SWAT Team Sent to Collect Student Loans

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

No, I’m not exaggerating.

Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers,” Wright said.

Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts as a S.W.A.T team barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.

“He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there,” Wright said.

According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11 and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.

As it turned out, the person law enforcement was looking for was not there – Wright’s estranged wife.

“They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids,” Wright said.

Wright said he later went to the mayor and Stockton Police Department, but the City of Stockton had nothing to do with Wright’s search warrant.

The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his wife’s defaulted student loans.

UPDATE: The Dept. of Education says the raid was not for loan collection but part of a criminal investigation into some sort of white collar crime (they didn’t offer much detail beyond that). As Matt Welch points out at the link, that still isn’t an appropriate use for a SWAT team, and still leaves a hell of a lot of unanswered questions.


Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

79 Responses to “SWAT Team Sent to Collect Student Loans”

  1. #1 |  albatross | 

    Bob #13: No, they use unmanned drones with missiles. Avoids needless hassles with trials and such….

  2. #2 |  Bob | 

    #51 | albatross | June 8th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Bob #13: No, they use unmanned drones with missiles. Avoids needless hassles with trials and such….

    How do they fit the SWAT guys into those? Is it like the missiles used in the movie “Star Crash?”

    Note: Don’t bother looking for a copy of Star Crash (Starring David Hasselhoff!) all copies have been destroyed by agents from the future. Basically, though… when the evil Starship (Which looked like a giant left hand.) Wanted to attack the good Starship (Which looked like a giant guitar.) it sent missiles over.

    These missiles carried no explosives. Instead, they crashed through a window (On a … starship… in space..) and popped open! Two guys with guns jumped out of each missile and started shooting.

    I swear to god. Here’s the trailer:


    You can see the guys jumping out of the missile at 2:16

    And yes, that was the giant left hand ship closing into a fist prior to attacking.

  3. #3 |  Joe | 

    If you think this is bad, wait till they start enforcing Obamacare!

  4. #4 |  Joe | 

    Sean L.–no kidding. Unfortunately the Supreme Court did not seem to get the memo.

  5. #5 |  sigh | 

    Whether it is for default or suspicion of fraud doesn’t really matter; they’re kicking in doors over things that could result from a simple paperwork screwup, the sort that the DoE is cranking out in record numbers lately. These people have no business kicking in anyone’s doors over anything.

  6. #6 |  Joe | 

    Would it be all, like, Visigothy of me to suggest we’re living in a soft tyranny that is practicing to become a more seasoned, respectably hard tyranny…?

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    I’ve been saying for years that they’re not peace officers here to keep the peace- they’re revenuers. the motto should be ‘to serve and collect’.

  8. #8 |  Aresen | 

    Boyd Durkin | June 8th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    SWAT raids for unpaid debt?

    Sweet Jesus, don’t let China hear about this.

    Made me laugh.

  9. #9 |  Dave | 

    There should be no Dept. of Education, nor any student loans from the gubment. When the federal gubment gives something to someone it asks for something back–usually less freedom and dignity. Visit the Tenth Amendment Center’s Web site: http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com

  10. #10 |  croaker | 

    I’ll say it again.

    Prison bed, ICU bed, or morgue tray: Bad cops don’t go home.

  11. #11 |  skootercat | 

    Whatever happened to Sen. Webb’s S.714? Now that he is leaving office, does that make it dead in the water? I ask my senators about it from time to time and assured they are co-sponsors, but if Webb is gone there is no champion to oversee our justice system and the police. Someone must pick up this fight in DC.

  12. #12 |  Andrew Roth | 

    This is stunning. If it doesn’t make the national press in a big, big way, we’re fucked as a nation. That is to say that the Tot Mom trial and Weinergate need to be put on the back burner for a while.

    This is behavior worthy of police and military goons in Arab autocracies, although it’s a slightly different sort of twisted brutality. It does not fall on a good place on the modern continuum of government brutality. It is awfully similar to some of the prominent human rights violations for which Qaddafi and Assad are currently being pushed out of polite international society. Caging prisoners all day in the sun, in case we’ve forgotten, was a North Vietnamese POW camp specialty, one that the US government rightly condemned as a gross violation of human rights.

    For God’s sake, these thugs were serving a search warrant approved by the executive branch in a matter in which the same branch, specifically their own agency, had been given the authority to enforce ex post facto changes in the terms of contracts! This is a perfect storm of unconstitutionality. This warrant service was not an act of law enforcement, but a militia attack on unarmed civilians, including children. In typical American fashion, however, it was dressed up as a law enforcement operation, complete with a warrant issued by an agency of the executive branch in usurpation of judicial branch functions.

    The emperor can grab a fig leaf, but that doesn’t make him clothed. If we don’t prosecute this tyranny domestically we’ll join the Third World. At some point, foreign governments will realize that American officials are making legalistic excuses for illegal police rampages. The ruse will be over and arrest warrants may be issued for their extradition to foreign criminal courts. For Robert Seldon Lady and fellow travelers, that day came years ago. At some point, the long arms of the law, e.g. those of Balthasar Garzon, may reach into our borders in response to a similar travesty stateside.

    The only other option I see is for officers who exercise brute force in circumstances like these to be met with brute force. It seems to be the only thing that they understand. It would be best for the countervailing force to come from a duly constituted police agency, but if the legitimate cops don’t have the courage, someone else might have to step up to the plate. It would be a pretty simple ultimatum: if you engage in violence that is not justified by a clear and present danger, we will shoot to kill. If you cross the Rubicon, there will be war.

  13. #13 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Everyone continues to go on about fraud as a justification for the Dept. of ED. having and using goon squads. Let me point out that fraud even with the taxpayers money is NOT punishable by death. If it were we would be forced to “eliminate” more than 90% of all elected officials at all levels of government, plus a sizable amount of our bureaucrats and other government hirelings. There is NO justification for any this type of tyranny.

  14. #14 |  varmintito | 

    I think what we’re all responding to, on some level, is the casual cruelty of what was done here.

    From the law enforcement perspective, the only relevant factors are (1) respect my authoritah; (2) find a crime to charge, and (3) cover my ass if it goes wrong/take credit if it goes right.

    What is missing is anything that indicates one iota of empathy for the people they traumatize.

    The suspect hasn’t lived there in years? Who cares? If he didn’t want this to happen he shouldn’t have married her in the first place. And those fucking brats should have chosen a better mother.

    Destructive home invasion? Who cares? It wasn’t my house.

    Some guy who wasn’t a suspect was handcuffed and frog marched in front of his kids? Who cares? It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my kids.

    Locked in a hot cop car for 6 hours? So what? I wasn’t in there, so it doesn’t matter.

    I suspect that an unstated goal of SWAT training is the elimination of empathy.

    In case you were wondering, absence of empathy is a defining characteristic of psychopaths and sociopaths. The presence of empathy precludes a diagnosis of either condition.

    In short, why are we surprised at the results when we create a cohesive group of natural born or trained psychopaths/sociaopaths and give them permission — hell, encourage them — to invade the homes of citizens without any meaningful restraint. The dead dogs, children, non-suspects, and suspects for non-violent crimes are inevitable. The kids growing up without any sense of security in their own homes. The fathers dealing with the shame of being manhandled in their own homes as their children watch, helpless to calm their fears and dry their tears.

    Afterward comes the rage that there are no meaningful consequences for those who so casually inflict violence, destruction, indignity and injustice.

    Sometimes there are official apologies. Without meaningful action the apology means nothing. Anybody at fault should be fired and barred from all future public employment — a person who authorizes a SWAT raid without a convincing basis to believe the suspect is armed and has a history of criminal violence, a judge who issues a warrant without legitimate probable cause, an investigator who fails to discover that there were children in the house or that the suspect didn’t live there, a commander who goes to the wrong door, a cop who shoots without convincing evidence of an immediate and unavoidable threat of death or serious injury. There should be immediate statutory changes limiting the scenarios in which SWAT can be used, or simply the dissolution of the unit if the scenarios that could justify its use are not common.

    Sometimes there is a new door. That doesn’t cut it. There should be psychotherapy for all who desire it for as long as is needed, from a provider chosen by the victim, paid in full by the entity that authorized the raid. There should be payment for all expenses required to return the home to its pre-invasion condition, including the services of a cleaner and a professional organizer it the house got “tossed.” If the family prefers, they can elect to have the entity that authorized the raid pay for all expenses associated with moving to another home of equal or greater value. This would include the services of professional movers, real estate agents, etc. It may ultimately mean purchasing the home if it is difficult to sell — after all, they were the ones that made it traumatic to remain in the home and thereby created the reason to move at all.

    Obviously, there would be immediate compensation for all medical expenses, and non-assholish offers of compensation for pain and emotional distress.

  15. #15 |  crazybob | 

    “No, I’m not exaggerating.”

    Turns out yes you where. WHy? Because you uncritically buy in to any anti-government story, no matter how poorly sourced, that comes down the pipe.

    THe anti-government crowd knows that people like you will pick this up and shout it from the rooftops – and when you learn you’re wrong you will quietly say “sorry”. Meanwhile the unjustified damage is done and most people don’t ever even see the corrections.

    I know you like to call yourself a “journalist”, but you seem lacking some basic skills they teach in journalism school. Here’s one: when a story ONLY quotes from the alleged victim, be skeptical. People will always spin a story to put themselves in the most favorable light.

  16. #16 |  Radley Balko | 

    THe anti-government crowd knows that people like you will pick this up and shout it from the rooftops – and when you learn you’re wrong you will quietly say “sorry”. Meanwhile the unjustified damage is done and most people don’t ever even see the corrections.

    Always delighted when anonymous commenter offer me lessons in journalism. The DoE still admitted it sent a damned SWAT team. The only mistake here was whether it was over student loan debt or fraud/embezzlement. Even if it’s the latter, it’s a completely unjustified use of a SWAT team. They still got the wrong house. And there’s still the matter of why in the hell the Department of Education would have a SWAT team in the first place.

    If you think the worst thing about this story is that one misreported aspect of it resulted in “unjustified damage” to the government, you have some pretty twisted values.

  17. #17 |  varmintito | 


    I assume the exaggeration you’re referring to is debt collection vs. fraud. Fair enough. Clarifying that exaggeration at least gets us across the threshold of having an alleged violation of the criminal law.

    It doesn’t change anything about the use of SWAT where there is no legitimate belief that the suspect is an armed and violent criminal, the failure to investigate whether the suspect lives there, the manhandling of a non-suspect, the confinement of the innocent ex-spouse and children for six hours while the house was tossed, etc.

    Incidentally, can anybody describe the nature of the alleged fraud? It’s pretty rare that fraud is prosecuted criminally at all, so I’m curious.

  18. #18 |  marco73 | 

    Well, the DOE has responded to the original story. No, it wasn’t a late student loan. But because it is an ongoing investigation, the DOE can’t tell us what the underlying crime is. There is an email from the DOE on the Reason.com website.
    Reading between the lines, you just know that means the DOE didn’t find anything in their raid, and are just trying to stall for time until they can get their story straight.
    Even when a SWAT raid goes wrong, the cops always trumpet how they found “a weapon” or “drug paraphenalia” or “a substantial amount of drugs” or “possible drug profits”, so that the badge licking press has some way to write a coverup story.
    But the DOE has provided nothing, and is trying to hide behind some sort of confidentiality. You invade a private home, causing destruction of property and trauma to innocent people, but now you want confidentiality? No one is going to believe that. The DOE has to come up with a better story.

  19. #19 |  ElamBend | 

    Here’s the warrant:

  20. #20 |  Our National Priorities « The Blog For Truth, Justice, & The Josh Way | 

    […] we have SWAT teams detaining innocent people while they investigate a white collar crime, a victim of police sexual harassment getting arrested […]

  21. #21 |  VikingMoose | 

    Proposal: change the “S” for “Special” in SWAT to “T” for “Thuggish”.

    Yes. works much better

  22. #22 |  Bob | 

    Holy crap! They need to add more stuff to that search warrant. (Sarcasm)

    They can take your KEYS? How are you supposed to get back into the house? Oh yeah, that’s right. They conveniently left it open for you.

    Here’s the kicker… The warrant states that they can get any password needed to access any computer (Which they can also take) and take any box or safe they cannot open.

    Let me get this straight. Any Government department… like the DoE, can field it’s own SWAT team, has jurisdiction over the entire country, has access to who knows how many judges, at least one of which will undoubtedly rubber stamp any warrant…. can just get a search warrant and tear your world apart, taking every scrap of electronics, financial records, everything. All with absolutely no regard for political or prosecutorial consequences. What are you going to do? Not reelect the leader of the DoE? You can’t already!

    This scares the crap out of me, and I’m not even close to being paranoid.

  23. #23 |  Mannie | 

    #72 | Bob | June 9th, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Any Government department… like the DoE, can field it’s own SWAT team

    Of course they can. How else can they compete for those funds, add to their power, and build their bureaucratic empires?

    Now go and eat your cake.

  24. #24 |  Itchy Nipples | 

    Itchy Nipples ! Oi! HOW DARE YOU STEAL MY MONIKER!!!

  25. #25 |  Itchy Nipples | 


  26. #26 |  jim | 

    For those who do not know. The constututional form of government co-exists with the corporate form of government. Congress are figure heads. This is not a tall tale but the truth. It can be traced back and proven, That is why they can do what they do and it will only intensify.

  27. #27 |  Fascist Nation | 

    Let’s see the subpoena and the attached affidavit used to secure the subpoena. Then we know what the charge(s) were and upon whom. DOE has a SWAT Team—who knew.

  28. #28 |  John Q. Galt | 


    404 The page you are looking for can not be found.

  29. #29 |  Balloon Juice » SWAT | 

    […] don’t know much about the use of SWAT teams by police departments, just what Radley Balko, ED Kain and others have been writing about their misuse and the tragic deaths […]