This topic is a tough one for me to get my head around. On my morning forays through the news I’ll occasionally stumble over something like this: SWAT raids wrong home and terrorizes family.
I read it and I think to myself, “Man, that is so messed up.”
Are stories like this a sign that our rights as American citizens are eroding? Who wants to be sound asleep in their bed with their kids down the hall and have a Special Weapons team like this break in and put everybody under the gun? What would happen if a citizen fought back and killed a cop in a situation like this? Would it be considered self defense or murder?
These are tough questions, but ask yourself this: if you’re at a bank and suddenly five guys break in and open up with MAC 10s and you’re in the middle of a hostage situation who do you want to come for you? Seems to me you’d be mighty happy to see those guys in black uniforms and machine guns come in and save the day.
Origins of SWAT
In case you haven’t heard SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. The first offical SWAT team was implemented in California and the idea for it seems to have built up over several incidents dating back to 1954. Probably the defining moment for the need of a “Riot Squad” or SWAT team was when Charles Whitman shot 46 people (15 who died) from the top of a bell tower at the University of Texas.
The police were way out of their league on this one and it wasn’t until a few cops and a civilian used a little ingenuity and a lot of courage and brought the shooter down. Whitman’s reign of terror ended, but the idea for a Special Weapons And Tactics team lived on. Shortly thereafter the Los Angeles Police Department trained and implemented the first SWAT team.
These special teams have enjoyed success over the years in helping to stop bad situations. The problem with a group of elite men like this is that it causes them to be revered by others much like Navy SEALS, Marine RECON, or Army Special Forces are revered in the military; however, military special forces teams are trained to operate in enemy territory and to kill people, but a SWAT team works here at home – right outside our doors.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Like I said earlier, if I’m in a hostage situation I’d like to have specialists come to the rescue if that’s what it comes down to, but if someone is growing a little weed in their apartment the last thing needed is a full SWAT team doing a “knock and enter“. To me this is simply a misuse of power. It’s like shooting a fly with a .44 Magnum.
Another problem is that SWAT is like a weapon that can be pointed at the wrong target. All it takes is some bad intelligence information and suddenly an innocent family is bearing the brunt of a wrongful invasion. (See first link.)
If you’re thinking, “Ya have to break some eggs to make an omelet,” then you’ve obviously never been the egg.
With the amount of increasing violence in our country does it make sense that more of our towns and cities have SWAT teams? Do we need increasing police firepower in order to combat the elevated level of violent crimes? Tit for tat?
Personally, I don’t care for the idea that a team of masked men can barge into my home at any time, kick my ass, and put my family under the gun simply because they’re the police and have a semi-good reason. On the flip side I don’t want something like the North Hollywood Shootout to happen because there’s no effective team around to stop them.
Then again I can’t think of an instance like that happening in Maine, but you never know.
Regardless, I want to know what your thoughts are on this topic. I know it’s a touchy subject with a lot of people and I tend to get some flack from police officers who read this blog. Let me say this: I am not against the police. When there’s trouble I like to know there’s a cop at the end of my cell phone willing to help out. What I am against are Special teams used when there really isn’t a need for them.
Sound off below!
BTW: I had a report that a reader couldn’t comment. If anyone else has that problem please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org