EspañolOn Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report called “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” a summary of their 2011-2012 research into police departments across the United States. The ACLU requested documents from 20 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and found 800 instances of SWAT team deployments.
Of those deployments, only 7 percent involved a “hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios,” meaning the vast majority of SWAT raids did not involve the apprehension of a violent threat. Nearly 80 percent of all raids by heavily armed police were to serve a search warrant, and 62 percent were to search for drugs.
“We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice.
Other notable findings included the fact that 65 percent of SWAT raids led to forced entry of private homes, with doors broken down or burst open with an explosive. More often than not, no weapon was found by police inside the residence, and at least 36 percent of the time, “no contraband of any sort was found.”
“Our findings reveal not only the dangers of militarized police, but also the difficulties in determining the extent and impact of those dangers. At every level — from the police to the state governments to the federal government — there is almost no recordkeeping about SWAT or the use of military weapons and vehicles by local law enforcement,” said Dansky.