SWAT teams new face of police agencies
Militarization of law enforcement going full steam ahead
28 July 2013
Jack Minor is a journalist and researcher who served in the United States Marine Corps under President Reagan. Also a former pastor, he has written hundreds of articles and been interviewed about his work on many TV and radio outlets.
A key distinction between the U.S. and other nations, even relatively free nations, long has been American restrictions on domestic use of the military, for police actions, law enforcement and keeping things under control.
However, when the local police officer or sheriff’s deputy is equipped with night vision goggles, laser-scope rifles, electronic eavesdropping equipment and body armor and comes up a citizen’s driveway in a military-type personnel carrier with shielded windows and oversize wheels, the prohibitions seem to lose some of their teeth.
It’s an issue on which WND has reported for more than a decade, and others now are taking note.
Since 1878, with the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act, it has long been an established legal principle that the federal government is not allowed to use the military to enforce federal or state laws.
In recent years, the law has been modified to allow the president to deploy federal troops to enforce the law. Two of the most notable cases are President Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to send federal troops into Little Rock, Ark., to enforce desegregation and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
However, while American armed forces may be limited in their ability to enforce the law, the act is essentially being circumvented by militarizing local enforcement, equipping it with some of the same equipment, training and tactics used in war zones.
Radley Balko raised the issue recently a Wall Street Journal article, “Rise of the Warrior Cop.” He says the trend is to erase the line between military and law enforcement.
“Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier,” Balko wrote. “Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment – from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers – American police forces have often adopted a mindset previously reserved for the battlefield.”
Balko said the “war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop – armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”
The number of local jurisdictions with SWAT teams has increased dramatically in recent years, employed now by the majority of police departments in small and medium-sized cities.
Balko cites surveys by criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, who noted that in 1983 just 13 percent of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team. However, by 2005 the figure was up to 80 percent.
With the increase in the number of SWAT teams, local police have increasingly used the new technology and training even in cases in which their use is questionable.
The article noted that along with the increase in the number of SWAT teams has come a corresponding increase in raids by the military-style trained officers. In the 1970s there were just a few hundred raids per year, however, in the 1980s the number of raids jumped to 3,000 per year. In 2005, the number is a stratospheric 50,000.
Balko highlighted the case of Matthew Stewart, a U.S. military veteran. Police got a tip he was growing marijuana in his basement. Stewart was awakened when the battering ram knocked down the door and. Thinking he was being attacked by criminals, he picked up a firearm and began shooting before being killed by officers.After the shooting, police found 16 marijuana plants, and although the plants were illegal, there was no evidence he was selling the drug. Stewart’s father said his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may possibly have used the marijuana to self-medicate.
While many Americans are concerned about the increased firepower possessed by local law enforcement, Balko said the problem is more pervasive than just local police departments, noting that many federal departments now have their own personal SWAT department.
Among the government agencies with their own SWAT teams are the Department of the Interior, NASA and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Even the Department of Education has its own “special forces” team.
Balko noted the federal department has sent SWAT team members to raid the home of a woman who authorities said was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program. The raid raised eyebrows because it was it was the first time the public was aware the Education Department possessed such a unit.
Whenever the issue is brought up, officials claim the increased armament and hardware is needed because of threats faced by law enforcement that were not present decades ago. In the 1980s the rationale was the war on drugs, while in recent years it has been preventing domestic terrorist attacks.
However, the data does not back up such claims. The Colorado-based Independence Institute noted in a 1991 study that less than one-eighth of 1 percent of U.S. homicides were committed with military-style weapons. In the years since the 1991 report, additional studies have all reached similar conclusions including one by the Clinton Justice Department in 1995 and the National Institute for Justice in 2004.
While police departments have engaged in military tactics and training for their SWAT teams, they have been frequently limited by law and by finances. However, after the Muslim terrorist attacks on 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security began to offer federal grants to allow local police departments to upgrade their arsenal.
The Center for Investigative Reporting has said that since its inception in 2002, DHS has doled out $35 billion in grants to help militarize police forces with items such as grenade launchers and even armored personnel carriers.
In 1999, WND reported a proposed change in a federal regulation would be going into effect that would allow federal agencies to donate “surplus” firearms to state and local law enforcement entities.
The previous regulation permitted federal agencies to donate or sell trucks, boats, aircraft and even space vehicles to state and local agencies and to individuals. But the federal property management regulations drew a line in the sand when it came to agencies like the Forest Service or FBI transferring actual weapons either by gift or sale.
But under the new regulations, used handguns, rifles, shotguns, individual light automatic weapons up to 50 caliber, and rifle and shoulder-fired grenade launchers up to 75 mm could be transferred to state agencies for donation to state and local public agencies.
In 2011, the Pentagon gave away $500 million in military equipment to help bolster the armories of local law-enforcement.
Earlier this year the American Civil Liberties Union became concerned about the issue, saying in March it was filing a series of open records requests in 25 states and National Guard offices in an attempt to discover the extent to which federal funding have helped local police departments become more militarized.
“Federal funding in the billions of dollars has allowed state and local police departments to gain access to weapons and tactics created for overseas combat theaters – and yet very little is known about exactly how many police departments have military weapons and training, how militarized the police have become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend,” the ACLU said on its website.
While the issue is now beginning to generate concern over perceived threats to constitutional liberties by the Obama administration in light of the IRS and NSA scandals, WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah began reporting the trend to militarize the police in 1998.
In a column headlined “The cops are out of control,” Farah lamented that while in years past seeing a police officer gave him a sense of security, it was no longer the case because of recent actions by SWAT teams.
“The recent incidents in Oklahoma, where police shot an unarmed mother holding her child in her home, in Virginia, where a SWAT team killed a watchman guarding a dice game at an after-hours club and in California, where a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid on a gun shop resulted in the death of the shopkeeper, provide some hard evidence that police in America may be getting out of control,” Farah warned at the time.
He went on to note the danger of police agencies acquiring military gear even back then.
“The biggest danger we face is the federalization and militarization of all law enforcement. Interagency task forces, bringing together local and state police with federal agents are now the rule of the day,” Farah noted. “Federal agencies bribe local cops with funding, equipment and training programs.”
The challenged to the Fourth Amendment generated by the use of SWAT teams and no-knock warrants is likely to continue as a result of a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2011.
In a 3-2 ruling, the court ruled that there is no right for a private citizen to resist illegal entry by a police officer. The court stated in its ruling “that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”
The case involved Richard Barnes, who faced misdemeanor charges for resisting a police officer who had entered his home without a warrant. According to the ruling, the case began when Barnes got into an argument with his wife, Mary. During the argument Barnes threw a phone against a wall, prompting his wife to call 911. She told the dispatcher that Barnes was throwing things but did not strike her. The call went out as “domestic violence in progress.”
Officer Lenny Reed arrived at the scene and met Richard Barnes outside as he was leaving with luggage. Barnes told the officer he was leaving and raised his voice. Mary Barnes then came out, threw a bag at her husband and told him to get the rest of his stuff.
The couple returned to the apartment and Richard Barnes blocked the officers from entering. Reed attempted to enter the apartment and was thrown against the wall by Barnes. Officers Jason Henry and Reed used a choke hold and Taser to subdue Barnes.
After being found guilty of battery on a police officer, resisting law-enforcement and disorderly conduct, Richard Barnes appealed the ruling. His basis was that the jury had not been given instructions regarding the right of a citizen to reasonably resist entry into his home.
The Indiana Supreme Court, in a stunning conclusion, stated: “This court is faced for the first time with the question of whether Indiana should recognize the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”
“We conclude that public policy disfavors any such right.”
A WND columnist excoriated the ruling, saying, “Our founders, whatever the differences among them, would be enraged” at the notion that private citizens secure in their homes have no right to resist entry by officers without a warrant.
WND reports on SWAT raids on the innocent
Violence reflects growing militarization of local police
28 July 2013
Jack Minor is a journalist and researcher who served in the United States Marine Corps under President Reagan. Also a former pastor, he has written hundreds of articles and been interviewed about his work on many TV and radio outlets.WND has been reporting on the trend to militarize local police departments for more than a decade. Here is a list of reports on the trend, which recently has begun to garner significant additional attention:
WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah wrote in a 1998 column titled “The cops are out of control” that while in years past seeing a police officer gave him a sense of security, it was no longer the case because of recent actions at the time by SWAT teams.
“The recent incidents in Oklahoma, where police shot an unarmed mother holding her child in her home, in Virginia, where a SWAT team killed a watchman guarding a dice game at an after-hours club and in California, where a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid on a gun shop resulted in the death of the shopkeeper, provide some hard evidence that police in America may be getting out of control,” Farah said.
He went on to note the danger of police agencies acquiring military gear even back then.
“The biggest danger we face is the federalization and militarization of all law enforcement. Inter-agency task forces, bringing together local and state police with federal agents are now the rule of the day,” Farah noted. “Federal agencies bribe local cops with funding, equipment and training programs.”
In 1999, there was a report about law enforcement officers in El Monte, Calif., executing a no-knock warrant when they raided the home of a retired grandfather while looking for drugs. The elderly gentleman was shot twice in the back by the city’s SWAT team who then hauled his widow out of the house in nothing but panties, a towel and plastic handcuffs. The supposed drugs were nowhere to be found.
During the raid, the officers shot the locks off the doors, fired a “diversionary device” into a back bedroom and a flash grenade on the ground behind the house. The incident is even more shocking when one considers it occurred in Los Angeles County, well outside the officers’ jurisdiction.
20 armed agents
In 1998, there was WND’s report that 20 heavily armed federal agents and local sheriff’s deputies descended from a military helicopter onto rocky Santa Cruz Island off the California coast. As snipers moved into position along the ridge tops to secure the perimeter of the attack area, other agents staged dynamic entries into the buildings – rousting 15-year-old Crystal Graybeel, who was sleeping late in her cabin.“They started screaming, ‘Put your hands where we can see them.’ They unzipped my sleeping bag. I had to get face down on the floor and they handcuffed me,” the teenager said.
She recalled the intruders wore ski masks and carried machine guns. They kept her handcuffed for two hours.
The target of the raid? A 6,500-acre bow-and-arrow hunting ranch, the last bastion of private property on the island. The raid resulted in three arrests – volunteer Rick Berg, 35, and caretakers Dave Mills, 34, and Brian Krantz, 33 – on suspicion of robbing Chumash Indian graves and taking human remains and artifacts, charges they denied.
WND report in 1999 a proposed change in a federal regulation that would allow federal agencies to donate “surplus” firearms to state and local law enforcement entities.
The previous regulation permitted federal agencies to donate or sell trucks, boats, aircraft and even space vehicles to state and local agencies and to individuals, but the federal property management regulations drew a line in the sand when it came to agencies like the Forest Service or FBI transferring actual weapons either by gift or sale.
Under the new regulations, used handguns, rifles, shotguns, individual light automatic weapons up to 50 caliber, and rifle and shoulder-fired grenade launchers up to 75 mm could be transferred to state agencies for donation to state and local public agencies.
A 1999 article reported George and Katrina Stokes were watching TV in their southeastern Washington, D.C., home when the local SWAT team crashed through the front door armed like something out of a Arnold Schwarzenegger film.
George was forced to the ground at gunpoint, cutting his head in the process while his wife fell down the basement stairs in an attempt to evade the intruders. A local television crew happened to be along on the raid with cameras running. When the SWAT team realized they had raided the wrong house, they simply ran back to their cars and drove off in search of the right address.
Might be a gun?
Just this year, WND reported police in Texas executed a no-knock warrant solely on the basis they believed the occupant of the house may have had a gun.
Police believed there was an AK-47 rifle inside the home after receiving a tip that the homeowner’s son had drugs in the home. Police found less than a gram of cocaine.
A 2000 WND story told how police officers in Lebanon, Tenn., raided the home of 64-year-old John Adams as he was watching television.
After hearing knocking at the door, John’s wife, Loriane, went to answer. There was no reply when she asked for identification. As she stood there, the door was kicked in and five officers stormed the house, immediately cuffing Loriane.
John was killed after officers said he came at them with a shotgun and they were forced to fire back. Neighbors said John probably believed the attack was a home invasion. It was later revealed the officers had the wrong house and shot the wrong man.
While Adams’ name was on the warrant, the description of Adams’ home and the warranted house did not match. The house the officers intended to raid was actually next door.
In 2004, landscape contractor Blair Davis was stunned when he answered the door of his Houston home and he found himself looking down the barrel of a pistol.
The barrel and nearly a dozen others like it – drawn and ready for action – belonged to the more than 10 members of the Harris County Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force. Once inside, the team shouted Davis down to the floor. The reason for the raid was officers thought several ornamental Texas hibiscus plants were marijuana.Targeting smoke shopPolice raids have even been conducted on Indian reservations. In 2003, a Rhode Island State Police raid on the Narragansett Indian tribe’s newly opened tax-free smoke shop turned into a violent melee that sent eight tribal members to the hospital and another seven – including the chief – to jail.
The tobacco shop was opened on tribal land over the objections of the state’s governor, Don Carcieri, who deemed the shop illegal.
Footage by a local TV station showed a line of troopers entering the parking lot of the shop pushing their way past resistant tribal members. Fists flew and troopers wrestled tribal leaders to the ground and handcuffed them. At one point, a trooper grabbed a tribal member standing guard outside of the smoke shop by the throat, while Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas grabbed the trooper from behind in a bear hug.
Christian non-profits have not been immune to the military-style tactics by officers. WND noted in 2010 that the Federal Drug Administration spearheaded a raid against Daniel Chapter One, a ministry that supports itself in part by providing health counseling and nutritional supplements.
Jim Feijo, founder of the organization told WND he had no idea why the government raided his offices, but he noted that the raid came Sept. 22, a week after a federal judge refused to allow the FTC to levy a massive fine against Daniel Chapter One for refusing to send a letter to customers saying in effect that their products were worthless.
“They patted Jim down and removed him from the office. They didn’t show me a warrant. They came in very aggressively, that was needless,” said Tricia Feijo, Jim’s wife and partner and a trained homeopath.
“They locked us out of the building and for the next four hours they went through everything. They took personal correspondence, they took phone records. It’s so over the top that they’re going through personal e-mail to see if I told a friend how to use a certain product, or told somebody what they could do for an illness.”Come to your doctorIn 2008, WND reported an incident involving SWAT members of a Colorado sheriff’s department who stormed a family’s house and held them at gunpoint to take custody of an 11-year-old for a medical exam sought by social services.
The 11-year-old, Jonathan Shiflett, had suffered bruises while horsing around in a mobile home park near New Castle where the family lives. But his father, Tom Shiflett, refused to allow paramedics who arrived after a neighbor apparently called 911 to treat his son. The father refused to allow the ambulance crew to take Jonathan to a hospital.
Multiple visits by police officers and sheriff’s deputies brought the same response, as did a visit from Social Services employees, who reported to court authorities:
“Thomas Shiflett shouted at this worker and advised this worker that if he obtained a court order, he better ‘bring an army,’” according to an affidavit filed by Matthew McGaugh, a caseworker for the Garfield County Department of Social Services.
The statement to “bring an army” was the basis for the sheriff’s executing a SWAT raid despite a court order simply directing him to search the home and remove the child.
Also in 2008, John and Jackie Stowers, along with their children, were held at gunpoint by a SWAT team while their food supplies were confiscated.
“The Stowerses and their 10 children and grandchildren were detained in one room of their home for six hours while sheriff’s officers confiscated 60 boxes of fresh farm food, computers, phones and records, including USDA-certified meat from the children’s mini-farm,” according to lawyers for the family.
The couple was providing a private food cooperative for their friends and neighbors. However, an undercover agent persuaded the couple to sell him a dozen eggs. After they did so, authorities used the sale as the basis for their raid, claiming they were operating a food store.
I told you this was wrong address
Last year, agents from the BATF conducted a raid on the home of Linda Greigo and threatened her son after entering her home without a warrant while looking for the previous tenant of the home, who had lived there over a year before.
Greigo told WND that after officers broke in they pointed multiple machine pistols with laser sights on her 8-year-old son, Colby.
Officers had previously visited the house in an attempt to locate Angela Hernandez, and each time Greigo informed them that the woman did not live there anymore. She even went so far as to tell them how to locate Hernandez.
“I tell them to contact social services because she is getting government benefits. She is on Section 8 housing, if the state is paying her rent, they should be able to find her,” Griego said. “I have even seen her at Wal-Mart all the time. How hard can it be for authorities to track this woman down?”
Despite the helpful tip, officers eventually came to her house and broke in without knocking. On the day of the incident, around 6:30 a.m., Griego was in the shower getting ready for work when she heard a knock on the door.
Dressed only in a towel she answered the door and was violently grabbed and yanked outside where she was pushed up against the house and handcuffed by authorities.
It was only after emptying her purse and seeing her ID they realized she was not the person they were after.
*******Big Sis' shockingly dirty secrets go public'
There's just something really weird that happened under Janet Napolitano'
22 July 2013
“What the Department of Homeland Security became under Janet Napolitano is this monstrous surveillance and very intimidating group,” said Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead, a constitutional attorney for the past 40 years and author of “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.”
“I think originally there were some good intentions with the Department of Homeland Security, but what happened under President Obama is that it accelerated rapidly,” Whitehead told WND. “I criticized George Bush’s policies. Under President Obama, we’re zooming.”
Whitehead said the Napolitano legacy of reducing freedom is evident across the board, starting in early 2009 when the department issued a report listing returning soldiers as one of the greatest threats to American security.
“Another program Napolitano set up is Operation Vigilant Eagle, which is a surveillance system done on all returning veterans from overseas, where they watch Facebook posts, text messages, emails of returning veterans to see if they’re going to be disgruntled,” Whitehead said. “There are quite a few disgruntled veterans. In fact, one that we helped just filed a major lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.”
“They arrived one day at his door, arrested him and actually put him in a mental institution for his Facebook posts criticizing the government. We got him out and then we sued the government,” Whitehead said.
Another outrage, according to Whitehead, is the harassment of Americans living on or somewhat near our national borders with Mexico and Canada. He said law-abiding citizens have been forced to hand over their laptops while the government officials download the information. The Rutherford Institute has also received reports of Americans being removed from their cars and searched without probable cause.
These allegations, and criticism of drone use near the borders, come as Congress hotly debate immigration reform legislation. Whitehead said the problems he’s talking about have nothing to do with border security.
“The people coming over from Mexico are not coming over at checkpoints. Incredibly stupid, and that’s where a lot of emphasis has been placed,” Whitehead said. “Obviously, they’re not focused in the right direction. They put drones on the border but the drones obviously have not been very effective. In fact, what we found our about those drones now, on the Canadian border, turned the drones in. They’re flying inland, photographing and watching what American citizens are doing and surveillance on American towns.”
Whitehead said that sort of activity will only get more common and more intrusive until the American people stand up and refuse to accept what he considers a major infringement on our constitutional liberties.
“Drones are coming in 2015. They’re going to be awesome. They’ll have scanning devices, rubber bullets, sound cannons. They can look through the walls of your home,” Whitehead said. “They’re just going to bypass the Fourth Amendment, and they already are doing that.”
A change at the top of DHS doesn’t give Whitehead any hope that the government will rein in its activities. He says potential replacements, like New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, will likely be no different from Napolitano.
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