Militarizing Mayberry

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

camppt.jpg Adams County, Illinois gets its own SWAT team, as well as a fluffy profile on the local news. The county had one murder in all of 2004. Yes, the photo depicts a training exercise the team undertook in one of the county’s schools. Which leads to this odd quote from the sheriff:

“I do believe there is a need for it,” said Sheriff Brent Fisher. “I think in a county, we have four rural school districts in Adams County, also with the drug and methanphetamine situation, it is very volatile, and a high-risk situation. I think it’s crucial to have a team that is trained and working together”

How does “four rural school districts” equate the need for a SWAT team?

Oddly, “school shootings” are a typical reason local police officials agitate for a SWAT team, despite the fact that school violence is exceptionally rare. Moreover, school shootings rarely turn into hostage situations. They’re generally over in seconds. It takes more than hour to scramble the typical SWAT team. Which means that in the (extremely) rare event of a school shooting, the SWAT team won’t be needed by the time it arrives on the scene.

It’s probably worth noting that there were SWAT teams on site at Columbine. But Klebold and Harris were long dead by the time they arrived. Even then, the SWAT teams waited outside, deeming it “too dangerous” to enter. Instead, they frisked terrified students as they fled the building. Too dangerous? Isn’t that the entire point of a SWAT team?

In any case, in the four hours it took police to finally enter the building, wounded teacher David Sanders bled to death. Which means that the most oft-cited incident local police departments use to argue for a SWAT team (along with the infamous and wholly anomalous North Hollywood shootout) was actually an example of a SWAT team’s gross ineptitude.

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