This month’s ABA Journal reports that, on average, 124 American homes are raided every day by paramilitary SWAT teams. While no doubt there is a story behind every one of those raids, I find it hard to believe that there are 124 daily situations in our country that necessitate SWAT team home invasions. It seems likely to me that the number can be attributed, at least in part, to our culture having gone a little SWAT-happy.
I’m not expecting our door to be kicked in some night, but with the proliferation of SWAT teams these days it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
The USDA now has its own SWAT team. And if that seems crazy, consider the fact that the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NASA (among others) all have SWAT teams too now. By any standards that should be considered weird.
For the past decade the good folks at DHS have been helping build little armies all over the country. 80% of small towns with populations of between 25 and 50 thousand now have SWAT teams, complete with automatic weapons, grenades, armored cars and all the latest military playthings. And what’s the point of having all those toys if you never get to use them?
I reckon we’ll just need to be extra careful if we grow okra next year.
Dwayne Perry, of Cartersville, in northern Georgia, was extremely surprised this weekend to find a police helicopter hovering over the garden he tends during his retirement. He was even more surprised a few minutes later to find county deputies, with a drug-sniffing dog in tow, banging on his front door, insisting to inspect his small backyard garden.
The state task force dedicated to drug suppression had flown over his house and spied what they insisted were marijuana plants, growing brazenly in full view. Further examination — like, any examination, at all — showed that the plants in question were actually okra, the delightfully mucousy vegetable that’s been grown in the Southeast for centuries.
“Here I am, at home and retired and you know I do the right thing,” Perry said to local Atlanta station WSB-TV. “Then they come to my house strapped with weapons for no reason. It ain’t right.”
Indeed, it ain’t.
And that one probably doesn’t count as one of the daily 124, given the apparent absence of flash grenades, machine guns and night vision goggles. Police helicopters and deputies-in-the-daytime is old school.
Maybe Cartersville is one of the few places left that still doesn’t have a SWAT team.