The documents include after-action reports from 79 SWAT operations between August 2012 and June 2014 by the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC, a consortium of police departments covering 925 square miles in Middlesex and Essex Counties outside Boston.According to NEMLEC, its SWAT team exists to respond to “critical incidents,” mainly “active shooters, armed barricaded subjects, hostage takers, and terrorists.”
However, an examination of the records by the The Intercept demonstrates that such critical incidents are few and far between in Northeast Massachusetts. Nonetheless, SWAT teams frequently roll out in “NEMLEC Communities,” carried in BearCat armored response vehicles and armed with flash-bang grenades.
Just one of the 79 SWAT deployments in 2012-14 — assistance with the search for the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing — involved terrorism. Other SWAT actions during that period show no hostage situations, no active shooters and only 10 non-suicidal barricaded subjects.
About half of the remaining cases involved everyday and often mundane police activity, including executing warrants, dealing with expected rioting after a 2013 Red Sox World Series game, and providing security for a Dalai Lama lecture. In one mission, 15 SWAT team members roved through Salem’s Halloween celebrations looking out for unspecified “gang-related activity,” but were warned by their commanders to maintain a “professional demeanor” given that “everyone has a camera phone and you don’t want to be on YouTube or the news later.”
The remaining 37 SWAT actions were either proactive drug operations, initiated by local police, or suicide response operations.
Pete Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University who has spent his career studying the militarization of police, argues that the use of SWAT units in drug operations unnecessarily exposes poor communities to paramilitary forces.
“It is really significant to remember that SWAT teams prior to the 1980s drug war were confined strictly to reactive, dangerous situations,” Kraska told The Intercept. “But in our research today we find that over 80 percent of the time police departments are using SWAT teams for proactive cases. These deployments are generally targeted at low-level drug dealers … and usually they’re just doing it for collecting evidence — not necessarily to even arrest a well-known, armed, dangerous drug dealer.”
Indeed, of the 21 SWAT narcotics warrant operations detailed in the documents, only five of them even mention recovering drugs. And the largest of these finds was five ounces of cocaine and 61 grams of heroin — hardly the stash of the next Sinaloa Cartel.
And despite the pettiness of their operations, the NEMLEC SWAT teams’ forceful tactics would make one think they were on the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
More than half of the SWAT teams’ drug operations were initiated at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. Furthermore, of the 22 narcotics operations detailed in the documents over the two years, 14 included warrants authorizing SWAT teams to conduct “no knock” raids and four authorizing “knock and announce” raids — both of which are forceful entry options that have madenational headlines for the accidental killings, injuries, and trauma they can produce.
In one February 2013 operation, 18 SWAT team members descended on a residence thought to be a site of illegal drug activity in Lowell, Massachusetts. In conjunction with local police, the unit conducted a no-knock raid despite pre-raid intelligence showing the possible presence of a child. Finding a woman who “appeared to be preparing illegal drugs for use intravenously,” the unit arrested all five adults in the residence for unspecified drug charges.
The team also found not one child but three, escorted them out of the house, sent them to the hospital, and filed a child abuse and neglect report with the Department of Children and Families. The only “events/items of note” in the case report summary are the five arrests and unspecified amounts of narcotics and cash.
Tom Nolan, an associate professor of criminology at Merrimack College and a former Boston Police Department lieutenant, similarly believes that SWAT units’ focus on areas like suicide response are a waste of limited public resources and can make fraught situations worse.
“I was a Boston police officer and was on some of the first SWAT deployments in the 70s. Those were only for armed barricaded subjects in buildings, the reason we were deployed were for hostage situations or threats to harm others,” Nolan said. “That’s why they were established. What we’re beginning to see is that in small towns like where NEMLEC has jurisdiction, their officers want to be on SWAT teams, so they’re looking for any justifiable way to get on.”
“It’s certainly counter-productive to have a fully-armed militarized SWAT team respond to potentially suicidal suspects who are looking for ways out like suicide-by-cop situations,” contended Nolan. “I don’t know why you couldn’t just have someone respond who knows negotiation strategy techniques, without the tanks and the body armor.”
Some of the NEMLEC documents illustrate this problem. In one August 2012 SWAT operation, team members came to the home of a man who had told his father that he wanted police to kill him and barricaded himself in his bedroom. And with the arrival of 18 SWAT officers, referred to as “operators” in the reports, he almost got his wish. Fearing that he had hung himself, they broke into his room — and finding him instead “holding two large knives and hiding behind the headboard of the bedframe,” they immediately tased him, hitting him in the chest twice. The man then jumped out his glass window, lunging at outside SWAT team members with his knife. An operator then subdued him as he attempted to cut himself, covering several operators with blood.
In both the drug raids and operations dealing with potential suicides, the actions involved a startlingly large number of officers:
NEMLEC’s non-drug or suicide SWAT actions often show similar apparent overkill. “There’s certainly a need for SWAT teams to accompany officers if it has been proven that there are verified armed suspects,” said Nolan. “But far too often officers come in with SWAT teams on a hunch or what-if feeling that there are weapons present.”
In fact, though police departments often cite dangerous armed threats to justify SWAT involvement in seemingly low-level warrant operations, data from the NEMLEC documents suggest this danger is exaggerated. Of the 33 search or arrest warrant operations conducted by NEMLEC’s SWAT units between 2012 and 2014, only four found any firearms — all of them pistols, handguns, or revolvers.
And even in these four cases the response sometimes appears disproportionate to the risk. For example, in a December 2013 “emergency call-out,” a 28-person SWAT team used a BearCat vehicle in an operation to “contain” a disabled, wheelchair-bound man who had been accused of shooting at a woman’s car with a revolver in a dispute over pain medication.
Armed with tasers, long arms, a shotgun, 40mm less-lethal rounds, shields and battering rams, the SWAT unit rolled up to his apartment and were let in by one of the suspect’s associates. When the suspect did not open his bedroom door despite promising to do so, a shield team smashed their way in, only to find the suspect having difficulties getting up from his bed due to physical disabilities. The report reads, “The suspect was contained by the team and given the opportunity to get dressed and remove his catheter.” (The team later found the revolver between the head of the bed and the wall.)
NEMLEC did not respond to several requests for comment. In a peculiar twist, when the SWAT documents were first requested by the ACLU in 2012 under Massachusetts’ open government laws, NEMLEC claimed it was a private corporation and hence beyond the laws’ reach. The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year, and in a recent settlement NEMLEC reversed its position and released the records. According to Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty project at the ACLU of Massachusetts, “It’s critical for the public to have reports like this on a routine basis. There’s been a pretty robust debate about the militarization of the police, but it’s very difficult for the public to have an accurate picture of raids because we don’t hear about the day-to-day grind of SWAT teams in the drug war. Transparency is absolutely critical for oversight.”
Do you think the reason the spinosaurus was aggressive could be that it was ingens first attempt at a military dino? Like an indominus jr! They went behind hammonds back and created a spinosaurus cross breed with who knows what else...
Well, since we now know that Spinosaurus was quadrupedal, it could be speculated that InGen scientists found the DNA and then modified it to make it bipedal. This could be seen as a sort of militarization.
It may have been aggressive because of what you said, but I always thought it was because the humans had threatened it (by running into it with the plane) and therefore it wanted them out of its territory. Who knows?
Those cops in riot armor beating and tear-gassing protesters in Ferguson didn’t drop out of thin air. As American police continue to receive billions in military-grade equipment free or subsidized by the Pentagon and Homeland Security, they’ve predictably started to act more like a military force in hostile territory than the public’s protectors.
‘Not on our soil’: US border patrol agent won’t be charged over killing of 17-year-old Mexican youth August 11, 2013
US authorities will not bring charges against a US Border Patrol agent who shot dead a Mexican youth suspected of drug trafficking right through the fence insulating the US from Mexico as the Justice Department “lacks jurisdiction” to do it.
US federal authorities announced on Friday that the decision was based on “the facts developed during an independent and comprehensive investigation.” The US Justice Department officials in Washington insist investigators revealed no facts to support federal prosecution for any federal criminal charge.
The incident took place on January 5, 2011, when 17-year-old Ramses Barron-Torres was fatally wounded with a single shot in an early morning incident at the US-Mexico border fence in Arizona’s largest international border town of Nogales.
Border Patrol received a report about drugs being moved across the border. On arrival they pinpointed a man carrying a bundle with alleged drugs who made an escape attempt while his withdrawal was covered by four people who pelted agents with stones from Mexican territory, forcing the agents to take cover.
According to the agents’ report they ordered the stone throwers to stop in Spanish, but one of them, Ramses Barron-Torres, continued with the barrage, so law enforcement simply shot him through the border fence once.
On Friday the US Justice Department officials announced no sufficient evidence has been found to prove this was not self-defense, as claimed by Border Patrol agent.
Besides that, the US authorities also claim lack of jurisdiction to prosecute the agent because the young man was killed on Mexican side of the border.
The US federal criminal civil-rights statute “requires that the victim be in the United States when he was injured” to prosecute the agent, US authorities said Friday.
At the same time the US authorities addressed another fatal incident that took place in 2011 and also involved stone throwing.
Carlos LaMadrid, 19, was shot with four bullets in Arizona’s border town of Douglas on March 21, 2011, and died several hours later in hospital undergoing surgery.
According to Douglas police, LaMadrid was observed loading bundles of drugs into a vehicle and was pursued to the border fence by officers refusing to stop. Having arrived at the border, LaMadrid allegedly jumped out of the car and attempted to escape using a ladder propped against the border fence, while another man was stoning Border Patrol agents with ‘brick-size’ stones, eventually shattering the windshield of the patrol vehicle.
Though no agent was hurt, they returned fire with lethal force ‘regrettably’ killing a suspect.
The agents claim they made five shots at the unidentified man throwing stones, but because LaMadrid happened to be on the firing line, he was wounded with four bullets and died. US federal authorities ruled the agents were acting in self-defense.
The names of the agents involved in both deadly shootings have never been revealed for security reasons.
The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute reports of at least 10 incidents in the past five years when the US border agents fired into Mexican territory, eventually killing six Mexicans.
Last year there were 171 deaths along the US/Mexico border. Now with the new immigration “reform” bill, allocates $47 billion (yes, billion) to “secure” the border with high-tech surveillance, drones & more border patrol agents for what Sen. John McCain calls “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall."
There is already absolutely no accountability for the US role in these deaths of immigrants every year. Now with an even more militarized border, immigrants must cross through even more dangerous death zones to cross into the US.
Listen, when I tell yall that the corruption in Ferguson runs deep, it runs DEEEEEP!
When Ferguson 1st hired a PR, it was all white. After backlash from the community and those standing in solidarity with Ferguson protesters, they fired the PR and hired Devin James.
The Mayor states the he and Ferguson officials all knew of James’ past conviction of reckless homicide (he shot and killed an unarmed man) BEFORE signing the contract to hire him.
However, Kathryn Jamboretz of the St. Louis Economic Development (the agency that is paying James’ bills), says no one in the organization knew about James’ past and admits they didn’t do a background check.
The city of Ferguson has now fired Devin James as PR for his past murder conviction.
Meanwhile, Ferguson fires Devin James for his criminal past but wont fire nor arrest Darren Wilson … … … .
*Quick note: I googled Devin James and instantly pulled up his murder conviction*
This thing is not for The Enemies of the United States (although obviously anyone can use it.) It’s for all of us. In their own words:
Our ancestors could spot natural predators from far by their silhouettes. Are we equally aware of the predators in the present-day? Drones are remote-controlled planes that can be used for anything from surveillance and deadly force, to rescue operations and scientific research. Most drones are used today by military powers for remote-controlled surveillance and attack, and their numbers are growing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted in 2012 that within 20 years there could be as many as 30.000 drones flying over U.S. Soil alone. As robotic birds will become commonplace in the near future, we should be prepared to identify them. This survival guide is an attempt to familiarze ourselves and future generations, with a changing technological environment.
Discovered by Sobchak security, the guide also has extensive information on the other side, including “tactics for hiding from drones and interfering with the drones’ sensors, collected from various online sources” and how to hack them.
The 9-foot-tall armored truck was intended for an overseas battlefield. But as President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.
During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.
The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”
Watch this video, taken from a police raid in Des Moines, Iowa. Send it to some people. When critics (like me) warn about the dangers of police militarization, this is what we’re talking about. You’ll see the raid team, dressed in battle-dress uniforms, helmets and face-covering balaclava hoods take down the family’s door with a battering ram. You’ll see them storm the home with ballistics shields, guns at the ready. More troubling still, you’ll see not one but two officers attempt to prevent the family from having an independent record of the raid, one by destroying a surveillance camera, another by blocking another camera’s lens.
From the images in the video, you’d think they were looking for an escaped murderer or a house full of hit men. No, none of that. They were looking for a few people suspected of credit card fraud. None of the people they were looking for were inside of the house, nor was any of the stolen property they were looking for. They did arrest two houseguests of the family on what the news report says were unrelated charges, one for a probation violation and one for possession of illegal drugs.
Note that police department officials say they “do not have a written policy governing how search warrants are executed.” That’s inexcusable. Most police departments do. But whether or not they’re governed by a formal policy, the use of these kinds of tactics for nonviolent crimes like credit card fraud is hardly unusual, and it’s happening more often, not less. I’ve reported on jurisdictions where all felony search warrants are now served with a SWAT team. At least one federal appeals court has now ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, there’s nothing unreasonable about using a SWAT team to perform regulatory inspections. To be fair, two others have ruled that such tactics are not reasonable. But it’s concerning that this would even be up for debate. We have plenty of discussion and analysis about when searches are appropriate. We also need to start talking about how.
The day began with questions about why a young man was killed. It ended as a referendum on the militarization of American police forces.
“What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind a municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod.”
“We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations. Such is the logic of patriotism.”
Emma Goldman, “Patriotism, a Menace to Liberty” (1911)
Police militarization comes under nationwide investigation March 6, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign to investigate the growing trend of placing militarized police units in cities and towns across the country.
Doors busted down and windows smashed in. It’s becoming more of a regular occurrence each day in America as heavily-armed SWAT teams are being sent to the homes of suspects, often nonviolent ones, with enough firepower to take down a small army. In November, a botched raid ended with an 18-year-old girl in the hospital. Other incidents haven’t been exactly isolated either: guns get drawn on both grannies and grandkids alike, and equipping law enforcement officers with the means to make these nightmares become reality is easier by the day.
Police units across the US are becoming more like militaries than the serve-and-protect do-gooders that every young schoolboy once aspired to be. Not only are officers being trained to act with intensity as the number of these home invasions increase, but more and more police departments are being awarded arsenals of heavy-duty weaponry that are then being turned not onto members of al-Qaeda, but innocent children and unsuspecting house guests.
ACLU affiliates across the United States filed Freedom of Information Act requests with law enforcement agencies on Wednesday in hope of obtaining as much material as possible relevant to the ongoing expansion of small town police squads to heavily armed squadrons of soldiers.
“Federal funding in the billions of dollars has allowed state and local police departments to gain access to weapons and tactics created for overseas combat theaters – and yet very little is known about exactly how many police departments have military weapons and training, how militarized the police have become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend,” reads a statement released by the ACLU.“It’s time to understand the true scope of the militarization of policing in America and the impact it is having in our neighborhoods.”
On Wednesday, the ACLU issued a statement saying branches and affiliates in 23 states around the country filed over 255 public records requests only hours after the investigation was formally launched. The agencies hope that, by analyzing documents, can learn more about the extent that “federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments.”
“Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color,” explains Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the ACLU’s Center for Justice. “We’ve seen examples of this in several localities, but we don’t know the dimensions of the problem.”
The ACLU says they want to know as much as possible about the type of training given to local SWAT officers, as well as information about the types of technology used by agencies around the country. Through the FOIA requests, the ACLU hopes to learn what types of weapons have been used, who they’ve been used on and what the end result has been. They also want documentation pertaining to the growing use of GPS technology, surveillance drones and any agreements between local police departments and the National Guard. The ACLU is also interested in any relationships between small law enforcement units and the US Departs of Defense and Homeland Security.
“The American people deserve to know how much our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” adds Allie Bohm, an advocacy and policy strategist for ACLU. “The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans’ right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”
In 2011, the Department of Defense gave half-a-billion dollars’ worth of military machinery that would have been left otherwise unused to law enforcement agencies coast-to-coast. Among the items offered up to officers at no cost at all that year were grenade launchers, helicopters, military robots, M-16 assault rifles and armored vehicles. Before 2012 came to a close, figures for that year was expected to end with more than a 400 percent increase.
Peter Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University, tells journalist Radley Balko that while the militarization of police squads is indeed accelerating, it isn’t likely the ACLU will get all the answers they want.
“My experience is that they’ll have a very difficult time getting comprehensive, forthright information,“ Kraska says. "If the goal here is to impose some transparency, you have to understand, that’s not what the SWAT industry wants.”