California Highway Patrol seize medical records of woman beaten by cop

It is almost certainly true that it has always happened far more than was documented. There may be limited historical data about that kind of violence, but there IS good data on changes in law enforcement policy, including the militarization of police forces, and changes in the way new officers are trained.

SWAT interventions have increased from 3000 cases nationwide in 1980, to over 50,0000 cases in 2012, and the criteria for their use has broadened to a frightening degree - so much so that they are now used in simple warrant services where no armed or organized resistance is expected. No knock warrants have gone up a smaller, but similarly frightening amount, and the paramilitary units are far more heavily armed and equipped than ever before.

Officer training has also now shifted from a focus on “de-escalating”, with force as a final alternative, to an approach much more tolerant of non-lethal force and with relaxed restrictions on the escalation to lethal force.

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You might want to put that data into historical perspective.

SWAT only has a relatively short history. In 1980, very few departments actually had a SWAT team of any type. SWAT was possibly first used by the Philadelphia Police Dept. in 1964. Los Angeles put together the first nationally identified team in 1967. (13 years before 1980.) Today, most departments do have SWAT-type teams on hand. So a lot of the increase is just the spread of of SWAT being available as an option. Basically, what’s now being done by SWAT, may have been being done by other officers who did not have that designation before the specialized teams were on hand. (Even 40 years later, there’s still a lot of conflict about their use, and whether or not the teams should exist at all.)

Part of the reason that forces have militarized is that we decided to wage wars for over a decade, and as a result had a lot of soldiers coming home who needed work. Many of them ended up in one of three places: police, private security, or fire. This isn’t me blaming soldiers - I’m saying that people with military training have been brought in to “police” the public at large. It’s a different job, and the two mind sets may not be compatible.

I totally agree with the problems we have about police-involved violence and death. Far too little is being done about it.

An excellent book about the topic is “Radley Balko - Rise of the Warrior Cop - The Militarization of America’s Police Forces”.

Some of the factors are that the smaller towns want their own SWAT teams too, they envy the better equipment to the bigger places, the smaller number of policemen provides smaller pool for the SWATter selection with correspondingly worse cadres, the budget does not allow enough time for proper training so a lot of training is done “on the job” (e.g. by serving warrants in SWAT style), and, last but by far not least, the adrenaline rush of the raid is quite addictive. The cops use pretty much the same words describing the experience as drug users do when describing their highs.


Oh, I’m not disagreeing about their tactics - or problems associated with everyone trying to have this type of force. I just think that the numbers associated with SWAT escalated as the number of teams in existence nationally grew. Prior to that, those numbers were associated with other units doing the same job - and they did. Raids didn’t magically start happening only after SWAT was developed, or the Stonewall riots would never have happened.

It’s similar to the magic jump in people diagnosed with autism. Broadened definitions of the term applying to more cases, both child and adult, actually account for that.

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Full agreement here. The aggressive tendencies of some cops were always there.

The SWATification just grossly amplified them.


The original charter for SWAT was for situations involving hostages or present or expected active armed resistance. The standard now has been reduced to the point where the presence of a person convicted of basic assault ( without a weapon ) can be enough to merit intervention. While proliferation is a factor, I think it is completely fair to debate whether Gainesville, FL ( a College town with 25,000 residents when class is not in session ) should have it’s own SWAT team.

The militarization is (I think) less about soldiers moving into LE, and more about operational changes. Military grade equipment moving in. Free fire light arms, high caliber rifles, APC’s, MRAP’s. Military grade LTL dispersion and crowd control. Dallas has multiple APC’s and a freaking tank. Why?!

It is also a change in the way officers are trained. Military training aside, training is far less focused on de-escalation. Instead of being taught that the standard for lethal force is the last defense of themselves or others, officers are taught that non-compliance and “feeling threatened or in danger” can be sufficient justification to deploy deadly force.


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