August 16, 2013
The SWAT team is the big guns of policing in the United States,
reserved for kidnappings, gunmen and other highly dangerous and
potential volatile situations. Right?
Wrong, apparently, because in recent years, the use of SWAT teams for
routine law enforcement matters has been on the rise, with sometimes
fatal consequences. These highly trained police personnel are being sent
out on gambling raids, ordered to break up underage parties and even
dispatched to handle student loan fraud. Not the best use of taxpayer
resources, given the expense of maintaining a SWAT team and sending
members out on calls, but more than that, it’s a troubling indicator of
something going deeply wrong in America.
In the United States, the police are kept separate from the military
for a number of social and political reasons. Paramilitary forces like
SWAT teams, developed in 1960s Los Angeles to address considerable
social unrest, are intended to be used judiciously, in situations where a
threat to civilian wellbeing and social stability is so significant
that it justifies the use of considerable force and organized military
tactics against members of the civilian community.