Skip to main content

Law Enforcement: Maryland Bill Would Require SWAT Team Monitoring

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #573)
Politics & Advocacy

Last July, police in Prince Georges County, Maryland, made national news headlines when their SWAT team raided the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo. Police had tracked a box containing marijuana to Calvo's porch, and when he carried the box inside upon returning home, the SWAT team struck. Team members broke down the door, restrained Calvo and his mother-in-law for hours, and shot and killed Calvo's two Labrador retrievers, one while running away.

PolitickerMD cartoon about the Berwyn Heights raid
It would have been just another SWAT raid, except for two things: Calvo and his wife are well-liked public figures, and Calvo was an innocent victim. The real culprits in the case artfully protected their marijuana shipments by having them delivered to unknowing people, in this case the mayor of Berwyn Heights.

Now, in the wake of the Calvo incident, as well as other well-known SWAT raids gone bad, such as the one last year in which a 26-year-old Lima, Ohio, woman was killed and the one a few months later in which a Pennsylvania FBI agent was shot dead by a homeowner who claimed she thought she was defending her family from intruders, a handful of Maryland legislators are trying to rein in the SWAT teams.

A bill filed earlier this month, SB 447, would require police departments to monitor their SWAT team use and report it annually to the governor and the General Assembly. As the bill puts it:

"On a monthly basis, beginning January 1, 2010, a law enforcement agency that maintains a SWAT team shall report the following information to the office of the attorney general using the format developed under subsection (c) of this section:

(1) the number of times the SWAT team was activated and deployed by the law enforcement agency in the previous month;

(2) without identifying an exact address, the approximate location within or outside of the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency to which the SWAT team was deployed for each activation;

(3) the reason for each activation and deployment of the SWAT team;

(4) the legal authority, including type of warrant, if any, for each activation and deployment of the SWAT team; and

(5) the result of each activation and deployment of the SWAT team, including:

(i) the number of arrests made, if any;
(ii) the type of evidence seized, if any;
(iii) whether a forcible entry was made;
(iv) whether a weapon was discharged by a SWAT team member; and
(v) whether a person or domestic animal was injured or killed by a SWAT team member."

"This bill is an important first step that doesn't restrict [SWAT] use," Calvo told the DC Examiner. "It merely brings transparency."

And that would be a much needed beginning to reining in the SWAT teams, which were originally intended for hostage situations and other high-risk affairs, but have ended up being used routinely in drug raids and other law enforcement endeavors. If the bill passes, Maryland would be the first state in the nation to demand accountability from its law enforcement agencies when it comes to SWAT teams.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Moonrider (not verified)

May all other states follow in MD's footsteps, and even take it further, to actual restrictions -- i.e. what specific kinds of situations warrant the deployment of a SWAT unit and make it clear that SWAT units are NOT to be used in any other situation! Personally, I think they should be strictly limited to hostage situations, all other circumstances can be handled by the regular police or a different specialized unit (bomb squads, etc.).

I also feel every state should repeal all laws that make vices into crimes (gambling, consensual "sex crimes" like prostitution, drug laws, etc.) and every law enforcement agency in the nation should be forced to disband their "vice squads", after all vices do not rise to the level of a crime -- there is no "victim" -- so such laws are unconstitutional, and such law enforcement departments are illegal and extraneous.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Sun, 02/22/2009 - 8:12pm Permalink
rita (not verified)

Our local terrorist organization calls itself PANT, which stands for "Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking" -- even their name is a lie. PANT is very proud of what they do, as evidenced by the ski masks they wear and the fact that very few raids are ever reported to the public.

I've long thought, and often suggested, that every PANT raid should be reported in the local news, including facts such as the exact quantities of what, if any, drugs were found, how many highly-paid cops it took to find them and the total cost to the taxpayers of each raid. I'd like the public to know that three raids in 5 months on my home, with 11 cops each time, netted a whopping total of 1 gram of marijuana, 2.8 grams of meth and two 5 mg Oxycontin tablets.

Any SWAT team calling itself a "drug task force" needs to be disbanded. Maybe accountability is the first step. It certainly can't hurt.

Thu, 02/26/2009 - 11:48am Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by rita (not verified)

The smallest Oxycontin tablet is 10mg. The largest Oxycontin made was 160mg. But, it was never distributed to the public in the US. Oxycodone on the other had can come in 5mg, but usually it has acetaminophen mixed in with it, like Percocette, Tylox, etc..

You keep messing with dangerous drugs and you're are gonna die! Especially, if you start mixing them with alcohol! Be careful! I would rather see you getting them from a doctor, instead of illegally. But the drug war keeps you from doing that. It would be, much, safer for you. I hope you have gotten smarter! No one should get caught more than three times, for their own safety!

Thu, 02/26/2009 - 5:44pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Some guy in New York steal 50 billion dollar and sit in his penhouse and sips tea.
A kid sells 1 gram of mary jane and SWAT kills every barking dog. perfect!

Wed, 03/04/2009 - 4:24pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.