Maybe The Best Way To Stop All This Swatting Is To Have Fewer SWAT Teams?

from the just-a-suggestion dept

As you may have heard, last week, a 13-year-old boy admitted to calling in three separate swattings. This came about a month and a half after another person accused of a swatting incident was arrested in Las Vegas. Swatting -- the act of calling in a bogus "hostage situation" (or something similar) to a 911 line -- has been around for a while, but has really taken off recently, especially in connection to online gamers who live stream their games. Some gamers seem to think that it's somehow a fun thing to see a SWAT team raid someone via a livestream video. The excellent podcast "Reply All" recently had a really great episode all about swatting.

For years, there have been different questions raised about how to stop such things. Educating police about the practice of swatting is a big one -- so that, at the very least, they have some basic realization that not every such call is a real situation. But, of course, people are always looking for a "complete" solution to the problem, not recognizing that sometimes there are no perfect solutions. Swatting is a monumentally stupid practice. It puts completely innocent people (often including small children) in very serious danger of being killed. And it's happening enough that rather than being some totally rare occurrence there are semi-regular news stories on it happening. It has all the ingredients of a moral panic, in which people will freak out and demand that "something must be done" and that "something" will likely be some sort of regulation that will have all sorts of unintended consequences.

But there does seem to be one solution that isn't even on the table: maybe have fewer SWAT teams and stop arming police like they're in a war zone.
Radley Balko has been talking about this stuff for ages, including in his excellent book, Rise of the Warrior Cop. But this idea that arming police ever more heavily as a way to deter or prevent crime doesn't have much support at all. There are very rare instances where the level of militarization of police would ever be necessary (if ever). Yet, when police have such equipment, they inevitably use it whenever an opportunity presents itself.

And now, all too often, that "opportunity" is when some teenager makes a prank phone call for laughs, and succeeds in putting real lives in danger. So rather than trying to pass stringent new laws that won't do a damn thing in stopping teenagers from being teenagers, how about we take a step back and perhaps pull back on the idea that we need to arm police to this level in the first place?

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  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 12:24pm

    It gets worse

    Now the attackers are mixing a swatting with a hoax call to people inside to make the situation escalate.

    http://cliffviewpilot.com/men-with-shotguns-holding-hostages-at-clifton-video-game-store-sw atting-hoax-authorities-confirm/

    Ehud

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 12:53pm

      Re: It gets worse

      Did they change the article? What I'm reading looks like a regular swatting, albeit in a public store instead of a private residence.

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      • icon
        S. T. Stone (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re: It gets worse

        No, it’s something a little different.

        After the asshole behind this stunt called the cops on the store, he called the store itself once the cops had arrived out front, identified himself as an authority figure, and told one of the store’s staff to do things that would make it appear as if they’d actually taken hostages. If the staff hadn’t figured out the ruse, the SWAT team may have ended up shooting innocent people instead of just having them cuffed and questioned for a half-hour while they cleared things up.

        This particular SWATting asshole actively tried to get people killed by making the staff take action that put lives at risk. Whoever he is, he committed a legitimate act of terrorism and he should face the appropriate punishment for it.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

          Terrorism.... really?

          So these 13 year olds are using violence and intimidation to push their political agenda?

          I think not.

          When you label everything terrorism the word ceases to have any useful meaning.

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          • icon
            S. T. Stone (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

            I’d consider an act designed to strike fear into a populace through acts of violence (directly or indirectly) as the purest definition of terrorism.

            This particular asshole designed and set into motion a series of events designed to cause at least some form of violent action on the part of police aimed towards a group of innocent people. His reasons for doing so don’t much matter to me.

            I don’t refer to SWATting as terrorism with any frivolity. The ‘t-word’ carries a hell of a lot of weight with me, and I wouldn’t use it if I didn’t feel as if SWATting fit the definition. But when someone calls the cops on innocent people for the express purpose of setting up said innocent people for a potentially violent ‘showdown’ with a SWAT team, I call it like I see it.

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            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:32pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

              I disagree. Terrorism is a warfighting tactic. Swatting is not about warfare. I think purpose and intention matter here. The exact same act can be terrorism in one context but not in another.

              But I realize that the term "terrorism" has already been misused so much that I'm fighting a losing battle on this point. It's almost at the point where we can just lump it in with other boogyman words like "communism", "hackers", etc.: devoid of any substantive meaning other than to be frightening to people.

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              • icon
                Mason Wheeler (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:59pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                I'm not sure I agree that "terrorism is a warfighting tactic"--what army was Timothy McVeigh a part of?

                Terrorism is something fundamentally different. As the old joke (of the "ha ha but I'm serious" variety) goes, a terrorist is a guy with a bomb who can't afford an air force.

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                • icon
                  John Fenderson (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 5:20pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                  Timothy McVeigh was part of a radical militia group, so that would be the "army". However, I would say that you don't need to be a part of an army to engage in warfighting. You can do that all by yourself. McVeigh was engaging in fighting a war against certain agencies in the government.

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                  • icon
                    cbpelto (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 12:38am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                    RE: McVeigh

                    I don't recall McVeigh being identified with any millitia group. Do tell all of US which one. And please provide a credible citation to support the claim.

                    Rather—please pardon my professionally inculcated 'conspiracy theory', being a retired Army officer, I tend to apply Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) techniques—he seems to be the patsy in a 'Reichstag Fire' scenario. There are too many 'oddities' about the bombing than can be ignored.

                    I believe in 'coincidence'. I just don't trust it.

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                    • icon
                      John Fenderson (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 6:45am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                      Yes, you are quite correct. My memory was slightly mistaken. It is not know that he was part of a militia group, but he was very sympathetic to a couple radical militia groups. Nonetheless, my point still stands: he was engaging in an act of war against the US. The bombing was an act of vengeance in response to Waco and Ruby Ridge. His hope was that the bombing would incite revolution against the federal government.

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                      • icon
                        cbpelto (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 7:35am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                        RE: McVeigh

                        He was—in my personal and professional opinion—a dupe like Marinus van der Lubbe of the Reichstag Fire, set up to promote a political action that was pending before Congress at the time….the Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Bill. A early version of the infamous 'Patriot Act'.

                        The FBI, stationed in that building, was taking a 'holiday' the day of the bombing. They'd had an unusual night-time training exercise the day before.

                        As I said earlier….

                        I believe in 'coincidence'. I just don't trust it.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 3:07pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                I agree that terrorism is used too heavily and too often in our culture, but it seems like the only difference between a 13 year old and a terrorist swatting someone is that the 13 year old doesn't arguably have a particular ideology behind their actions.

                It seems like you would call swatting terrorism if it were done by the traditional terrorist stereotype of a bearded Muslim extremist. If so, would it be terrorism because the perpetrator was a terrorist who had a particular ideology? Would the 13 year old suddenly become a terrorist if they suddenly developed an ideology behind their actions?

                I would hesitate to push teenage pranks into the label of terrorism, but swatting could be at least negligent homicide in the wrong circumstances.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 3:20pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                  ... the only difference between a 13 year old and a terrorist...
                  When a 13 year-old verbally commands a grown adult to point a weapon at someone else, then that grown adult has no choice or or responsibility in the matter. The adult must mindlessly obey the teenager—like a robot.

                  It's just the same as if a terrorist tells a policeman to break into someone's house and point his police gun at someone.

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                  • identicon
                    David, 30 Mar 2015 @ 3:55pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                    So now we have 'script-kiddies' commanding 'SWAT-nets' and getting them to attack innocent peoples homes.

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                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 4:20pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                      'SWAT-nets'
                      When a policeman points his police gun at someone and then shoots that person with a police bullet——it is never, ever, ever the policeman's fault. It is always someone else's fault.

                      An innocent person may be dead. Killed by a police bullet shot from a police gun. Killed dead. But the policeman has no moral culpability. The policeman has no volition.

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                      • identicon
                        Pragmatic, 1 Apr 2015 @ 7:32am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                        Ah, so the police don't kill people, people kill people. Got it.

                        Why does that terrify me?

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 3:39pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

                Except that these days, claiming we have to pull back on civil liberties to stop them damn commies would result it laughter and derision.

                Maybe that's what we need. Misuse the word "terrorism" so much that it becomes a joke.

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          • identicon
            Aaron Marcus, 2 Apr 2015 @ 8:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

            Agreed. They should be charged with attempted murder in the first degree. One count for every person in the house at the time and for every person who resides in the house.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2015 @ 1:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It gets worse

            "After the asshole behind this stunt called the cops on the store, he called the store itself once the cops had arrived out front, identified himself as an authority figure, and told one of the store’s staff to do things that would make it appear as if they’d actually taken hostages. If the staff hadn’t figured out the ruse, the SWAT team may have ended up shooting innocent people instead-"

            I don't care what you think terrorism is,
            This is Terrorism.

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  • identicon
    Applesauce, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:01pm

    How many are there?

    A lot.
    I started counting all the different agencies/organizations that have their own SWAT team just based in Washington DC. I quit when I got to 18. This includes the agriculture dept, the transit authority, park police, etc... The actual number is higher for two reasons: Most agencies have multiple SWAT teams (tho I didn't count those) and the neighboring jurisdiction of MD and VA have many SWAT teams too. Maryland officers have responded to incidents INSIDE DC in the past: e.g. the 2013 Navy Yard shooting. Probable total number is something between 24 to 30+ for this one city.

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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:02pm

    > there have been different questions raised about how to stop such things. Educating police. . .
    That's a good one. Two days early.

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  • identicon
    Anon, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:03pm

    But...

    If they aren't allowed to SWAT, how will police justify tossing flashbangs into babies' cribs?

    I don't get it either. If there's a reported "man with gun" or hostage taking, what good does bashing down doors and rushing the building do? And if the guy has a gun, what good is that plastic shield? Even if the team rushes over, what good is it to break in with urgent panic and guns drawn, possibly 10 or 15 minutes after the last phone call?

    All that's going to happen is that places that want to be swat-proof (drug houses) will armour their doors... so having a door that can be bashed in is automatic proof the place is not an armed den.

    Reminds me of the Long Gun Registry (recently demised) in Canada. The police could check to see if anyone had firearms in the house... except criminals didn't register guns, so you had to assume any house had guns anyway.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:10pm

    The SWAT team was designed specifically for hostage rescue operations in the late 1960s, before mission creep expanded its use to all kinds of routine police matters. But I have to wonder, what is the ratio of the number of people who have had their lives saved by SWAT teams, compared to the number of people who have had their lives taken by SWAT teams (in non-hostage situations)? Radley Balko has written extensively on this issue, but the information he was able to collect on police-killings might be just the tip of the iceberg.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:57pm

      Re:

      I came to state this specifically. Eliminate the mission creep. A military mindset has no business in the civilian world. These are not professional soldiers that are being SWATed. They are setting up the tense environment with the no-knock entry. Unless someone knows right off the bat these are police, any sane citizen is going to think they are being burglarized.

      There is no reason to serve a warrant in such manner. Every one has to eat, pay bills, and do the things that it takes to keep a household going. At such time, when they are out and about, they do not have a family to protect in the way, there are no kids to be endangered that can't be seen.

      The info they are obtaining often comes from the results of a deal where someone is looking for a break on charges. It's no more dependable info than getting it from someone tortured. How many people do we have to find dead at the end of such encounters to realize this? How many raided places with no drugs at all does it take? How many dead pets? How many injured for no reason other than making a show for the news?

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  • icon
    MikeC (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:19pm

    Stop Escalating Violence

    Let's see, authority has toys, boys w/toys want to use them. But doesn't it seem odd that the only likely result of deploying all you military toys is to intensify the violence?

    Think it through, we have folks at a game store holding folks hostage w/shotguns. So we have maybe 2-3 "active shooters" .. so we deploy 20 or so officers in battle dress, 10-15 cars, trucks, vans all with sirens and flashing lights, news crews, crime scene management folks, and finally hostage negotiation (1 person?).

    How can we honestly expect it get any less violent? Why not default to a bit more restrained response, 4-5 officers, no lights, no sirens, block off traffic. Couple of snipers mainly for backup?

    I don't have a problem killing the bad guys - really I don't, until you consider how to ID them.

    Take the normal domestic hostage situation of 1 perp and a a couple of innocent hostages. Dangerous for everyone in particular the officers. But if you have one convict with a gun and hostages, why do you need 30-40 officers, multiple SWAT teams with the coolest black "Call of Duty" arms and attitude, helicopters, etc. Let's see if we can inject some more little boy stupidity in the situation why don't we. More cops means more chance a cop get's killed and even greater chance an innocent gets caught in the cross fire.

    Officers are supposed to know how to diffuse a situation, turn down the emotions, etc. This very act goes against everything they should have been taught. When has a military response ever been known to defuse a situation. True if kill all the baddies you might actually solve the issue, but that is not the most likely event by a long shot. This does not even consider the hostages in the equation. Basically this might be the least likely to be successful response so of course to government goes with it.

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  • identicon
    no, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:26pm

    birth control

    less swat teams is a start, but serious birth control is the real answer

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  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:26pm

    A good start

    I'm am 100% in favor of getting rid of most of the SWAT teams as well as reducing the amount of armament regular cops get to use, but that's a long-haul goal.

    In the meantime, I would be happy if cops simply stopped sending SWAT teams as first responders. Send normal police first so they can assess the situation. Let them call SWAT after they've made that determination.

    I don't understand why this isn't already the universal policy of the police. It would save lives of both the police and nonpolice, it would save a lot of money, and it would help the police improve their PR problems.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:39pm

      Re: A good start

      "I would be happy if cops simply stopped sending SWAT teams as first responders. Send normal police first so they can assess the situation."

      You might indeed get that wish, because as the distinction/separation between SWAT and "normal" police keeps shrinking, it could be just a matter of time before they're one and the same.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 6:32pm

      Re: A good start

      Because they have them.

      The story on this site about Laurens County, Georgia is the perfect example. The entire county has a population of 48,000. The entire county.

      I live in Yuma, Arizona, the most desolate void in the US, and the population here is twice that. A county with half the population of nowhere, USA, has a swat team.

      Can you imagine how desperate they are to find any call at all that they can deploy the swat team?

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 6:54pm

        Re: Re: A good start

        Can you imagine how desperate they are to find any call at all that they can deploy the swat team?
        Just because we've caught cops calling in their own “anonymous citizen” drug tips...

        ... no, there isn't a cop out there who would call in a fake hostage scenario. Not one. Not a single one.

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    • icon
      musterion (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 7:37am

      Re: A good start

      Attribute it to lawyers. A police department gets sued by a family member of someone who dies in a hostage situation because they claim the the police department did not do all that in necessary to save the life of the victim. All it takes is one of these kind of suits (and there probably has been one) and to avoid it police will over react.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re: A good start

        A police department gets sued by a family member of someone who dies in a hostage situation because...
        A police department gets sued by a family member of someone who dies in a hostage situation because... the police shot the hostage.
        ... these kind of suits (and there probably has been one)...
        Of course, there's all kinds of lawsuits. Guess how they turn out? No, actually don't guess. You have a computer and an internet thingy and google: Look it up.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: A good start

          Originally, police were supposed to negotiate hostage situations, and avoid storming the place as long as no one was being killed. It was only in cases when kidnappers started killing prisoners one by one unless their demands were met, that police only then stormed the building.

          The problem was that due to this "every life is precious" method that authorities then practiced, airplane hijackers around 1970 took full advantage of this, and hijackings grew to epidemic proportions. Just like [non-copyright-related] piracy off the coast of Somalia in recent years, the act of giving in to terrorists often leads to getting a lot more of it.

          So the political establishment changed course, and felt it was better to "send a message" -- even if it meant innocent people being killed -- on the theory that less would die in the long run. And so they developed the Special Weapons Attack Team (as SWAT originally stood for) based on standard military methods, and made sure that not only were no ransoms ever paid, but perpetrators had no chance of getting out of there alive.

          It worked, and hijackings and hostage-taking reduced to a trickle. But then mission creep set in, as it always does, and police seemed to feel the 'invention' of the SWAT team was so good, it should not be wasted by waiting for the next hostage-taking, which might never come. No, SWAT slowly became the new standard of police-public interaction, from everything from routine search warrants to arrests of non-violent crime suspects -- or even people who failed to show up in traffic court.

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          • icon
            nasch (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 6:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: A good start

            The problem was that due to this "every life is precious" method that authorities then practiced, airplane hijackers around 1970 took full advantage of this, and hijackings grew to epidemic proportions...

            So the political establishment changed course, and felt it was better to "send a message" -- even if it meant innocent people being killed -- on the theory that less would die in the long run. And so they developed the Special Weapons Attack Team (as SWAT originally stood for) based on standard military methods, and made sure that not only were no ransoms ever paid, but perpetrators had no chance of getting out of there alive.


            Apparently almost none of that is true: "According to the Historical Dictionary of Law Enforcement, the term "SWAT" was used as an acronym for the "Special Weapons and Tactics" established as a 100-man specialized unit in 1964 by the Philadelphia Police Department in response to an alarming increase in bank robberies."

            The term "hijack" does not appear in the wikipedia entry, it's all about urban crime situations. Of course WP isn't perfect, so maybe you have another reference.

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            • icon
              Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 9:11pm

              SWAT vs.

              There are numerous squads of usually divisions of military forces that are highly trained and specialize in terrorist-hijack situations. But no, SWAT started as a different animal.

              For instance 1st SFOD-D aka Delta Force.

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              • icon
                cbpelto (profile), 2 Apr 2015 @ 7:11am

                Re: SWAT vs.

                RE: [OT] Delta Farce

                Don't get me started on those characters. When we took Greneda away from the Cubans, they jumped directly onto the airport they wanted to seize. But the Cubans were ready for them. They took 50% casualties. And didn't seize their objective.

                It took regular forces to rescue them.

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 5:23pm

        Re: Re: A good start

        "All it takes is one of these kind of suits (and there probably has been one)"

        There have been such suits, and the courts have ruled that the police have no legal obligation to protect ordinary citizens, so those suits go nowhere.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 4:09am

          Re: Re: Re: A good start

          "the courts have ruled that the police have no legal obligation to protect ordinary citizens"

          Otherwise, the town of Ferguson, Missouri, would be forced to file for bankruptcy, because police abandoned virtually the entire town in order to mobilize in a huge show-of-force around the police stations and city hall the night the jury verdict was announced. Just about the only (privately-owned) buildings that didn't get burned down and/or looted were the ones that hired private security firms or accepted the offers of armed Oathkeeper volunteers.

          That should be a lesson to all of us, that a police force is at its core a self-serving institution who protect their own above all else.

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  • icon
    DB (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:27pm

    The situation in New Jersey was notably absurd.

    The police had a report of multiple people wounded by shotgun-wielding attackers, but waited an hour before actually approaching the building.

    During that hour they avoided contact to avoid "tipping off" the putative attackers. What was the logic behind that? Because when you are holding hostages, you might think that the police are really there for the hostage situation next door?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:29pm

    SWAT teams are wimps

    There was a time -- decades ago -- when one tough cop (or maybe one and a partner) could take on nearly anything. But cops have become weak, stupid, and cowardly -- hence the need for an entire squad of wimps in battle armor to deal with one idiot with a shotgun.

    These aren't "warriors": warriors fight with honor. These are psychotic, psychopathic little boys who've been given badges and firepower. THEY LIKE KILLING PEOPLE, that's why they're on the SWAT team. They don't want to de-escalate the situation and end it peacefully, they want to shoot people, bomb people, etc. And they don't really care if it's a kid in a crib: they got to hurt someone, so it's a good day for them.

    Examine any police squad, find the SWAT team, and you will find the biggest losers, assholes, dummies and cowards.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 1:32pm

    Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law

    When you have swat team busting down doors and using shock and awe to kill/disable any threats, everyone is a potential threat. This is the exact opposite of how it should work and every instance needs to be approved by a judge at the very least. If it was not a real situation that warranted the use of force applied, all officers involved in attacks on innocent people need to be prosecuted by the survivors of these kind of terror entries.

    Police should never ever be allowed to edit or decide what is or isn't relevant in a cop on civilian death. When they are in charge, surprising evidence goes missing or is never reported in the first place.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 2:30pm

    As an interim measure

    Perhaps getting the kids of the local mayor, chief of police, city council, etc. interested in livestreaming video games would help.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 2:36pm

    So people over there are more afraid of cops than robbers?

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    • icon
      cbpelto (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      And with good reason.

      Each one of them is a menace to society if they even get a twinge of 'fear' in them.

      Once that happens, they feel they can gun down anyone they want to and are protect by the doctrine of 'Qualified Immunity'.

      Look it up…..

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  • identicon
    Citoyen, 30 Mar 2015 @ 6:42pm

    Citizenship

    Many if not most so-called "SWAT teams" cannot train to LAPD D Platoon (the original SWAT team) standards because we, the taxpayers and voters, and those we elect, will not give them the money, facilities, or time to do so, nor will we advocate leadership to set and enforce proper recruiting, hiring, and training standards, or allow them to do so.

    Yet we create "use it or lose it" rules that force departments to demonstrate regular use of their teams or lose the budgets for them, because we will not tolerate a SWAT team training constantly - and costing us money constantly - only to respond to truly high-risk incidents a few times a month or a few times a year, when they actually happen.

    They aren't used constantly because police leadership want it that way. They're used constantly because we make them choose between having a shitty, overworked SWAT team and having no SWAT team at all. And if they choose the second choice, they get blasted when incidents actually happen - sometimes literally, because patrol officers, even given patrol carbines or rifles, are even more inadequately trained, and certainly inadequately armoured, compared to these problematic "SWAT teams lite".

    I don't have words for how dumb this is. Further, police aren't armed like they're in war zones. That's just baseless, borderline libellous, unscientific, alarmist lies and drivel. The patrol rifle/carbine program was introduced after incidents like the North Hollywood Shootout, to equip the patrol officer to degrade criminals' ability to fire and manoeuvre until SWAT arrived. Without those longarms, criminals with heavy armour and longarms of their own can just grin and wade right in, laying waste to literal scores of cops wearing soft jackets and packing pistols.

    The designated marksman idea being floated around, derived from the military concept, is intended to provide immediate or near-immediate access to one-shot-interrupt capability at the patrol level preceding the arrival of SWAT sharpshooters, assuming the department even fields them in the first place. Many smaller/poorer departments do not have SWAT snipers, and having dedicated riflemen would give them a lifesaving edge in the worst-case scenario.

    If you want police to have SWAT teams, either insist your politicians give them the time, money, manpower, and training facilities to do it properly, or admit that you don't actually care about hostage lives and officer lives as much as you do about your own paycheque, and by all means pull the programs completely - but in doing so, acknowledge your own role in the prevalence of both actual excessive force and merely perceived excessive force, and the questionable quality of many "SWAT teams".

    Also... if cops get a call saying "terrorists with AK-47s", do you really want the police to have nothing to send? Should we reduce the number of firefighters we have because of arsonists and crank callers, in the hopes that such people will embrace good citizenship and voluntarily stop being assholes? Should we reduce the number of medics and doctors because of insurance fraud?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 6:58pm

      Re: Citizenship

      If the frequency of SWAT-worthy incidents is so low that the local government cannot tolerate the cost/use ratio, then the team should be disbanded or shared with other entities. The comment about reducing the number of SWAT teams is because SWAT teams have repeatedly demonstrated a gross disregard for the safety of innocent lives and generally show no sign of being able to manage their conduct. As has been stated many times before, over-aggressive cops, which includes SWAT teams, are a far greater threat to innocent citizens than your average criminal. Criminals tend to travel in small groups, and in pro-self-defense states, it is often both legal and advisable to defend your home against them. (Exact levels of permitted force vary by locality and circumstances. Check your local laws before firing on intruders.) SWAT teams travel in larger groups, react very violently to any form of resistance, and if you survive their overreaction, they tend to be backed up by prosecutors who really want to score some sort of "assaulting an officer" conviction.

      The comparison to firefighters versus fake arsonists is disingenuous at best. If somebody calls in a fake fire at my home, the firefighters will show up, realize there is no fire, and leave. I might get billed for their time if the city decides I was at fault for the call. They might cause some property damage if they decide to break in searching for a fire. They are not going to burst in and fatally shoot my pets and children looking for a non-existent fire.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 7:11pm

        Re: Re: Citizenship

        ... or shared with other entities.
        Every state constitution that I'm familiar with designates the governor as the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces, except when they are called into federal service.

        I don't think municipalities really ought to have standing armies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 8:47am

      Re: Citizenship


      Also... if cops get a call saying "terrorists with AK-47s", do you really want the police to have nothing to send?


      No, but what are the odds of that happening, and what is the cost of maintaining the SWAT team? That MATTERS. Police are funded somehow, and maybe that money from taxes or tickets could have been used by its original owner to pay for a cancer treatment, or a car with more safety features, or a cell phone that could let have them call 911, or...

      And also, when they get that call, they should try to verify that it's true before sending everything they have at it. They could START by verifying the location of the caller - something they do routinely in other cases, apparently. If he's not anywhere near the address he's calling about, it's probably a hoax. If it's an unverifiable VOIP number, it's probably a hoax. If it's a cell phone near the place, it's at least plausible.

      There's a real Fourth Amendment issue if police are going to break down someone's door based only on an anonymous tip. We have a right to be secure in our persons and homes. The police do not generally have permission to break down my door, and an anonymous person with no actual evidence cannot give them that permission. An anonymous call, by itself, is NOT probable cause.

      Should we reduce the number of medics and doctors because of insurance fraud?


      Who's the "we" that would reduce the number of doctors? Most doctors aren't hired by the state.

      But anyway, maybe a clinic doesn't need a Milwaukee Protocol Unit, ready to immediately treat all end-stage rabies cases, because it's going to go unused over 99% of the time and they have better things to spend their limited budget on.

      Should we reduce the number of firefighters we have because of arsonists and crank callers, in the hopes that such people will embrace good citizenship and voluntarily stop being assholes?


      When I was in college, someone pulled the fire alarm in my dorm repeatedly. The fire department stopped sending its trucks, because the alarm was no longer an indication that there was an actual fire.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 9:39am

        Re: Re: Citizenship

        Also... if cops get a call saying "terrorists with AK-47s", do you really want the police to have nothing to send?
        No, but what are the odds of that happening...?
        Oh, that happens all the time in Hollywood, California.

        ... and what is the cost of maintaining the SWAT team?
        Compared to the cost of requiring the city mayor to call up the state governor to request assistance. Especially when, in reality, it would be the mayor's designee calling up the governor's designee for state help.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 9:08am

      Re: Citizenship

      "Should we reduce the number of firefighters we have because of arsonists and crank callers"

      Except firefighters don't burst into a house and set fire to it so they can do their job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 4:34pm

      The Standing Army of a Municipality.

      Further, police aren't armed like they're in war zones. That's just baseless, borderline libellous, unscientific, alarmist lies and drivel.

      Maybe you missed the Ferguson protests in which the police showed up in their mineproof transports. You probably missed the officers that arbitrarily closed down the McDonalds and arrested Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly for "tresspassing" (taking too long to pack their things). They were in full combat armor.

      Maybe you missed the rundown of all the gear that was being used by the officers in Ferguson, continuously leveling their rifles at the protesters. Granted, it was tear gas and rubber bullets. Maybe you missed the tear gas victims and the rubber bullet wounds and the photos of what a "rubber bullet" really is.

      Those weren't the national guard. Even when they sent the Guard in, they were used for a very limited post. Those were the local precincts.

      And BTW why would Law Enforcement Officers ever need to be in camo or olive drab? Police officers are there to make a presence, not to hide in the brush. You don't need subdued colors. You need clear print.

      The precincts are clearly armed like the military, partially due to the fact that the program providing them with this stuff started as a hand-me-down program to supply the police with military surplus, rather than dumping it to the civilian population for cheap. Somewhere along the line it function-crept into a program to turn law enforement into Imperial Stormtroopers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 4:36pm

        Should be: The police are TOTALLY militarized.

        I was going to post one comment and then changed my mind and posted another, but forgot to change the title.

        Because I am a dum.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      cbpelto (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 5:42pm

      Re: Citizenship

      " Further, police aren't armed like they're in war zones. That's just baseless, borderline libellous, unscientific, alarmist lies and drivel." -- Citoyen

      Are you completely clueless? Or are you something much, much worse?

      The police have MRAPs and military-grade equipment. Or did you sleep through the Boston Marathon Bomber Manhunt AND Ferguson?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DonM, 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:15pm

    appropriate force

    The city fathers telegraphed Austin to send help to stop a riot.

    He arrived by train and was met by the city fathers.

    "They only sent one Ranger?"

    "You only had one riot."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      cbpelto (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 2:34pm

      Re: appropriate force

      That's TEXAS Ranger…..

      One riot. One Texas Ranger.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 4:52pm

        Texas Rangers.

        That's also a legend started by Bill McDonald when he showed to stop a prize fight. (Plenty of rangers were already there to spectate the fight if they weren't going to stop it).

        Though there was a period in which a Texas Ranger could knock on a door (say, to serve a high-risk warrant) knowing that only a damn fool would shoot at him. Even if you killed the ranger, the division would be after you for the rest of your (very brief) life.

        Similarly, the FBI had doorknockers who would serve warrants or ask questions. It was a bad idea to shoot or hurt him because a whole bunch of big officers with guns were usually nearby to help out.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cbpelto (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 2:32pm

    Never Happen

    Cities and counties without good-sized cities need such teams.

    A better approach—and one that is more far-reaching—would be to eliminate the legal doctrine of 'Qualified Immunity' which gives LEOs the authority to shoot anyone they claim caused them to 'fear for their life'. They don't have to prove they were threatened, they just need to CLAIM IT.

    Another thing would be to restore the policy for the use of deadly force to 'Protection of Life'. The FBI dropped that in the early 90s and since then it has trickled down to local law enforcement.

    Holding the LEOs to the same standard of the Law as everyone else would go far to eliminating the needless murder of innocent and often unarmed people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 5:26pm

      Re: Never Happen

      "Cities and counties without good-sized cities need such teams."

      So I'm told, but I have yet to see any evidence that it's true.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        cbpelto (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 5:49pm

        Re: Re: Never Happen

        RE: Evidence It's True

        Sometimes you get a wild-man. In Colorado's Granby, south of Rocky Mountain National Park, some character armor-plated a good-sized bulldozer and started wrecking the town.

        Granby is too small to have its own SWAT team. Nor had they needed on before that happened.

        Fortunately the vehicle broke down while destroying the Gambles department store. The perp evacuated the building, took shelter in the basement and later shot himself to death.

        Here's a link to the story….

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Heemeyer

        The point is that if the perp hadn't damaged the vehicle, special weapons would have been necessary to stop him. Or maybe the police could have put together some molotov cocktails to 'toast' him and his metal beast. But they probably would have been too vexed to think of that. After all, they aren't trained to do combat with armored vehicles….like we paratroopers are….. ;-)

        Hunting tanks is easy and fun. -- 82d Airborne Division Anti-Armor Defense Axiom

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 6:50am

          Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

          That doesn't demonstrate the need for a SWAT team. That could have been handled the same way such things were handled before SWAT teams existed: with the National Guard.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            cbpelto (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 7:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

            RE: Wrong

            What experience have you got with dealing with such situations?

            You know what it takes to activate the National Guard? THE GOVERNOR. And then the activated unit needs to get to the area of operation. Furthermore, not all National Guard units are prepared to deal with combating armored vehicles.

            You'd send a ambulance unit to do such?

            How much time have you spent in the military anyway?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 9:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

              And then the activated unit needs to get to the area of operation.
              You got an estimate on flight time from Buckley AFB (120 FS) up to Granby?

              Or Colorado could ask Idaho to lend them an A-10, but you'd probably need to borrow fuel from Utah to get there.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 10:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

              I'm pretty sure that when we talk about big incidents like Oaklahoma City or Waco or Columbine, the respective governors were involved and making decisions.

              One might argue that a specialized SWAT team may be useful for cases where the national guard might be too heavy handed, like Kent State, but given the lack of training that SWAT teams get (heck, there've been photos of them with their sites on their guns backwards.) I would expect them to do worse than the guard at a Kent State situation.

              As was demonstrated at Ferguson. Though maybe at Ferguson I don't know the effect of telling the officers "You're now part of SWAT, so stand up straight and no funny business". Maybe they wouldn't have, as they did, shot first and then tear-gassed the entire community in a display of undisciplined revelry. Repeatedly.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2015 @ 9:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

            That doesn't demonstrate the need for a SWAT team.

            From cbpelto's Wikipedia story:
            The rampage lasted 2 hours 7 minutes...

            ... Local and state police, including a SWAT team, walked behind and beside the bulldozer occasionally firing, but the armored bulldozer was impervious to their shots....

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 9:52am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

              The other issue is how often does this sort of situation arise in a given place? It seems very, very rare. If that's the case, then the cost/benefit analysis leans strongly against maintaining a SWAT team.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 1 Apr 2015 @ 7:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

          Sometimes you get a wild-man... Granby is too small to have its own SWAT team.

          So are you saying all towns should have a SWAT team, no matter how small? You're saying a single incident in Granby's history means they should now have a SWAT team because there might be a second incident someday? I'm not certain those are your positions, but if so I think they're quite misguided.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            cbpelto (profile), 2 Apr 2015 @ 7:07am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

            RE: Heh

            It's not a good idea to put words in other peoples mouths. It makes you look 'bad'.

            [For more information, please re-read my previous comment.]

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 2 Apr 2015 @ 7:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Never Happen

              It's not a good idea to put words in other peoples mouths.

              Did you notice the question marks, and the part where I stated I'm not sure that's what you were trying to say?


              [For more information, please re-read my previous comment.]


              If I thought the answer to my questions was in your previous comment, I wouldn't have asked them.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cbpelto (profile), 2 Apr 2015 @ 9:48am

    Try re-reading my previous. Your question is addressed in there. Or did you miss the business about small communities such as Granby, Colorado?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 2 Apr 2015 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      Let me try an open-ended question: what is the point you are trying to make with the Granby story?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2015 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Your question is addressed in there.
      The essence of clarity is repetition. Redundancy is fundamental to all communication in noisy environments. To make yourself understood, say it again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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