[Update (5/21): The video and petition are live, plus other info -- visit http://www.swatreform.org to check it out, or click the arrow to below to just watch the video here. Scroll down for discussion of what we are hoping this campaign will accomplish. - DB]
This kind of information is not for the faint of heart -- nonviolent, often entirely innocent people, terrorized in their homes when the SWAT team bashes down the door, shouts at them with weapons drawn, handcuffs them while they go on to trash the house. The dogs shot dead, sometimes even people. Rarely with need, never actually helping society in the process.
As angry as this makes us, as much as we would rather not read these stories, the dramatic escalation of SWAT team deployments, and the abuse this represents of ordinary people in more than 50,000 homes across the country each year, demands our attention. No, it demands our outrage, and our commitment to making it stop.
In mid-May (2009) we released a short online video, "SWAT Raids -- No One is Safe," and a new online petition calling for SWAT teams to be reined in. Visit http://www.swatreform.org to check them out. Our goal is that SWAT teams should be available but rarely used. With your help, we hope the video will be seen by many people, and that equally many will sign the petition. Because our system is set up to deliver copies of the petition to signers' federal and state legislators (all with constituent-matching so the legislators will pay attention to them), this will put the overuse of SWAT teams on the radar screen of policymakers in states around the country, paving the way for reform.
Most Americans don't realize that SWAT raids have become so commonplace, or that extreme measures like battering doors down, setting off flash-bang grenades or conducting raids in the middle of the night are used so frequently. When informed of this, they tend to agree with us: A polling question we commissioned from the Zogby firm in fall 2007 found 66% of registered voters don't agree with the raids.
Our video and petition are coming out in the wake of the passage in Maryland of a groundbreaking bill to require SWAT teams to report on their activities and results, which means there couldn't be a better time.
SWAT raids are one extreme form of the drug war as it affects people "on the ground." Ultimately we hope through this effort to build a new grassroots anti-drug war movement to take on issues such as the misuse of informants and asset forfeiture abuse. Ultimately the goal will be to push down the massive numbers of drug arrests and shift policing in a less militaristic, less prohibitionist direction.
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