could be that the officer in this example saw the blood (the woman showed the officer her bandaged and bleeding hand) and wanted to investigate what was going on before taking them to the hospital; however a simple line of reasoning may have helped his decision making process. First, the man came to the officer and asked for help. He didn’t try to sneak by and wasn’t waving a gun or otherwise being threatening. Second, the officer saw her injured hand (she held it up for the officer to see that there was a legitimate problem.) Third, even if the older guy had caused the injury he was asking for help getting to the hospital. I would have helped them get there first then figured out what was going on once the woman was getting the medical attention she obviously needed.
In the grand scheme of things this is a small matter, but I tell the story for two reasons. First, it’s local and I know people peripherally involved in the matter, and second, it’s indicative of an attitude by the police that people are generally scumbags until proven otherwise. Even then the civilian has probably done something to deserve the treatment they’ve received. I’ve known several police officers over the years and this attitude was prevalent in them and their friends. One guy I knew who was a former Force Recon Marine used to tell me how he loved Saturday nights because he got to beat drunk people up. He loved to go “drunk beating” as he called it.
Don’t think it’s just here in the United States either. This goes on all over the world.
I often wonder if the need for military style weapons is a response to more violent crimes and more dangerous people the police have to deal with today. If you deal with criminals all day every day it’s bound to give you a jaded view point after awhile. Here in the United States many people own weapons and it may be the police feel the need to have bigger and better guns and equipment just to stay ahead.
Another thing that is likely causing this type of behavior is simply a lack of training on how to handle these kinds of situations. Also, if the office were to be held financially accountable for medical bills for cases involving this kind of police crime maybe it would keep them in check. Right now the tax payers or the victim bears the financial responsibility.
Lately the media and the ability of everybody to take videos of these events have cast the militarization in a negative light. When twenty cops in riot gear use pepper spray on a peaceful crowd it doesn’t look good for the police.
But let’s not forget that not all cops are like this and most of the men and women out there serving are doing a fine job. A few bad apples make the rest look bad and that’s not always the case.
I still tell my kids to find a police officer if they ever get lost, because if you can’t trust a cop to do right who can you trust?
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