The overuse and abuse of paramilitrary SWAT teams

Printed in the Herald-Times, October 19, 2011

To the editor:

The trial of a Detroit police officer for shooting and killing a 7 year old child is a sobering reminder of why we need to have stronger oversight of and regulations on the use of paramilitary SWAT teams.

The Detroit police needed to apprehend a murder suspect. But was it really necessary to use a dangerous flash bang grenade and go charging into a home in the middle of the night wielding assault rifles? Could the suspect have been apprehended without using overwhelming force? Keep in mind that reports that flash bang grenades – technically “less lethal” weapons – can cause fatalities.

When you hear about police using military-style weaponry raiding homes in the middle of the night, you would think this happened in the former Soviet Union, not the United States.

There are occasions where SWAT teams are appropriate. But as I pointed out in my August 2010 letter to the editor, they are overused, and the overuse of SWAT teams creates unnecessarily confrontational and dangerous situations.

There is no reason that Aiyana Stanley-Jones should be dead. Aiyana might be alive today if the police served a warrant for the arrest of Chauncey Owens through traditional means.

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