Rise of the Warrior Cop

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Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby conniption » Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:55 pm

WSJ

Rise of the Warrior Cop

Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?

Updated July 22, 2013
Comments (927)

By RADLEY BALKO

On Jan. 4 of last year, a local narcotics strike force conducted a raid on the Ogden, Utah, home of Matthew David Stewart at 8:40 p.m. The 12 officers were acting on a tip from Mr. Stewart's former girlfriend, who said that he was growing marijuana in his basement. Mr. Stewart awoke, naked, to the sound of a battering ram taking down his door. Thinking that he was being invaded by criminals, as he later claimed, he grabbed his 9-millimeter Beretta pistol.

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Photo illustration by Sean McCabe

The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.

The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart's basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart's father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.

Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.

The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. 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. 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 mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. 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 acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to "clear" a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.

The country's first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education's SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.

Americans have long been wary of using the military for domestic policing. Concerns about potential abuse date back to the creation of the Constitution, when the founders worried about standing armies and the intimidation of the people at large by an overzealous executive, who might choose to follow the unhappy precedents set by Europe's emperors and monarchs.

The idea for the first SWAT team in Los Angeles arose during the domestic strife and civil unrest of the mid-1960s. Daryl Gates, then an inspector with the Los Angeles Police Department, had grown frustrated with his department's inability to respond effectively to incidents like the 1965 Watts riots. So his thoughts turned to the military. He was drawn in particular to Marine Special Forces and began to envision an elite group of police officers who could respond in a similar manner to dangerous domestic disturbances.

Mr. Gates initially had difficulty getting his idea accepted. Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker thought the concept risked a breach in the divide between the military and law enforcement. But with the arrival of a new chief, Thomas Reddin, in 1966, Mr. Gates got the green light to start training a unit. By 1969, his SWAT team was ready for its maiden raid against a holdout cell of the Black Panthers.

At about the same time, President Richard Nixon was declaring war on drugs. Among the new, tough-minded law-enforcement measures included in this campaign was the no-knock raid—a policy that allowed drug cops to break into homes without the traditional knock and announcement. After fierce debate, Congress passed a bill authorizing no-knock raids for federal narcotics agents in 1970.

Over the next several years, stories emerged of federal agents breaking down the doors of private homes (often without a warrant) and terrorizing innocent citizens and families. Congress repealed the no-knock law in 1974, but the policy would soon make a comeback (without congressional authorization).

During the Reagan administration, SWAT-team methods converged with the drug war. By the end of the 1980s, joint task forces brought together police officers and soldiers for drug interdiction. National Guard helicopters and U-2 spy planes flew the California skies in search of marijuana plants. When suspects were identified, battle-clad troops from the National Guard, the DEA and other federal and local law enforcement agencies would swoop in to eradicate the plants and capture the people growing them.

Advocates of these tactics said that drug dealers were acquiring ever bigger weapons and the police needed to stay a step ahead in the arms race. There were indeed a few high-profile incidents in which police were outgunned, but no data exist suggesting that it was a widespread problem. A study done in 1991 by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute found that less than one-eighth of 1% of homicides in the U.S. were committed with a military-grade weapon. Subsequent studies by the Justice Department in 1995 and the National Institute for Justice in 2004 came to similar conclusions: The overwhelming majority of serious crimes are committed with handguns, and not particularly powerful ones.

The new century brought the war on terror and, with it, new rationales and new resources for militarizing police forces. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants since its creation in 2002, with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers. In 2011 alone, a Pentagon program for bolstering the capabilities of local law enforcement gave away $500 million of equipment, an all-time high.

The past decade also has seen an alarming degree of mission creep for U.S. SWAT teams. When the craze for poker kicked into high gear, a number of police departments responded by deploying SWAT teams to raid games in garages, basements and VFW halls where illegal gambling was suspected. According to news reports and conversations with poker organizations, there have been dozens of these raids, in cities such as Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Dallas.

In 2006, 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, Va., SWAT officer. The investigation began when an undercover detective overheard Mr. Culosi wagering on college football games with some buddies at a bar. The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident. Mr. Culosi's family suspects the officer saw Mr. Culosi reaching for his cellphone and thought he had a gun.

Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.

Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.

In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn't a suspect in the investigation.

What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.

Consider today's police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.

If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, "Whatever I need to do to get home safe." It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer's last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, "I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world."

The motivation of the average American cop should not focus on just making it to the end of his shift. The LAPD may have given us the first SWAT team, but its motto is still exactly the right ideal for American police officers: To protect and serve.

SWAT teams have their place, of course, but they should be saved for those relatively rare situations when police-initiated violence is the only hope to prevent the loss of life. They certainly have no place as modern-day vice squads.

Many longtime and retired law-enforcement officers have told me of their worry that the trend toward militarization is too far gone. Those who think there is still a chance at reform tend to embrace the idea of community policing, an approach that depends more on civil society than on brute force.

In this very different view of policing, cops walk beats, interact with citizens and consider themselves part of the neighborhoods they patrol—and therefore have a stake in those communities. It's all about a baton-twirling "Officer Friendly" rather than a Taser-toting RoboCop.

Mr. Balko is the author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," published this month by PublicAffairs.


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Salon

“Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book”: The new warrior cop is out of control

SWAT teams raiding poker games and trying to stop underage drinking? Overwhelming paramilitary force is on the rise

By Radley Balko

Jul 7, 2013


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Excerpted from "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces"

Sal Culosi is dead because he bet on a football game — but it wasn’t a bookie or a loan shark who killed him. His local government killed him, ostensibly to protect him from his gambling habit.

Several months earlier at a local bar, Fairfax County, Virginia, detective David Baucum overheard the thirty-eight-year-old optometrist and some friends wagering on a college football game. “To Sal, betting a few bills on the Redskins was a stress reliever, done among friends,” a friend of Culosi’s told me shortly after his death. “None of us single, successful professionals ever thought that betting fifty bucks or so on the Virginia–Virginia Tech football game was a crime worthy of investigation.” Baucum apparently did. After overhearing the men wagering, Baucum befriended Culosi as a cover to begin investigating him. During the next several months, he talked Culosi into raising the stakes of what Culosi thought were just more fun wagers between friends to make watching sports more interesting. Eventually Culosi and Baucum bet more than $2,000 in a single day. Under Virginia law, that was enough for police to charge Culosi with running a gambling operation. And that’s when they brought in the SWAT team.

On the night of January 24, 2006, Baucum called Culosi and arranged a time to drop by to collect his winnings. When Culosi, barefoot and clad in a T-shirt and jeans, stepped out of his house to meet the man he thought was a friend, the SWAT team began to move in. Seconds later, Det. Deval Bullock, who had been on duty since 4:00 AM and hadn’t slept in seventeen hours, fired a bullet that pierced Culosi’s heart.

Sal Culosi’s last words were to Baucum, the cop he thought was a friend: “Dude, what are you doing?”

In March 2006, just two months after its ridiculous gambling investigation resulted in the death of an unarmed man, the Fairfax County Police Department issued a press release warning residents not to participate in office betting pools tied to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The title: “Illegal Gambling Not Worth the Risk.” Given the proximity to Culosi’s death, residents could be forgiven for thinking the police department believed wagering on sports was a crime punishable by execution.

In January 2011, the Culosi family accepted a $2 million settlement offer from Fairfax County. That same year, Virginia’s government spent $20 million promoting the state lottery.
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The raid on Sal Culosi was merely another red flag indicating yet more SWAT team mission creep in America. It wasn’t even the first time a Virginia SWAT team had killed someone during a gambling raid. In 1998 a SWAT team in Virginia Beach shot and killed security guard Edward C. Reed during a 3:00 AM raid on a private club suspected of facilitating gambling. Police said they approached the tinted car where Reed was working security, knocked, and identified themselves, then shot Reed when he refused to drop his handgun. Reed’s family insisted the police story was unlikely. Reed had no criminal record. Why would he knowingly point his gun at a heavily armed police team? More likely, they said, Reed mistakenly believed the raiding officers were there to do harm, particularly given that the club had been robbed not long before the raid. Statements by the police themselves seem to back that account. According to officers at the scene, Reed’s last words were, “Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book.”

As the Texas Hold ’Em craze picked up momentum in the mid-2000s, fans of the game started hosting tournaments at private clubs, bars, and residences. Police in many parts of the country responded with SWAT raids. In 2011, for example, police in Baltimore County, Maryland, sent a tactical unit to raid a $65 buy-in poker game at the Lynch Point Social Club. From 2006 to 2008, SWAT teams in South Carolina staged a number of raids to break up poker games in the suburbs of Charleston. Some were well organized and high-stakes, but others were friendly games with a $20 buy-in. “The typical police raid of these games . . . is to literally burst into a home in SWAT gear with guns drawn and treat poker players like a bunch of high-level drug dealers,” an attorney representing poker players told a local newspaper. “Using the taxpayers’ resources for such useless Gestapo-like tactics is more of a crime than is playing of the game.”

In 2007 a Dallas SWAT team actually raided a Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost for hosting charity poker games. Players said the tactics were terrifying. One woman urinated on herself. When police raided a San Mateo, California, poker game in 2008, card players described cops storming the place “in full riot gear” and “with guns drawn.” The games had buy-ins ranging from $25 to $55. Under California law, the games were legal so long as no one took a “rake,” or a cut of the stakes. No one had, but police claimed the $5 the hosts charged players to buy refreshments qualified as a rake. In March 2007, a small army of local cops, ATF agents, National Guard troops, and a helicopter raided a poker game in Cary, North Carolina. They issued forty-one citations, all of them misdemeanors. A columnist at the Fayetteville Observer remarked, “They were there to play cards, not to foment rebellion. . . . wonder . . . what other minutiae, personal vices and petty crimes are occupying [the National Guard’s] time, and where they’re occupying it. . . . Until we get this sorted out, better not jaywalk. There could be a military helicopter overhead.”

Police have justified this sort of heavy-handedness by claiming that people who run illegal gambling operations tend to be armed, a blanket characterization that absurdly lumps neighborhood Hold ’Em tournaments with Uncle Junior Soprano’s weekly poker game. And in any case, if police know that people inside an establishment are likely to be armed, it makes even less sense to come in with guns blazing. Police have also defended the paramilitary tactics by noting that poker games are usually flush with cash and thus tend to get robbed. That too is an absurd argument, unless the police are afraid they’re going to raid a game at precisely the same moment it’s getting robbed. Under either scenario, the police are acknowledging that the people playing poker when these raids go down have good reason to think that the men storming the place with guns may be criminals, not cops.

Indeed, that’s exactly what happened to seventy-two-year-old Aaron Awtry in 2010. Awtry was hosting a poker tournament in his Greenville, South Carolina, home when police began breaking down the door with a battering ram. Awtry had begun carrying a gun after being robbed. Thinking he was about to be robbed again, he fired through the door, wounding Deputy Matthew May in both arms. The other officers opened fire into the building. Miraculously, only Awtry was hit. As he fell back into a hallway, other players reporting him asking, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?” The raid team claimed they knocked and announced several times before putting ram to door, but other players said they heard no knock or announcement. When Awtry recovered, he was charged with attempted murder. As part of an agreement, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. Police had broken up Awtry’s games in the past. But on those occasions, they had knocked and waited, he had let them in peacefully, and he’d been given a $100 fine.

The poker raids have gotten bad enough that the Poker Players Alliance, an interest group that lobbies to make the game legal, has established a network of attorneys around the country to help players who have been raided and arrested.

But the mission creep hasn’t stopped at poker games. By the end of the 2000s, police departments were sending SWAT teams to enforce regulatory law. In August 2010, for example, a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies raided several black-and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area. More raids followed in September and October. The Orlando Sentinel reported that police held barbers and customers at gunpoint and put some in handcuffs, while they turned the shops inside out. The police raided a total of nine shops and arrested thirty-seven people.

By all appearances, these raids were drug sweeps. Shop owners told the Sentinel that police asked them where they were hiding illegal drugs and weapons. But in the end, thirty-four of the thirty-seven arrests were for “barbering without a license,” a misdemeanor for which only three people have ever served jail time in Florida.

The most disturbing aspect of the Orlando raids was that police didn’t even attempt to obtain a legal search warrant. They didn’t need to, because they conducted the raids in conjunction with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Despite the guns and handcuffs, under Florida law these were licensure inspections, not criminal searches, so no warrants were necessary.

That such “administrative searches” have become an increasingly common way for police to get around the Fourth Amendment is bad enough. More disturbing is the amount of force they’re opting to use when they do. In the fall of 2010, police in New Haven, Connecticut, sent a SWAT team to a local bar to investigate reports of underage drinking. Patrons were lined up at gunpoint while cops confiscated cell phones and checked IDs. There have been similar underage drinking SWAT raids on college fraternities. The Atlanta City Council recently agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to the customers and employees of a gay nightclub after a heavy-handed police raid in which police lined up sixty-two people on the floor at gunpoint, searched for drugs, and checked for outstanding warrants and unpaid parking tickets. Police conducted the September 2009 raid after undercover vice cops claimed to have witnessed patrons and employees openly having sex at the club. But the police never obtained a search warrant. Instead, the raid was conducted under the guise of an alcohol inspection. Police made no drug arrests, but arrested eight employees for permit violations.

Federal appeals courts have upheld these “administrative searches” even when it seems obvious that the real intent was to look for criminal activity as long as the government can plausibly claim that the primary purpose of the search was regulatory. In the case of the Orlando raids, simply noting the arrests of thirty-four unlicensed barbers would be enough to meet the test.

But the Fourth Amendment requires that searches be “reasonable.” If using a SWAT team to make sure a bar isn’t serving nineteen-year-olds is a reasonable use of force, it’s hard to imagine what wouldn’t be. At least a couple of federal appeals courts have recognized the absurdity. In 2009 the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck a small blow for common sense, allowing a civil rights suit to go forward against the sheriff’s department of Rapides Parish, Louisiana, after a warrantless SWAT raid on a nightclub thinly veiled as an administrative search. And in 1995 the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit made an even broader ruling, finding that having probable cause and a warrant for the arrest of one person in a club did not justify a SWAT raid and subsequent search of the entire club and everyone inside.

But other legal challenges to paramilitary-style administrative searches have been less successful. Consider the bizarre case of David Ruttenberg, owner of the Rack ‘n’ Roll pool hall in Manassas Park, Virginia. In June 2004, local police conducted a massive raid on the pool hall with more than fifty police officers, some of whom were wearing face masks, toting semi-automatic weapons, and pumping shotguns as they entered. Customers were detained, searched, and zip-tied. The police were investigating Ruttenberg for several alleged drug crimes, although he was never charged. The local narcotics task force had tried unsuccessfully to get a warrant to search Ruttenberg’s office but were denied by a judge. Instead, they simply brought along several representatives of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and claimed that they were conducting an alcohol inspection. Ruttenberg was cited only for three alcohol violations, based on two bottles of beer a distributor had left that weren’t clearly marked as samples, and a bottle of vodka they found in his private office.

In June 2006, Ruttenberg filed a civil rights suit alleging that, among other things, using a SWAT team to conduct an alcohol inspection was an unreasonable use of force. (The town’s vendetta against Ruttenberg stretched on for years and is one of the strangest cases I’ve ever encountered. He eventually sold his bar and moved to New York.) In 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied his claim. So for now, in the Fourth Circuit, sending a SWAT team to make sure a bar’s beer is labeled correctly is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

By the end of the decade, state and local SWAT teams were regularly being used not only for raids on poker games and gambling operations but also for immigration raids (on both businesses and private homes) and raids on massage parlors, cat houses, and unlicensed strip clubs. Today the sorts of offenses that can subject a citizen to the SWAT treatment defy caricature. If the government wants to make an example of you by pounding you with a wholly disproportionate use of force, it can. It’s rare that courts or politicians even object, much less impose consequences.

Another example is the use of these tactics on people suspected of downloading child pornography.

Because people suspected of such crimes are generally considered among the lowest of the low, there’s generally little objection to using maximum force to apprehend them. But when police use force to demonstrate disgust for the crimes the target is suspected of committing, there’s always a risk of letting disgust trump good judgment. In one recent case in West Virginia, police violently stormed a house after a Walmart employee reported seeing an image of a man’s genitals near a child’s cheek in a set of photos a customer had left at the store to be developed. After terrorizing the customer’s family (he was out of town), the police learned that the cheek in the photo wasn’t a child’s but that of a thirty-five-year-old Filipino woman.

Given that most child pornography investigations today involve people who use the Internet to find or distribute the offending images and videos, the investigations can be fraught with problems. There have been several instances in recent years of police waging child porn raids on people after tracing IP addresses, only to learn after the fact that the victims of the raid had an open wireless router that someone else had used to download the pornography. Inevitably, the lesson drawn by police and by the media covering these stories is not that a SWAT raid may be an inappropriate way to arrest someone suspected of looking at child porn on a computer, or that police who insist on using such tactics should probably factor the possibility of an open router into their investigation before breaking down someone’s door, but rather that we should all make sure our wireless routers are password-protected—so we too don’t get wrongly raided by a SWAT team, too.

It can also be difficult to trace an IP address to a physical address, which can lead to yet more mistaken raids. An example of that problem manifested in one of the more bizarre botched raids in recent years. It took place in September 2006, when a SWAT team from the Bedford County sheriff’s department stormed the rural Virginia home of A. J. Nuckols, his wife, and their two children. Police had traced the IP address of someone trading child porn online to the Nuckols’ physical address. They had made a mistake. As if the shock of having his house invaded by a SWAT team wasn’t enough, Nuckols was in for another surprise. In a letter to the editor of the Chatham Star Review, he described the raid: “Men ran at me, dropped into shooting position, double-handed semi-automatic pistols pointed at me, and made me put my hands against my truck. I was held at gunpoint, searched, taunted, and led into the house. I had no idea what this was about. I was scared beyond description.”

He then looked up, and saw . . . former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.

O’Neal, an aspiring lawman, had been made an “honorary deputy” with the department. Though he had no training as a SWAT officer, Shaq apparently had gone on several such raids with other police departments around the country. The thrill of bringing an untrained celebrity along apparently trumped the requirement that SWAT teams be staffed only with the most elite, most highly qualified and best-trained cops. According to Nuckols, O’Neal reached into Nuckols’s pickup, snatched up his (perfectly legal) rifle, and exclaimed, “We’ve got a gun!” O’Neal told Time that Nuckols’s description of the raid on his home was exaggerated. “It ain’t no story,” he said. “We did everything right, went to the judge, got a warrant. You know, they make it seem like we beat him up, and that never happened. We went in, talked to him, took some stuff, returned it—bada bam, bada bing.”

Incidentally, there have been other strange incidents of SWAT teams with star power. Matt Damon accompanied SWAT officers on several raids while preparing for the movie “The Departed.” And after police mistakenly shot and killed immigrant and father Ismael Mena on a raid in Denver in 1999, they revealed that Colorado Rockies first baseman Mike Lansing had gone along for the ride. Denver police added that it was fairly common to take sports stars on drug raids.

In 2010 a massive Maricopa County SWAT team, including a tank and several armored vehicles, raided the home of Jesus Llovera. The tank in fact drove straight into Llovera’s living room. Driving the tank? Action movie star Steven Seagal, whom Sheriff Joe Arpaio had recently deputized. Seagal had also been putting on the camouflage to help Arpaio with his controversial immigration raids. All of this, by the way, was getting caught on film. Seagal’s adventures in Maricopa County would make up the next season of the A&E TV series Steven Seagal, Lawman.
Llovera’s suspected crime? Cockfighting. Critics said that Arpaio and Seagal brought an army to arrest a man suspected of fighting chickens to play for the cameras. Seagal’s explanation for the show of force: “Animal cruelty is one of my pet peeves.” All of Llovera’s chickens were euthanized. During the raid, the police also killed his dog.

In the end, while the Supreme Court has laid down some avoidable requirements for obtaining a no-knock warrant (or deciding to conduct a no-knock raid at the scene), there are few court decisions, laws, or regulations when it comes to when it is and isn’t appropriate to use a SWAT team and all the bells and whistles of a dynamic entry. The decision is almost always left to the discretion of the police agency—or in the case of the multi-jurisdictional task forces, to the SWAT team itself. The mere fact that there’s actually a split in the federal court system over the appropriateness of using SWAT teams to perform regulatory alcohol inspections at bars shows just how little attention the courts pay to the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement.

In other words, if the DEA wants to stick it to medical marijuana users because they’re flouting federal law, they can. If Steven Seagal wants to drive a tank into a man’s living room to demonstrate his love of animals, he can. If the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) wants to send a SWAT team to a physicist’s house to show that it’s cracking down on illegal bottle rockets, it can. At worst, the DEA, the CPSC, and Steven Seagal will be chastised by a judge after the fact, though that seldom happens. Even on the rare occasions when someone actually gets into court and wins an excessive-force lawsuit stemming from a raid, the damages are usually borne by taxpayers, not by the cops who used excessive force. In some cases, community outrage and bad press have persuaded police agencies to change a policy here or there regarding the deployment of their SWAT teams. But if they want to reneg and go back to breaking down the doors of people suspected of stealing decorative fish, there’s very little to stop them.

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Toward the end of the 2000s there were hints that the public was beginning to want a change, though that desire could manifest in unexpected ways. A former colleague at the Cato Institute, Tim Lynch, has told me that when he gives talks about the Waco raid, he finds that people are somewhat sympathetic to the argument that the government overreacted, but that they still can’t get past the weirdness of the Branch Davidians themselves—their stockpile of weapons and the claims of sexual abuse and drug distribution in the community. Even the children who died are sometimes dismissed with guilt by association. But when he mentions that the ATF agents killed the Davidians’ dogs, Lynch tells me, people become visibly angry. I have found the same thing to be true in my reporting on drug raids.

At first, that may seem to indicate that people callously value the lives of pets more than the lives of people. But the fact that killing the dog during these raids has become nearly routine in many police agencies demonstrates just how casually those agencies have come to accept drug war collateral damage. When I started logging cop-shoots-dog incidents on my blog (under the probably sensational term “puppycide”), people began sending me new stories as they happened. Cops are now shooting dogs at the slightest provocation. As of this writing, I’m sent accounts of a few incidents each week.

It’s difficult to say if this is happening more frequently. There are no national figures, and estimates are all over the map. One dog handler recently hired to train a police department in Texas estimates there are up to 250,000 cop-shoots-dog cases each year. That seems high. In 2009 Randal Lockwood of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he sees 250 to 300 incidents per year in media reports, and he estimates that another 1,000 aren’t reported. The Indianapolis Star reported that between 2000 and 2002 police in that city shot 44 dogs. A recent lawsuit filed by the Milwaukee owner of a dog killed by cops found that police in that city killed 434 dogs over a nine-year period, or about one every seven and a half days. But those figures aren’t all that helpful. They don’t say how many of those dogs were actually vicious, how many were strays, or how many were injured and perhaps killed as an act of mercy versus how many were unjustified killings of pets.

What is clear is that police are almost always cleared of any wrongdoing in these shootings. An officer’s word that he felt a dog posed a threat to his safety is generally all it takes. Whether or not the officer’s fear was legitimate doesn’t seem to matter. Thanks to smart phones and surveillance cameras, a growing batch of these incidents have been caught on video have shown that officers’ claims that the dog was threatening often aren’t matched by the dog’s body language. In recent years, police officers have shot and killed chihuahuas, golden retrievers, labs, miniature dachshunds, Wheaton terriers, and Jack Russell terriers. In 2012 a California police officer shot and killed a boxer puppy and pregnant chihuahua, claiming the boxer had threatened him. The chihuahua, he said, got caught in the crossfire. Police officers have also recently shot dogs that were chained, tied, or leashed, going so far as to kill pets while merely questioning neighbors about a crime in the area, cutting across private property while in pursuit of a suspect, and after responding to false burglar alarms.

It’s possible that these incidents could just be attributed to rogue cops. But the fact that the police are nearly always excused in these cases—even in the more ridiculous examples—suggests there may be an institutional problem. So does the fact that only a handful of police departments give their cops any training at all when it comes to reading and handling the dogs they may encounter. In a 2012 article for the Huffington Post, my intern J. L. Greene and I looked at twenty-four recent cases of “puppycide” and called the relevant police departments to inquire about training. Only one department could confirm that its officers received training at the time of the incident in question. (Eleven departments did not return our phone calls.) That jibes with an earlier article I wrote for The Daily Beast in which both the ASPCA and the Humane Society told me that they offer such training to any police department that wants it, while few take advantage of the offer. Joseph Pentangelo, the ASPCA’s assistant director for law enforcement, who also served twenty-one years with the NYPD, told me, “New York is the only state I know of that mandates formalized training, and that’s during academy. There are some individual departments in other parts of the country that avail themselves of our training, but not many. Not enough.”

Given how likely it is that police officers will often interact with animals, you would think that such training would be common. It is at the US Postal Service. A spokesman for the USPS told me that while dog bites do happen on occasion, serious dog attacks on mail carriers are almost nonexistent. Postal workers are given regular training in distracting dogs with toys, subduing them with voice commands, or, at worst, incapacitating them with Mace. Mail carriers are shown a two-hour video and then given annual instruction on topics like recognizing and reading a dog’s body language and differentiating between aggressive charging and playful bounding, and between a truly dangerous dog and a merely territorial one.

The fact that the Postal Service offers such training and most police departments don’t lends some credence to the theory that dog shootings are part of the larger problem of a battlefield mentality that lets police use lethal force in response to the slightest threat—usually with few consequences. “It’s an evolving phenomenon,” says Norm Stamper, the former Seattle police chief. “It started when drug dealers began to recruit pit bulls to guard their supply. These dogs weren’t meant to attack cops. They were meant to attack other drug dealers who came to rob them. But of course they did attack cops. And yes, that’s awfully scary if one of those things latches on to your leg.”

But Stamper says that like many aspects of modern policing, dog shootings may have had a legitimate origin, but the practice has since become a symptom of the mind-set behind a militarized police culture. “Among other things, it really shows a lack of imagination. These guys think that the only solution to a dog that’s yapping or charging is shooting and killing it. That’s all they know. It goes with this notion that police officers have to control every situation, to control all the variables. That’s an awesome responsibility, and if you take it on, you’re caving to delusion. You no longer exercise discrimination or discretion. You have to control, and the way you control is with authority, power, and force. With a dog, the easiest way to take control is to simply kill it. I mean, especially if there are no consequences for doing so.”

A handful of police departments do now mandate dog training, including Nashville, Omaha, and Milwaukee. Police departments in Austin, Fort Worth, and Arlington, Texas, do too. All began offering training after public backlash over one or more cop-shoots-dog incidents.

“In my ten years in law enforcement on the street, I can’t remember one case where a police officer shot a dog,” says Russ Jones, the former narcotics cop with the San Jose Police Department and the DEA. “I don’t understand it at all. I guess somewhere along the line a cop shot a dog under questionable circumstances and got away with it. Word got out, and now it seems like some cops are just looking for reasons to take a shot at a dog. Maybe it just comes down to that—we can get away with it, therefore we do it.”

* * *

On the Friday afternoon before the 2009 G-20 summit was to begin in Pittsburgh at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a reader in the city sent me a photo he’d snapped moments earlier. The photo was of a police officer standing in the middle of an intersection. He was wearing a military-green top, camouflage pants, and combat boots. He had a gun strapped to his thigh and looked to be carrying another one. The camouflage in particular seemed odd—as it does whenever it’s worn by a police officer in an urban area. It was unclear why this cop would have wanted to hide, and even if he did, how camouflage would help him do so in the city. There seemed to be little purpose for it other than to mimic the military. In any case, it was a sign of what was to come.

This is how the country that gave the world the First Amendment now handles protest. There’s a disquieting ease now with which authorities are willing to crush dissent—and at the very sorts of events where the right to dissent is the entire purpose of protecting free speech—that is, events where influential policymakers meet to make high-level decisions with far-reaching consequences. In fact, the more important the policymakers and the more consequential the decisions they’ll be making, the more likely it is that police will use more force to keep protesters as far away as possible. As Norm Stamper said, this unfortunately was the lesson the country’s law enforcement agencies took from the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.

A number of police departments from across the country had sent officers to Pittsburgh to help police the 2009 summit. Nearly all were dressed in similar paramilitary garb. In one widely circulated video from the summit, several police officers dressed entirely in camouflage emerged from an unmarked car, apprehended a young backpack-toting protester, stuffed him into the car, then drove off. It evoked the sort of “disappearance” you might envision happening in a Latin American country headed by a junta, or one of the countries of the Soviet bloc. Matt Drudge linked to the video with a headline describing the officers in it as members of the military. They weren’t, though it’s certainly easy to understand how someone might make that mistake.

Another video showed a police unit with a handcuffed protester. Officers surrounded the protester, propped him up, then posed with him while another officer snapped a trophy photo. (YouTube later removed the video, citing a terms of use violation.) It was later revealed that the police unit was from Chicago. They had taken vacation time to come to Pittsburgh to provide “freelance security” for the G-20 summit.

As the summit went on, Twitter feeds and uploaded photos and videos claimed (and sometimes provided some evidence to prove) that police fired tear-gas canisters into dorm rooms, used sound cannons, and fired bean bags and rubber bullets. One man was arrested for posting the locations of riot police to his Twitter feed. The charges were later dropped.

Emily Tanner, a grad student at the University of Pittsburgh who described herself as a “capitalist” who didn’t agree with the general philosophy of the antiglobalization protesters, covered the summit, the protests, and the fallout on her blog. The most egregious police actions seemed to take place on the Friday evening before the summit, around the university, when police began ordering students who were in public spaces to disperse, despite the fact that they had broken no laws. Students who moved too slowly were arrested, as were students who were standing in front of the dormitories where they lived.

A University of Pittsburgh spokesman later said that the tactic was to break up crowds that “had the potential of disrupting normal activities, traffic flow, egress and the like. . . . Much of the arrests last night had to do with failure to disperse when ordered.” Note that no one needed to have broken any actual laws to get arrested. The potential to break a law was more than enough. That standard was essentially a license for the police to arrest anyone, anywhere in the city, at any time, for any reason.

Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak said the problem was that police didn’t bother to attempt to manage the protests. They simply suppressed them. In the process, they rounded up not only innocent protesters but innocent students who had nothing to do with the protests at all. In all, 190 people were arrested. One of the arrestees was a reporter from the left-leaning organization Indy-Media. When they apprehended her, the police took her camera. When they returned her camera, it was broken, and the police had deleted her photos and videos of the protests and police reaction. The police presence “seemed to focus almost exclusively on peaceful demonstrators,” Walczak said. “On [Friday] night they didn’t even have the excuse of property damage going on or any illegal activity. It’s really inexplicable.”

Inexcusable perhaps, but not inexplicable. Since Seattle, this had become the template. At the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, police conducted peremptory raids on the homes of protesters before the convention had even started. Police broke into the homes of people known to be activist rabble-rousers before they had any evidence of any actual crime. Journalists who inquired about the legitimacy of the raids and arrests made during the convention were also arrested. In all, 672 people were put in handcuffs. The arrest of Democracy Now journalist Amy Goodman was captured on a widely viewed video. She was charged with “conspiracy to riot.” That charge against Goodman was later dropped. So were the charges against most of the others arrested. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported the following February that charges were dropped or dismissed for 442 of the 672 people arrested.

There were similar problems at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Police in Denver showed up for the protests decked out in full riot gear. One particularly striking photo from Denver showed a sea of cops in shiny black armor, batons in hand, surrounding a small, vastly outnumbered group of protesters. The most volatile night of the convention featured one incident in which Jefferson County, Colorado, deputies unknowingly clashed with and then pepper-sprayed undercover Denver cops posing as violent protesters. The city later paid out $200,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that a Denver SWAT team was making indiscriminate arrests, rounding up protesters and bystanders alike.

Perhaps the best insight into the mentality the police brought to the DNC protests could be found on the T-shirts the Denver police union had printed up for the event. The shirts showed a menacing cop holding a baton. The caption: DNC 2008: WE GET UP EARLY, TO BEAT THE CROWDS. Police were spotted wearing similar shirts at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. At the 1996 DNC convention in Chicago, cops were seen wearing shirts that read: WE KICKED YOUR FATHER’S ASS IN 1968 . . . WAIT ’TIL YOU SEE WHAT WE DO TO YOU!

This default militaristic response to protest of overkill was then given an extended national stage during the Occupy protests of 2011. In the most infamous incident, now forever captured in countless Internet memes and mashups, Lt. John Pike of the University of California–Davis campus police casually hosed down a peaceful group of protesters with a pepper-spray canister. But that was far from the only incident. Police across the country met protesters in riot gear, once again anticipating—and in too many instances seemingly even craving—confrontation. In Oakland, the skull of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen was fractured by a tear-gas canister that the police had fired into the crowd. In New York, NYPD officer Anthony Bologna pepper-sprayed a group of helpless protesters who had been penned in by police fencing.

One thing the Occupy crackdowns did seem to do was focus renewed attention on police tactics and police militarization. Big-picture stories about the Pentagon buildup, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding for antiterror gear, and the proliferation of SWAT teams started streaming out of media outlets, giving the militarization issue the most coverage it had received since Kraska’s studies came out in the late 1990s. Part of that was due to social media. The ubiquity of smart phones and the viral capacity of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and blogs were already bringing unprecedented accountability to police misconduct and government oppression, be it a Baltimore cop screaming obscenities at a kid on a skateboard, a transit cop in Oakland shooting a man who lay handcuffed on his stomach, or government paramilitaries in Iran gunning down a young woman in cold blood during Arab Spring democracy protests. But the Occupiers, who tended to be young, white, and middle-to upper-middle-class, knew social media like few other demographics. They knew how to live-stream video directly to the Internet. They all had smart phones, so police couldn’t suppress incriminating video by confiscating one or two or ten phones—someone was bound to have video of not only the original incident but also of police trying to confiscate phones to cover it up.

The political reaction to the Occupy crackdowns was interesting to watch. In the 1990s, it had been the right wing—particularly the far right—that was up in arms over police militarization. Recall the outrage on the right over Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the raid to seize Elián González. The left had largely either remained silent or even defended the government’s tactics in those cases. But the right-wing diatribes against jackbooted thugs and federal storm-troopers all died down once the Clinton administration left office, and they were virtually nonexistent after September 11, 2001. By the time cops started cracking heads at the Occupy protests, some conservatives were downright gleeful. The militarization of federal law enforcement certainly didn’t stop, but the 9/11 attacks and a friendly administration seemed to quell the conservatives’ concerns. So long as law enforcement was targeting hippie protesters, undocumented immigrants, suspected drug offenders, and alleged terrorist sympathizers, they were back to being heroes.

Steven Greenhut, a conservative-leaning columnist for the Orange County Register and editor of the investigative journalism site CalWatchdog, was dismayed by the right’s reaction. “What’s really disgusting is the natural instinct of so many conservatives to stick up for the police,” Greenhut wrote. “They don’t like the Occupy protesters, so they willingly back brutality against them, without considering the possibility that conservatives at some point might be on the receiving end of this aggression.”

Unfortunately, consistent voices like Greenhut’s have been rare. Partisan reaction to aggressive police actions against opponents tends to fall somewhere between indifference and schadenfreude.

After the December 2012 shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut put the issue of gun control back into the political discourse, some progressives again dredged up the right’s criticism of the ATF in the early 1990s. In one lengthy segment, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow aired old footage from Waco and Ruby Ridge while making some tenuous connections between gun rights politicians and activists and Weaver, McVeigh, and Koresh. She referred to a “conspiracy-driven corner of the gun world’s paranoia about federal agents,” without paying much heed to the fact that the ATF was inflicting the same sort of abuse on suspected gun offenders that Maddow herself has decried when used against suspected undocumented immigrants or Occupy protesters. More tellingly, Maddow added that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to give more power to the ATF based only on the politics of the people opposed to doing so. “Sometimes the character of the opposition defines why something ought to be the most politically viable thing in the world,” she said.

But even before Newtown, progressives have been advocating for the use of more government force against political factions they find unsavory. In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security issued a controversial report on what the author—DHS analyst Daryl Johnson—called a resurgence of right-wing extremism and the threat it posed to domestic security. The report was widely criticized on the right and was eventually criticized and revoked by DHS secretary Janet Napolitano. But after a spate of mass killings in the following years by assailants with political views that in some cases could loosely be characterized as right-wing, Johnson became something of a progressive hero. Most of the incidents involved clearly mentally ill attackers whose politics were all over the place. Even Johnson acknowledged that the incident most in line with his thesis—the massacre at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page—was the work of a “lone wolf” attacker and likely would not have been prevented by the recommendations in his report.

Still, he was celebrated on the left. The progressive advocacy group Media Matters declared him “vindicated.” Similar sentiment popped up on progressive outlets like ThinkProgress, Salon, Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC blog, and Democracy Now.

In truth, attacks by groups on the fringes of the right wing have actually dropped in recent years, despite some claims that they’ve increased in response to the election of a black president. Attacks from groups on the fringes of the left wing are in decline too, as are alleged attempted terrorist attacks by fringe Muslim groups.

In a 2012 interview with the Idaho Spokesman Review, Johnson showed why it may not have been such a great idea for progressives to embrace him simply because he wanted to shut down opinions they found distasteful. Johnson was interviewed for an article on the twentieth anniversary of the Ruby Ridge fiasco, and he took one step further Rachel Maddow’s idea of supporting government force simply because you don’t like the factions opposing it. Johnson in fact suggested that merely having concerns about police militarization is a worry only borne by extremists. In fact, he appeared to have suggested that even recognizing that militarization is happening is an indication of fringe extremism.

“For American extremists, the siege at Ruby Ridge symbolizes the ‘militarized police state,’” said Johnson. The US government, through its Department of Homeland Security in particular, he said, “has unintentionally fostered, and even solidified, Orwellian conspiracies concerning an overzealous, oppressive federal government and its perceived willingness to kill to ensure citizen compliance. . . . In the minds of modern-day extremists, [Homeland Security] has enhanced the lethal capability of many underfunded, small-town police forces through its grant programs.” Using federal grants, state and local law enforcement agencies have been able to buy expensive equipment and training that are “commonly associated with the military,” he said, adding that “extremists view such a security buildup as a continuation of the Ruby Ridge legacy.” That legacy is a continuing drumbeat for extremists and white supremacists who recruit with the message of “big government versus the little guy” and “the government set me up.” These extremist ideas continue as messages and even recruiting themes among various radical groups in the United States, Johnson said.

I attempted to contact Johnson to ask if he’d like to clarify his comments. He didn’t return my calls. As they stand, these quotes are striking, particularly from someone who once worked for the Department of Homeland Security and now runs a consulting firm that works with law enforcement agencies. They certainly appear to dismiss police militarization—a phenomenon documented by a wide range of media outlets and criticized by interests all across the political spectrum—as merely a fantasy cooked up by extremists to boost their recruiting. Incidentally, the publications and advocacy groups who have recently expressed concerns about police militarization include ThinkProgress, Wired, Salon, MSNBC, and Democracy Now— all of them also ran articles praising Johnson.

So long as partisans are only willing to speak out against aggressive, militarized police tactics when they’re used against their own and are dismissive or even supportive of such tactics when used against those whose politics they dislike, it seems unlikely that the country will achieve enough of a political consensus to begin to slow down the trend.

Excerpted from “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” by Radley Balko. Reprinted with permission from PublicAffairs Books.

Radley Balko is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes about civil liberties, police and prosecutors, and the broader criminal justice system. He is currently a senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post.

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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby Twyla LaSarc » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:26 pm

Good article, thank you.

I'll be looking up that book.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:15 pm

Meanwhile, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine are publishing vitriolic -- wait, that was a totally superfluous adjective, let me start over.

Meanwhile, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine are publishing hit pieces...nah, let's just say they posted their usual fare and Radley Balko was the target, predictably painted as Koch Brothers Operative. (Why the left is so focused on the Koch, we'll never know...I wonder what Freud would say?)

http://shameproject.com/profile/radley-balko/

Greenwald is subject to the same accusation, FWIW. Cato Institute is the vector of contagion in both cases.

...edited for Les Brevities...

Radley Balko's transformation into a crusading journalist exposing police abuse is a relatively recent turn in his career, most of which has been spent climbing up the Republican Party’s think-tank network. Balko began his career working the phones for a major GOP campus recruitment outfit, before moving to the Koch brothers' Cato Institute and Reason magazine, where Balko lobbied for Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and mass-privatization, and lobbied against affirmative action and "the nanny state." In 2011, Balko was hired by the Huffington Post, while keeping his sinecure in the Cato Institute. In his new role, Balko focuses on the militarization of police, a continuation of a Cato Institute project he began in 2005. Balko blames America's high incarceration rate on too much democracy, and has called for privatizing America's jury system and criminal labs.

The recovered history of Radley Balko

* After getting a B.A. from the University of Indiana in 1997, Balko worked for the Leadership Institute—a Republican Party recruitment organization—as its “Campus Journalism Coordinator.” The Leadership Institute describes itself as “the premier training ground for tomorrow's conservative leaders,” whose goal is "to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative public policy leaders" through its numerous "journalism seminars." The Leadership Institute’s alumni include Karl Rove, Rove’s fake White House press pool “reporter” Jeff Gannon, convicted criminal James O’Keefe, and major GOP figures including Grover Norquist, Christian Right leader Ralph Reed, and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

* At the Leadership Institute, Balko “marketed and recruited college journalists for LI’s two-day seminars” according to his online resume. A Los Angeles Times article on a Leadership Institute-sponsored journalism seminar at a North Carolina college said it "bore little resemblance to a traditional journalism class" teaching students "how to start their own conservative newspapers and opinion journals. And how to pick fights with lefty bogeymen on the faculty and in student government." The LI seminar grads' ultimate goal: "to alter the basic makeup of the nation's professional news outlets."

* In 1998, Balko ran an astroturf training course for anti-Clinton activists during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, training young right-wing activists how to use the Internet to fundraise and organize fake grassroots campaigns.

...

* In 2001, Balko was given a regular column for FoxNews.com, where he consistently attacked government regulations and praised free-markets, boosted for Big Tobacco and the health insurance industry and wrote pieces with headlines like “Greed Makes the World Go ‘Round.” One of Balko's favorite topics from 2001 through 2008: privatizing social security. [ 1 ]

...

* Balko denounced affirmative action on several occasions, claiming it turns whites into racists by promoting unqualified African-Americans. In 2003, Balko blamed the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal at the New York Times on affirmative action: "Nearly everything about the Blair case came about because of affirmative action," Balko declared, ignoring overwhelming examples of white reporters caught in plagiarism scandals (Stephen Glass, Jack Kelley, Mike Barnicle, Stephen Ambrose, etc.). Balko wrote that he opposes affirmative action in public universities, but favors allowing private universities, like the whites-only Bob Jones University, to continue discriminating based on race.

....

* In 2005, Balko set up "Morgan Spurlock Watch," a website attacking Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me and defending the fast food industry and Big Agro. Balko attacked Super Size Me as a "scam." Balko explained why he set up the anti-Spurlock website: "[Spurlock is] consumed by a loathing of business and capitalism -- to the point of refusing to allow accuracy to get in the way of making his point. And I think someone needs to hold him accountable."

...

* Balko’s employer, the Cato Institute, has been a leading proponent and defender of “Stand Your Ground” laws; another Koch lobby outfit, ALEC, is responsible for writing the “Stand Your Ground” model legislation passed in Mississippi. Balko himself has personally defended “Stand Your Ground” and “self-defense” laws, most recently in the Trayvon Martin murder case.

...

* Balko supports privatizing juries, privatizing criminal labs, and blames America’s high incarceration rate on too much democracy.
* Balko claimed that guns save lives, citing a flawed Cato Institute study claiming that guns were used to defend homes in at least 5,000 incidents between 2003 and 2011.
* In Febrary 2011, during the Koch-backed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's attack on public sector unions, Balko published a long defense of the Kochs: "But though I've never met either of the Koch brothers, I suspect that like most libertarians, they'd rather avoid the unseemly world of politics as often as possible, where winning generally means forcing other people to bend to your will. . . . They seem more interested in contributing to voluntary, civil society, by promoting ideas (yes, through think tanks and magazines like Reason), the arts, research, and by fighting particularly pernicious laws like the PATRIOT Act through the courts instead of through contributions to generally spineless politicians."
* In 2012, after being hired by the Huffington Post as "senior writer" and "investigative reporter," Balko published a three-part series defending Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, otherwise known as "hillbilly heroin," as well as the painkiller industry. Purdue Pharma's Oxycontin played a leading role in fueling an explosion of prescription opiod addiction cases and a 400-percent increase in overdose deaths since the late 1990s.
* As Purdue raked in billions, it faced a stream of investigations and lawsuits over its deceptive and aggressive marketing tactics, and its role in the overdose epidemic, which claimed thousands of lives in poor regions of the Appalachians and the South. Ralph Nader's Public Citizen described Purdue's business model as "death dealing." But Balko painted the company as a victim of the government's War on Drugs, and tried to discredit evidence and studies showing the devastating effects of Oxycontin and other painkillers. Nowhere in this three-part series, which was promoted with great fanfare by the Huffington Post, did Balko mention that the company's top executives had already pled guilty to criminal fraud, and were forced to pay $630 million in fines for fraudulent mislabeling, misleading doctors and consumers about the dangers of Oxycontin. The executives were also barred for 20 years from doing business with Medicare or any other government healthcare programs. [ 14 ]
* Balko's defense of Purdue was published just weeks before a major joint investigation by the Washington Post, ProPublica the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and other regional newspapers exposed Purdue Pharma's role funding fake-medical research front groups, including groups positively cited by Balko in his Huffington Post series. Their investigation led to Senate hearings, and the shuttering of some of the biggest Oxycontin front groups. Balko never retracted or corrected his misleading HuffPo defense of Oxycontin.

* In July 2013, Balko published his first book: "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces." The book is a follow-up to Balko's 2006 report for the Cato Institute, "The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America." Cato Institute still sells the report in its bookstore and hosts an interactive map, "Botched Paramilitary Police Raids," edited by Balko and based on his research.


For the record: guns do save lives. The fact they also take them does not somehow "cancel it out." Still a fact.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby wordspeak2 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:41 am

Oh, liberals suck. It's no wonder people turn to libertarianism. Only a Radley Balko could get an excellent op-ed about the militarization of police published in the friggin Wall Street Journal. If only these idiots would spend their time exposing the Drug War instead of playing red versus blue, we'd get somewhere.

But what did you say about Glenn Greenwald, WR? What did Greenwald do?
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:45 am

wordspeak2 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:41 am wrote:
But what did you say about Glenn Greenwald, WR? What did Greenwald do?


BETRAYED HIS FUCKING COUNTRY, THAT'S WHAT!

Heh, naw. Greenwald has been accused by Ames/Levine of being a Koch Brothers Operative.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby conniption » Wed Jul 31, 2013 3:05 pm

hmm...yes...well, thank you for that WR.

Image

I'd found a reference to Radley Balko's book in an article, The militarization of America, at the wsws website, and the reviews for his book at Amazon are highly favorable. Had no idea he is a 'corporate shill'.

I'm a little confused though, because one would think Koch bros. & Co. would be for the oppressive, heavy-handed tactics of a militarized police force.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Wed Jul 31, 2013 3:26 pm

conniption » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:05 pm wrote: I'm a little confused though, because one would think Koch bros. & Co. would be for the oppressive, heavy-handed tactics of a militarized police force.


Yes, but not a public one. They want it privatized, unelected, unaccountable, owned by them.

Which is very savvy: many a wealthy would-be tyrant in the past century found out the hard way their military/police operatives had ambitions of their own...

This naturally assumes the narrative that due to a traning camp in his college days, he is 100% bought and sold and has no ambitions, causes or interests outside what his secret paymasters ask him to say.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:40 pm

Wombaticus Rex » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:26 pm wrote:This naturally assumes the narrative that due to a traning camp in his college days, he is 100% bought and sold and has no ambitions, causes or interests outside what his secret paymasters ask him to say.


As C2W pointed out to me: he didn't attend the Leadership Institute, he worked for them after he graduated. Not a trivial correction.

After getting a B.A. from the University of Indiana in 1997, Balko worked for the Leadership Institute—a Republican Party recruitment organization—as its “Campus Journalism Coordinator.”

...

At the Leadership Institute, Balko “marketed and recruited college journalists for LI’s two-day seminars” according to his online resume.


"...a power somewhere so organized, so subtle..."

So it does open up perhaps a more interesting question, which probably deserves its own thread: Why would the Koch Brothers sponsor someone like Glenn Greenwald? What is the utility value there?

Balko on twitter in 2010 ==> "I'd like to thank the Koch brothers for six years of funding my right-wing, corporatist work on police abuse and criminal justice reform."
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby wordspeak2 » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:49 pm

Greenwald says he has written for CATO Institute exactly twice.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/3 ... -and-more#

Again, given the pathetic failure of liberals to address the phony "War on Drugs," you can't blame people for using libertarian channels such as CATO. In fact, I'm about to glance at CATO's report on Portugal's drug decriminalization experiment (they decriminalized *all* drugs, if anyone didn't know).

And in other news, Uruguay is on the verge of fully legalizing marijuana. It passed in the Lower House, and is likely to pass the Upper House possibly this week.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby JackRiddler » Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:37 pm

Dear god, I wish the Cato Institute would pay my way for a few months so that I can write a paper on why drugs should be legalized. What an excellent use of their funds, so infinitely preferable to the way they usually spend the money!
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby JackRiddler » Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:39 pm

That photo...

Image

Thanks to Jenna Pope, the great young photojournalist of my acquaintance!

https://www.facebook.com/ibejennnnna

http://jennapope.com/
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby wordspeak2 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:11 pm

Yeah, that's a hell of a photo.

The one thing I am seeing against Greenwald (not including his dismissal of 9/11 truth, as he doesn't make an issue of it) is his legal representation of World Church of the Creator white supremacist leader Matt Hale. Throw it into google; he doesn't deny it; this was 2004 or '05. I don't know what Greenwald was thinking; I don't feel like looking into it much.
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby conniption » Mon Nov 25, 2013 4:57 pm

The Politics Blog

Nov 25, 2013
Meet Your Local Police's New Vehicles

By Charles P. Pierce at 10:48AM

Image
Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images - Drives start up Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, South Carolina, before they are to be delivered to Iraq. Police in the US are now taking leftover MRAP vehicles in droves.

Apparently, we are all living in Kabul now.

"It's armored. It's heavy. It's intimidating. And it's free," said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five county sheriff's departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken delivery of an MRAP.


Okay, as it happens, I will be driving through Albany County in the not too distant future. For my own safety, can somebody tell me please what in the hell has been going on in Albany County that the county sheriff needs an 18-ton armored vehicle with gun turrets and bulletproof glass? Is Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne headed that way again? Are the Martians? I will grant you that this creature will make a highly effective speed trap. But, Jeebus Christmas, does somebody really need a tank to make an effective DUI bust? And, of course, it gets worse.

Ohio State University campus police got one, saying they would use it in large-scale emergencies and to provide a police presence on football game days. Others went to police in High Springs, Fla., and the sheriff's office in Dallas County, Texas.


Were I the people setting up the BCS National Championship Game this year, I might now have second thoughts about passing over Ohio State in favor of Florida State. The Buckeyes can bring their heavy armor into play.

As the story in Stars and Stripes indicates, local police have been buying up military surplus heavy weaponry for years now. (I, for one, feel much safer in West Springfield knowing that the cops have not one, but two grenade-launchers. Keeps the Basketball Hall Of Fame safe.) It is all of a piece with the dangerously hair-trigger, highly militarized state of local law enforcement, almost all of which is a result of our idiotic "war" on drugs. (Check out how many local sheriffs say they need a tank to serve drug warrants.) This is the logical end of stop-and-frisk, pepper spray, "pain-compliance techniques," the promiscuous use of the Taser, and the occasional justified police shooting of a suspect who acted "in a furtive manner." More and more firepower. A more overwhelming response capability. If this were Afghanistan, we'd call this an "escalation."
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby Iamwhomiam » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:31 pm

18 tons and though it can go 65mph, it gets 5 mpg.

They are top-heavy, too. Ours still has its turret.

Image
Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree poses in front of the department's mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Queensbury, N.Y. For police and sheriff's departments, which have scooped up 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was just too good to pass up. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) ORG XMIT: NYMG204

Taking shock-and-awe to streets
Albany County agency among those grabbing military surplus vehicles

Associated Press
Published 10:59 pm, Sunday, November 24, 2013

Queensbury

Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.

For police and sheriff's departments, which have scooped up 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was just too good to pass up.

"It's armored. It's heavy. It's intimidating. And it's free," said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five county sheriff's departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken delivery of an MRAP.

But the trucks have limits. They are too big to travel on some bridges and roads and have a tendency to be tippy on uneven ground. And then there's some cost of retrofitting them for civilian use and fueling the 36,000-pound behemoths that get about five miles to the gallon.

The American Civil Liberties Union is criticizing what it sees as the increasing militarization of the nation's police. ACLU affiliates have been collecting 2012 records to determine the extent of military hardware and tactics acquired by police, planning to issue a report early next year.

"One of our concerns with this is it has a tendency to escalate violence," said ACLU Center for Justice senior counsel Kara Dansky.

An Associated Press investigation of the Defense Department military surplus program this year found that a disproportionate share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 — everything from blankets to bayonets and Humvees — has been obtained by police and sheriff's departments in rural areas with few officers and little crime.

After the initial 165 of the MRAP trucks were distributed this year, military officials say police have requests in for 731 more, but none are available.

Ohio State University campus police got one, saying they would use it in large-scale emergencies and to provide a police presence on football game days. Others went to police in High Springs, Fla., and the sheriff's office in Dallas County, Texas.

In Boise, Idaho, police reported using their MRAP two weeks ago to serve a warrant, saying they had evidence the suspect might be heavily armed and have explosives. Authorities said they found 100 pounds of bomb-making material and two guns. A second MRAP from nearby Nampa's police department was used to shield officers and neighbors from a possible explosion.

In New York, the Albany County sheriff's department already had four smaller military-surplus Humvees, which have been used for storm evacuations and to pull trees out of roadways. The new MRAP truck will go into service after technicians remove the gun turret and change the paint from military sand to civilian black.

Sheriff Apple rejected the idea that the nation's police forces are becoming too militaristic.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "Our problem is we have to make sure we are prepared to respond to every type of crisis."

For example, he said, if SWAT teams need to get close to a shooter or get bystanders safely away from one, the MRAP would be the vehicle of choice.

In Warren County, at the southern edge of the Adirondack Mountains, Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said its MRAP, which can hold six people and reach 65 mph, will have its turret closed up except for a small slot, the only place to fire a gun. Its bulletproof windows don't open. The proposed retrofit, including new seating, loudspeakers and emergency lights, would cost an estimated $70,000. The department has applied for grants.

"We have no plans of mounting a machine gun," he said. "The whole idea is to protect the occupants."

While Warren County's Lamouree acknowledged the MRAP will likely spend most of its time in a heated garage, with "minimal" maintenance costs, it could be used occasionally by the emergency response team, which has used armored vehicles to serve drug warrants.

"We live in the North Country," he said. "It's very common for people to have high-powered hunting rifles."

In one recent incident, a team used its armored military-surplus Humvee to approach a barricaded suspect, similar to a circumstance in which it might use the MRAP.

"We rolled the Humvee in the front yard, gave a couple of commands and he said, 'OK, I'm coming out," said investigator Jeff Gildersleeve. "That's the way we like them to end."

Others in New York that got big armored trucks included sheriff's departments in Jefferson County, Steuben County and Sullivan County, and police in Nassau County, Plattsburgh and Hamburg village. Police departments statewide have also acquired almost 150 other trucks and Humvees, a dozen of them armored, over the past two years.

http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Taking-shock-and-awe-to-streets-5008650.php
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Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Postby elfismiles » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:37 pm

Full-Fucking-Spectrum-Evil :mad2
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