Radley Balko pointed out on The Agitator that the Lima, Ohio, SWAT team's web site had an animated gif on it which seemed to fire into the faces of web site visitors: Check out Google's cached copy of the page here to see it in context. Since they killed 26-year-old Tarika Wilson, an innocent mother of six, and maimed her youngest son, a one-year-old, they've taken the violent image off of the site, though. It's not hard to see why they "went in shooting" to her home, as Wilson's sister described it. A policing, SWAT team culture that would allow such an image to go on their own official home page, is a culture that is simply prone to reckless, "cowboy" behavior. Frankly, it seems like they were having a little too much fun being a SWAT team. As the saying goes, "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." This time it was a life that was lost, and a child's finger. But it was never fun for the people on the other end. According to the web page, the Lima SWAT team conducts about 50 raids a year, about once a week. I looked up the city's population to try and get a sense of how much that is, and it's a mere 38,219 (estimate July '06). That's bigger than Mayberry, but it's not a metropolis by any means. So I think that one SWAT raid a week there is a huge number. One would think one was living in Baghdad, for such extreme measures to be used once a week in a jurisdiction that size. The page says that most of the raids were on crack houses. There's the explanation -- they are using the SWAT team not for the extreme or emergency situations that SWAT is meant for, but on routine drug enforcement. The federal government is probably funding them on a per-arrest basis. I can't imagine it's pleasant to live near a crack house. But the overwhelming majority of crack houses don't have drug kingpins or terrorists hiding in them. The appropriate approach is to knock and announce, wait an appropriate amount of time, and then if the door hasn't been opened, to force it open but to do so cautiously. (Actually the appropriate approach is to put the crack houses out of business through legalization, but that's another issue.) Drug dealers are not in the business to kill cops and become the most hunted fugitives on the planet. Drug dealers are trying to make money. Police don't need to enter in dramatic and sudden force to protect their lives. The dealers aren't going to shoot them, they're going to try to disappear or hide or dispose of the evidence. Last year we looked into police officer fatalities doing drug enforcement, and out of two million drug arrests per year we could only find four of them in all of 2006, with only two of those directly related to drug arrests. In the rare situations when you need a SWAT team, it's important that it be there for you. Lima's almost two hours from the nearest big city, Columbus, so maybe they should have their own. But I can only say maybe, partly because there would be at least one more living person in Lima now if they didn't. They certainly shouldn't be using it 50 times a year. PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION TO STOP THE DEADLY SWAT RAIDS.
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