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Posts tagged SWAT

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#6)

Quick quiz. Try to identify where this photograph was taken, and what military force the people pictured in it are members of.

Here is a photograph of several men in dark uniforms with helmets and body armor, in combat posture, with assault rifles pointed directly at the camera. They are posed in front of a large tank. One man is standing in front of the tank, smiling, in a normal suit and tie.

The photograph was taken in Richland County, South Carolina. The people in the photograph are Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and his Special Response Team. They are posed in front of their recently acquired Army-surplus Armored Personnel Carrier, which has a top speed of 30 miles per hour and a turret-mounted .50-caliber belt-fed machine gun. They call it the Peacemaker, apparently because this is exactly the sort of military hardware Jesus would use to terrorize or kill suspected meth addicts.

Sheriff Leon Lott told the Columbia State newspaper that he hoped the vehicle, named The Peacemaker, would let the bad guys know that his officers are serious.

We don’t look at this as a killing machine, Lott told the paper. It’s going to keep the peace. We hope the fact that we have this is going to save lives. When something like this rolls up, it’s time to give up.

— Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2008-03-06): S.C. Sheriff’s Department Armored Vehicle with Belt-Fed Machine Gun

Take another look at that photograph, and let me know whether that’s what peace looks like to you. Please keep in mind, if you happen to be in Richland County, South Carolina, that, in the view of the Sheriff’s Department, keeping the peace means putting so much firepower in the hands of government police that their capacity for violence terrorizes the rest of the populace out of any thought of defying or resisting their orders.

The Richland County Sheriff’s department got their new armored personnel carrier through a federal government program which provides military surplus weapons to local law enforcement agencies.

As Radley Balko said back in May, in response to another story:

Iâ??m afraid this intermingling of domestic police and military is well beyond the point of no return.

Do you feel safer now?

(Via John Markley 2008-09-04, Radley Balko 2008-09-01, and Pete Guthier 2008-09-01.)

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#5)

… But it must just be the summer heat, right?

In Maryland, a state police Red Squad spent a year and change infiltrating anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, and put the names of nonviolent activists onto terrorist and drug-trafficking watch lists:

The ACLU released 43 pages of [Maryland] state police summaries and computer logs Thursday – some with agents’ names and paragraphs blacked out — that it obtained from the state attorney general’s office through a lawsuit based on Maryland’s Public Information Act.

The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters’ freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.

Many of the spies’ reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state’s attorney might take on the death penalty.

Yesterday, [former Maryland Governor Bob] Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was sympathetic to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

But he added, We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they’ve received and to make decisions accordingly.

— Jonathan Bor and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun (2008-07-19): State police spying decried

For example, one of the decisions that cops accordingly make is to harass, assault, restrain, and imprison innocent people who try to photograph them and document how the cops are treating the people they interact with. (Apparently this intelligence thing isn’t a two-way street.) They are, of course, happy to invent completely fictional crimes based on nonexistent laws in order to do so. Thus, in Johnson County, Tennessee:

Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and itâ??s hard to find one without that camera feature. Itâ??s convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriffâ??s deputy during a traffic stop.

The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.

… A Johnson County sheriffâ??s deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.

He says you took a picture of me. Itâ??s illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer, said Conover.

… The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.

He said if you donâ??t give it to me, youâ??re going to jail, said Conover.

Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didnâ??t want to incriminate himself by talking to us.

— Darius Radzius, WJHL (2008-07-11): Man Arrested For Unlawful Photography

Carlos Miller elaborates on the same case:

Gangsters in Blue Ben May and Starling McCloud

Update: I talked to Scott Conover Wednesday morning and he said they delayed his court appearance to Sept. 3rd, which sounds familiar because they kept doing the same thing in my case. (I was arrested last year for photographing cops against their wishes). In my case, I took it as a sign that they were hoping the delay would cause the media interest to die down.

After arresting Scott Conover for unlawful photography in Mountain City, Tennessee last June, Johnson County Sheriffâ??s Deputy Starling McCloud threatened to arrest Conoverâ??s 12-year-old daughter with the same charge after she snapped two photos of her father getting handcuffed.

As it turns out, she is a better photographer than her father because she actually managed to photograph the camera shy deputy.

… It wonâ??t be the first time [Scott Conover has] faced off against the Johnson County Sheriffâ??s Office in court.

A couple of years ago, we had problems with the sheriff, so we sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, he said.

But the problems started even before that, after he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns.

They beat the shit out of him, he said. The guyâ??s lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriffâ??s department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.

Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, which he said is modeled after the Tiki Bar in Key Largo.

They were wolf-packing my customers, he said. They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.

Conover struck back by suing them.

… On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family had left the Last Chance Saloon after picking up the nightly earnings and were on their way back to Jammers. His wife was sitting in the passengerâ??s seat. His son and daughter were in the back seat.

Up ahead were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriffâ??s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

The lady who was driving doesnâ??t drink, he said. Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passengerâ??s seat.

Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

Hey fellas, Iâ??m just getting your picture.

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud — who has been on the force only 18 months — told him that photographing him was illegal.

I asked, what planet are you from?, Conover said.

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy.

Conoverâ??s wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the IPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didnâ??t delete the photo.

The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.

I threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.

By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May, who is in the dark uniform in the above photos. McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.

Conoverâ??s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.

He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, You better not go back there or else weâ??re going to have some real problems, he said.

McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.

At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.

He then turned to me and said, I’m charging you with disorderly conduct.

Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail — and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with — he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer.

— Carlos Miller, Photography is Not a Crime (2008-08-05): Deputy threatened to arrest 12-year-old daughter for unlawful photography

Meanwhile, in Ohio, posturing macho paramilitary cops gunned down an unarmed woman holding nothing other than her baby boy. They fired high-powered rifles, blindly into a room they couldn’t see, because they saw a shadow on the wall during their cock-swinging commando SWAT raid. Please remember that cops are hired and trained to keep you and me safe, so obviously no matter how many unarmed women these heavily armed, trained professionals mow down in a wild attempt to save their own skins, the warrior mindset means never having to say you’re sorry.

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

— Radley Balko, Hit and Run (2008-08-05): Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

Over in Chicago, the arbitrary governor over the state of Illinois has declared that what Chicago needs is yet another elite tactical team to patrol inner city neighborhoods, complete with state troopers and military helicopters.

Calling violence in Chicago out of control, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday offered to lend state troopers and National Guard helicopters to the city to augment the Chicago Police.

The governor is considering forming an elite tactical team to help the Chicago Police fight gang problems, a source said, adding that the unit could later be sent across the state to deal with gang problems at any city’s request.

— Chicago Sun-Times (2008-07-17): Gov. says Chicago out of control

Meanwhile, the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona proposes that we ought to combat inner city crime using the strategic hamlet surge tactics that have made for such a brilliant success in the occupation of Iraq.

We might look at what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City, when he became mayor of that city. … And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc.

Do you feel safer now?

(Stories via Darian Worden (2008-07-18): Martial Law 2008, Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-08-02): The Fascist McCain On Solving Neighborhood Crimes, Ali @ ThinkProgress (2008-08-01): McCain suggests military-style invasion modeled on the surge to control inner city crime, etc.)

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#4)

(Via Radley Balko 2008-06-23.)

These are scenes from a SWAT team training exercise in Floyd County, Georgia, in which a squad of heavily armed paramilitaries practice storming, sweeping, and occupying a house, while dressed in military-style fatigues and heavily armed with assault rifles, body armor, gas grenades, etc. The training exercise is part of a recruitment video that the Floyd County Public Safety department is preparing, in order to show potential [job] applicants what Floyd County Public Safety is all about, apparently because Floyd County cops want to hire on even more of the kind of people who would be attracted to the prospect of doing things like this all day, and who believe that this sort of thing is what policing is all about:

Do you feel safer now?

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter….

You already knew that Chicago patrol cops are planning to carry M4 assault rifles in the inner city and Springfield, Massachusetts cops plan to switch to black, military-style uniforms in the inner city in order to restore a sense of fear.

But wait, there’s more.

In Tulare County, California, the county sheriff’s office has formed a new, dedicated Gang Unit to engage in saturation patrols of the south end of town, to pull over suspicious cars (any guess on what color suspicious drivers are likely to be), get in the faces of suspect young men (any guess on what the color of those faces will be?), and generally to make sure that certain members of the public are afraid to use public spaces. By putting more heavily-armed police officers on the streets, they claim to be taking weapons off the streets. Gang Unit mouthpiece Sergeant Harold Liles says that the purpose of all this letting them know we are here, and the streets belong to us.

In Wilmington, Delaware, a new charter school is in the planning stages. It will enroll as many as 600 inner-city high school students — or rather, Cadets — for training in jobs for the front lines in the Nation’s [sic] homeland security. The Academy will require its teenaged cadets to wear uniforms, give them extensive physical training during and after school, offer homeland security training as an after-school activity, and offer a choice of vocational curricula ranging from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) through prison guard, water rescue, paramedic, fireman, professional demolition and emergency response operator.

Meanwhile, in the great northwest, Montana Highway Patrol used to carry M14 rifles in the trunks of their patrol cars in case of an emergency. Soon they will all be carrying AR-15 assault rifles strapped to the front seat of the car. Montana Highway Patrol mouthpiece Jerril Ren says that For the most part, they’re trying to make them [high-powered assault rifles] more readily available to the officer and said that the higher-powered guns were necessary for now-common tactical situations.

The Palm Beach County, Florida sheriff’s office is now training and arming regular cops on the beat with AR-15 assault rifles.

Inner-city patrol cops in Miami have also been carrying assault rifles for the past few months, at the behest of city Police Chief John Timoney.

Johnson City, Tennessee patrol cops were already armed with handguns and shotguns. Now they have started a new weapons program to ensure that at least some patrol cops are carrying other, special weapons on every patrol shift. They won’t say in public what those weapons are or how many they are putting onto the streets.

The Washington County, Tennessee sheriff’s office just got a grant from the federal government to arm their patrol cops with AR-15 assault rifles.

And if you’re wondering why all these stories have suddenly hit the news so close to each other, over just the last month, in so many different cities and counties, my suspicion is that you’ve got the answer right there: the United States federal government, which spent the past 30 years or so involving itself in state and local law enforcement agencies through the use of tax-funded training, grants, and equipment sales for paramilitary SWAT teams and anti-terrorism task forces, now seems to be making use of those same grants to more heavily arm and more thoroughly militarize ordinary patrol cops on the highway, in the inner city, and in rural sheriff’s offices.

Do you feel safer now?

See also:

Isolated incidents

Here is a map of the United States with 299 colored pins on it, with each one representing a botched paramilitary police raid.

Death of an innocent. Death or injury of a police officer. Death of a nonviolent offender.
Raid on an innocent suspect. Other examples of paramilitary police excess. Unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people.
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