Cato Institute Briefing Paper Warns of "Culture of Paramilitarism" in Law Enforcement 9/10/99

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


Members of the Compton community in Los Angeles County were horrified at the shooting death last month of Mario Paz at the hands of a SWAT team from El Monte. Paz, a 64-year old grandfather, was shot twice in the back by police. No one in the Paz household was named in the search warrant, but their address was found among papers in the home of a neighbor who was suspected of drug dealing. The police expected to find "marijuana and cash." The 20-member SWAT team shot the locks off the door, shot out a window, set off diversionary explosives within and outside the house, and invaded at 11:00pm, when Paz and his family were asleep. A neighbor told the LA Times, "It was like war." No drugs were found. (See Week Online coverage at

A briefing paper released last month by the Cato Institute explains disproportionate police use of military style force as a consequence of federal policies that have blurred the traditional separation between police and military forces. In "Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments," Diane Cecilia Weber outlines legislative and policy initiatives -- motivated primarily by the war on drugs -- that have led to a proliferation of heavy weaponry and paramilitary tactics in domestic policing.

According to Weber, "Police departments have evolved into increasingly centralized, authoritarian, autonomous and militarized bureaucracies." One of the most disturbing developments has been the dramatic increase in the number of SWAT teams across the country, in communities both large and small, and their deployment in routine policing activity, as opposed to the hostage, sniper and other extraordinary situations for which SWAT teams were originally formed.

Weber writes, "Because of their close collaboration with the military, SWAT units are taking on the warrior mentality of our military's special forces," and "The mindset of the warrior is simply not appropriate for the civilian police officer charged with enforcing the law." While soldiers are trained to confront an "enemy" and to use overwhelming force, officers of the peace are obligated to use the minimum force necessary to apprehend suspects, to bring them alive to a trial with presumption of innocence, and to respect individuals' Constitutional rights. Confusing the police function with the military function has led to dangerous and unintended consequences, including unnecessary killings, such as Mario Paz in Los Angeles and Esequiel Hernandez near the Texas-Mexico border.

"Warrior Cops" is available on the Cato Institute site at Also, read about Cato's "Beyond Prohibition" conference in Washington next month, featuring New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, at

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #107, 9/10/99 First National Student Conference on Drug Policy and Justice, November 5-6, Washington, DC | New Mexico Poll: 60% Agree Drug War is Failing, Disagree on Solutions | Australia: UN Drug Official Slams Safe Injecting Room | Canada: Starbucks Needle Disposal Prompts Investigation | Insurance Company Reimburses Patient for Seized Marijuana | SAMHSA Study Calls for More Workplace Drug Treatment, but Also Supports More Drug Testing | Quote of the Week | Cato Institute Briefing Paper Warns of "Culture of Paramilitarism" in Law Enforcement | Editorial: Standing Up 101
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en Espa�ol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em Portugu�s Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]