The violent crime rate has been almost cut in half over the last 20 years, from 747.1 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 1994 to only 366.1 crimes per 100,000 last year (see chart above). So why at the same time that violent crime has been declining so consistently have we seen such an accompanying epidemic of police violence and SWAT raids, and such a “rise of the warrior cop” in America? Or in the words of John Whitehead, why have so many police search warrants turned into violent death warrants, and why have SWAT teams turned into violent death squads at a time when violent crime is in free-fall? Here’s more from John Whitehead writing for the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va:
How many children, old people, and law-abiding citizens have to be injured, terrorized or killed before we call a halt to the growing rash of police violence that is wracking the country? How many family pets have to be gunned down in cold blood by marauding SWAT teams before we declare such tactics off limits? And how many communities have to be transformed into military outposts, complete with heavily armed police, military tanks, and “safety” checkpoints before we draw that line in the sand that says “not in our town”?
The latest incident comes out of Atlanta, Georgia, where a SWAT team, attempting to execute a no-knock drug warrant in the middle of the night, launched a flash bang grenade into the targeted home, only to have it land in a crib where a 19-month-old baby lay sleeping. The grenade exploded in the baby’s face, burning his face, lacerating his chest, and leaving him paralyzed. He is currently in the hospital in a medically induced coma.
If this were the first instance of police overkill, if it were even the fifth, there might be hope of reforming our system of law enforcement. But what happened to this baby, whose life will never be the same, has become par for the course in a society that glorifies violence, turns a blind eye to government wrongdoing, and sanctions any act by law enforcement, no matter how misguided or wrong. Indeed, as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this state-sponsored violence is a necessary ingredient in any totalitarian regime to ensure a compliant, cowed and fearful populace.
Thus, each time we as a rational, reasoning, free-minded people fail to be outraged by government wrongdoing—whether it’s the SWAT team raids that go awry, the senseless shootings of unarmed citizens, the stockpiling of military weapons and ammunition by government agencies (including small-town police), the unapologetic misuse of our taxpayer dollars for graft and pork, the incarceration of our fellow citizens in forced labor prisons, etc.—we become accomplices in bringing about our own downfall.
This battlefield mindset has so corrupted our law enforcement agencies that the most routine tasks, such as serving a search warrant—intended to uncover evidence of a suspected crime—becomes a death warrant for the alleged “suspect,” his family members and his pets once a SWAT team, trained to kill, is involved.
Unfortunately, SWAT teams are no longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. For example, police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games. A Connecticut SWAT team was sent into a bar that was believed to be serving alcohol to underage individuals. In Arizona, a SWAT team was used to break up an alleged cockfighting ring. An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.
The epidemic of police violence continues to escalate while fear of the police increases and the police state, with all its surveillance gear and military weaponry, expands around us.
MP: America, this is your War on Drugs, which has turned into a cruel, senseless, expensive, immoral, violent, and deadly war against otherwise peaceful Americans, who voluntarily choose to ingest intoxicants currently proscribed by government authorities. We can thank the War on Drugs for the disturbing epidemic of police violence against peaceful Americans, and a war that has increasingly “turned search warrants into death warrants, and SWAT teams into death squads.”