SWATmania

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.

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26 comments on “SWATmania

  1. Joanna says:

    Even more worrying that the drug squad doesn’t know the difference between marijuana and okra plants. They would have an apoplectic fit here in Latvia as so many folks have hemp plants growing wild in their gardens. The running joke over the summer was that no one who was taking a plane was to go anywhere near the plants for at least the week prior to going. There are different types and we are not sure if any of them are actually marijuana or all just hemp, which is what we suspect.

    The gun culture was one of those things we found really weird in America. The insistence on the right to carry arms just seems bizarre and seems to be far in excess of the danger and we regularly heard of SWAT teams going into places in Fort Collins where we used to live, a town not really renowned for its high crime rate. I don’t think I heard as many instances in Sheffield a city of 1/2 million with some pretty rough areas. I’m glad you are finding it strange too.

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    • Bill says:

      I suppose it’s a good thing they don’t have any actual crime to fight in Cartersville, Georgia. We have the helicopters fly over our farm at times too looking for marijuana gardens. One flew directly over me yesterday when I was working in one of our gardens. I’m not sure they were looking for marijuana, but they could’ve been.

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  2. shoreacres says:

    The other side of this particular coin is the number of stories I’ve heard from military folks about not having the equipment they need, even in fairly rough neighborhoods. Afghanistan, for example. On one end of the spectrum is my cousin’s son, who’s a Navy pilot. His training went on and on as he got shuttled from one States-side base to another because there were no carriers available. And a friend was involved in an effort to collect and send everything from socks to protective gear over to Iraq, to soldiers who were outfitted like ragamuffins.

    Regardless of anyone’s view of any particular military engagement, if we’re going to send our people hither and yon, they deserve to be well-supplied. As it is, many of these police departments have better equipment than our soldiers. It’s nuts. And it has to be intentional. Well, or pure incompetence. That’s always possible. 😉

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve heard that too and find it bizarre. Afghanistan is one of the most inaccessible places on earth and it costs well over a million dollars per soldier per year to maintain them there–greatly more than the cost in Iraq for example. But money never seems to be an object for the federal government and I have a cousin who just returned from a one year tour with a private security contractor in Afghanistan and everything they had was state of the art, no expense spared. It’s a little known fact that there are now well over 100,000 private security personnel in Afghanistan (also at the expense of the US taxpayer), which is now far more than the number of military personnel there. If our soldiers there are outfitted like ragamuffins then it’s hard to understand why.

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      • ain"t for city gals says:

        Yes,…this is a little known fact it seems. And the private contractors are in Iraq also. That is how they get around saying all the troops are home etc.

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  3. I realize this is a serious issue of troubling concern, but somehow I can’t stop my brain from wondering what a NASA SWAT uniform looks like.

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    • Bill says:

      I wonder why they’d need a SWAT team. When I was typing this post I kept thinking of a TV show that was popular when I was a teenager. I thought about dropping some reference to it in here but realized no one was likely to understand it.

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  4. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Gee, gotta wonder what would happen if all the funds being used for this stuff went into fighting ignorance, poverty and malnutrition? “An ounce of prevention…”

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  5. I heard about the USDA team getting an upgrade in weapons a little while ago. And I’m not surprised that Fish and Wildlife have SWAT teams – Fisheries officers here in Canada can be armed depending on the situation at hand, though I think they are the only non-military and non-police government officials who can be armed.

    124 raids a year. That probably does include the less weaponized visits like the one you quote above – which doesn’t mitigate the intrusiveness or inappropriateness of how the officials are deporting themselves.

    I don’t live in the US so I don’t have a really good understanding of why Americans are so entrenched on the right to bear arms, but the fact that any householder is likely to have a weapon ready to hand when a government official knocks (or batters) on the door is likely a big reason why the various departments are so keen to have bigger better weapons than the householder. It just seems like a domestic arms war to me

    Don’t get me wrong – I think most of the raids I’ve seen or read about in the last few years have been completely inappropriate, and I am not in any way condoning such heavy handedness, but if I was a police officer approaching a home where I thought the owner would probably have a weapon for self defence, I would certainly want a weapon in my own hand, ready to go.

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Bill, just for clarification, what is the CBA Journal?
      Hey Sailor, Enforcement/Game Wardens at the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) in Ontario are armed for obvious reasons and have always had far greater powers of search and seizure than the police. They have the right to enter your residence or place of business, without a warrant, to search for fish and game acquired without a license or in excess of the annual bag limit. They also have the right to confiscate any vehicle or property used in the acquisition, transportation or storage of same.
      Much more recently, the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency /formerly Customs & Immigration) Officers have had a sidearm added to their uniform.

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      • Oh, of course. I knew about the CBSA people, as it was in the news a while back, didn’t know about the ONT MNR enforcement officers, but that would figure if Fisheries has enforcement officers. Good point.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        The days of innocence are, unfortunately, gone…
        Or are they?
        I, for one, refuse to be forced into a semi-perpetual state of paranoia.
        I STILL believe that 95% of people are basically good at heart and therefore – statistically speaking – normal…
        The other 5%? Well, guess we’ll just have to keep working on it… (And let’s face it, s–t happens)

        Don’t feed the fire.
        The sun will rise tomorrow.
        Love trumps all…

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      • Bill says:

        Hey Deb. The ABA Journal is the Journal of the American Bar Association. I’m still getting it even though I retired from my law practice three years ago.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Oops, bit of a Froidian Slip there, sorry… (Meant ABA; ) Thanks!

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t question the unfortunate necessity of arming the police, but it seems to me there should be very very few occasions when military-type weapons and tactics are necessary. We actually have a law in this country that prohibits using the military against citizen civilians, but when the local police have military weapons and use military tactics that law seems almost pointless. Some have argued that equipping local police departments (and federal agencies) with armored personnel carriers and commando gear has been a way to unload extra or unneeded military gear. These days Sheriff Andy Griffith who didn’t carry a gun or my wife’s grandfather who walked a beat with a nightstick have been replaced by “warrior cops.”

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  6. pattisj says:

    That is a hard statistic to believe. Glad they were able to identify the okra before they carted Mr. Perry off to jail!

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  7. avwalters says:

    It starts as incivility, and progresses from there. With the ready availability of military equipment, it’s not surprising that it has progressed all the way to fascism. What ever happened to the beat cop and the promise of community policing? I read the news and see that in cities all over the country our police have descended to an occupying force.

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    • Bill says:

      I just saw a headline today about some police department bringing an armored personnel carrier to collect a civil judgment from a 75 year old man.

      You’re right about it appearing to be an occupying force. Ridiculous.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. avwalters says:

    Oh, and two years ago, I grew okra for the first time. No cops, though.

    Like

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