No good thing can come from the overuse of SWAT Teams.
Since a major report about the overuse of flash bang grenades, and the damage they do, was published recently, it is interesting that the Week also published a feature on “The Troubling Rise of SWAT Teams.”
In Tomkins County, New York, earlier this month, as many as 150 police officers from no less than 18 law enforcement agencies engaged in a three-day standoff at a family home. Their goal? To arrest one David M. Cady Jr., who had barricaded himself in his family’s home to avoid going to jail for missing a DUI court date.
By the time this legion of cops was finished, Cady was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound — and his widow was left with two children and no home in the middle of winter. The SWAT teams battered Cady’s house so thoroughly that some exterior walls are gone entirely, while appliances and personal belongings are strewn about the yard.
The wreckage with which Cady’s now-homeless family is left looks more like the scene of a single-house tornado touchdown than any reasonable action to make a man appear in court. Granted, Cady was armed and determined not to exit his property. But the local SWAT teams have at least two robots available to them for exactly this sort of situation — and really, is the average drunk driver dangerous enough to warrant deploying a 150-person SWAT team to demolish his entire house?
Common sense (and the Fourth Amendment) would say no. But increasingly, many police departments are saying yes.
SWAT team use has spiked from around 3,000 strikes per year in 1980 to as many as 80,000 raids a year now. A battering ram or other forced-entry device is used in two-thirds of these raids, nearly 80 percent of which target private homes like Cady’s. The great bulk of SWAT raids are in service of the drug war, though nearly four out of 10 find no contraband at all.
The article contains much more. Here is a survey of the wreckage of the Cady family home: