Officer Safety

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Officer safety is usually cited as the main justification for the mass proliferation of SWAT teams over the last 30 years. Police say forced entry, flash grenades, and other paramilitary tactics are the only way offers can protect themselves while serving warrants on dangerous people like suspected pot dealers, poker players, optometrists who wager on football games, frail 69-year-old men suspected of selling painkillers, and women suspected of committing fraud on their student loan applications—to give just a few examples.

But what happens when police need to apprehend a genuinely dangerous person? We see this over and over: They don’t always send the SWAT team. And when they do, like they did in Columbine, the SWAT team sometimes waits outside until the shooting is over. So this week we had Whitey Bulger. He’s a suspect in at least 19 murders. He had 20 guns in his home when police apprehended him. So how did they do it? Once again, they didn’t send a SWAT team barreling into his home. Instead, they lured him out with a phone call, then arrested him peacefully.

Perhaps if they thought he had some pot in the house, it might have gone down differently.

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63 Responses to “Officer Safety”

  1. #1 |  DocHoliday916 | 

    Oh gawd where do I begin? Much to unload here. Sorry for the length but I’d be obliged if all bare with me. With each passing day, the respect my late mommy and daddy instilled in me for the police is eroding into abject contempt. Mark Twain is quoted, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” But this statement not withstanding, I have learned over fifty plus years of existence that among some of the immutable facts of the universe is that the “law of averages” will assert itself one way or another and sometimes result in unspeakable tragedy with consequences and unsavory outcomes. For little over a hundred years of lynchings and one too many cases of false imprisonment, a majority of African Americans cheered when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder. The verdict split Americans along racial lines. The question of guilt is not in doubt. Forensic evidence clearly put O.J. at the crime scene. But that’s not the point. The late Johnny Cochran successfully argued that gaps in lab protocols and chain of custody practices created sufficient gaps to create credible reasonable doubt and violated due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The aftermath resulted in massive changes in new lab protocols imposed on the LA Crime Lab from without rather from within which validates another immutable truth of the Universe: “When you don’t fix a problem you can see in front of your face and it becomes a problem for others, solutions will be imposed upon you much to your dislike and dismay.” After comprehensively reading reports of botched SWAT Team raids going back 31 years…something is amiss and terribly wrong. Eventually, the law of averages is going to assert itself. Hollywood might not buy the scenario I am about to posit, but history and truth sometimes being much stranger than fiction, it’s not outside the realm of possibility OR probability. Somewhere in this country, there is going to be another SWAT dynamic entry on a home. The pre-event intelligence used to execute the warrant will be scant, sketchy, and once assessed in tragic hindsight, just plain insufficient and dumb. The judge will sign the warrant in haste thinking they asked the sufficient questions. Part of the intel will be correct in that the homeowner is in possession of firearms “justifying a no knock”. BUT what the intel misses is that the homeowner having been a victim of a home invasion and vowing “never again” has now beefed up his arsenal, hardened his house and has developed, thought through, and trained on tactics techniques and procedures and other members of his family are trained as well. His weapons are semi-auto with .308 caliber (NATO 7.62) with 30 round mag capacity. He’s pre-established optimal defensive positions optimally creating overlapping fields of fire, it’s a devastating effect. While he’s hitting the sack early, he’s about to fall asleep as a he hears a loud bang followed by screams. He’s out of his bed and so is another family member; both have grabbed their weapons and assumed positions and the shooting begins. After hours of negotiations and three dead SWAT officers in his living room, the homeowner finally surrenders and is now along with the other family member, facing capital murder charges. The newsies are going absolutely gaga with the story, it runs all week through all the news wires, the Internet is lit up like a Christmas tree with the blogosphere and a raging debate ensues. A prominent law firm somewhere in a big US city known for its public protestation against SWAT invasions takes this one pro-bono and unleashes a formidable array of private investigators. At trial, the poor intelligence is established. The SWAT team found nothing for which the warrant was issued, testimony allowed into the record on criminals posing as cops invading homes along with the most notorious act of cop impersonation, the St. Valentines Day Massacre of Feb 14, 1929 is also used as an example to justify the defendants actions. The prosecution attempts to paint the defendants as social monsters contrary to testimony of the neighbors and the community at large that the defendants are upstanding folk with no prior criminal record. Closing arguments by both sides are made, the judge instructs the jury, the jury retires to deliberate. In deliberations, a majority of the jury vents their anger at the police and invokes jury nullification (NOTE: As much as jury nullification is actively discouraged by prosecutors and judges, it’s still legal). The jury returns a verdict of not guilty on all counts. A national outrage emerges from LEO’s all over the country. The surviving families of the slain cops are permanently embittered…no justice for them. But, (to use the NFL euphemism) upon further review, the full set of facts of the case once finally revealed, initiates a ground swell of public opinion that quickly evolves into a tsunami of public opinion against the law enforcement community. Elected political leaders who once were “in the pocket” of the police and their unions change sides. (NOTE: Elected pols love their power and perks and will not allow anyone to get in the way of such; another immutable fact of the Universe). Much to the anger, chagrin and grousing of the LEO’s, new laws, guidelines and protocols are imposed. Fantasy scenario? Perhaps but like I said, stranger stuff has occurred in my lifetime and I’m no black helicopter, grassy knoll kinda guy. Dunphy, the last, I repeat very last thing I or any rational sensible American wants to see are innocent civilians AND cops killed. But understand this and I suggest you seriously take it to heart. A higher standard IS demanded of police officers. A large part of the currency of the trade is lethal force. The record of the last thirty years is a scandal beyond the pale. While I support officer safety, I also understand there is inherent risk in that job one assumes. I know this personally. For over 20 years, as a member of this country’s military and as a commissioned Constitutional officer of the Government, I VOLUNTARILY signed the contract, VOLUNTARILY raised my right hand and swore an oath that is as sacred to me as scripture. NO ONE, I repeat NO ONE forced my hand and for those 20+ years, there was a target painted on my back for if and when my country ordered me to go into hot theatre of operations, I WAS GOING for the orders were clear and very very legal. Quite frankly, the level of cacophony from LEO’s about their safety is getting to be a bit much. All you LEO’s VOLUNTARILY wanted the job so accept the risks…deal with it as your military compatriots have to deal with it. Thank you all for your patience. I promise this is the longest I’ll ever write here in this great forum. For gawd’s sakes, we have to find some way to stop this madness before we have another tragedy that finally tips that pebble down the hill. We may not survive the resulting avalanche.

  2. #2 |  V | 

    Okay, well, as an alternative to all the reasons offered here, the concept of destruction of evidence plays in a role in the use of SWAT teams when enforcing warrants on non-violent offenders. As Radley has mentioned before, it’s good to get money and drugs on the table. A SWAT team that makes a no-knock entry is more likely to come up with the maximum amount of money and drugs; drugs it can display in front of cameras and money it can seize so the department can buy more military surplus.

    In this case, a raid doesn’t serve the purpose of protecting evidence from destruction. A raid here would only serve to catch a suspect by surprise, which obviously isn’t necessary as we saw how events played out.

    So, yes, there’s the “cops are all adrenaline junkies who need their fix by raiding and pointing guns at every person they can while shooting animals,” but that isn’t really supported by the fact a raid wasn’t authorized in this case. Obviously a potentially violent suspect is the best justification for a raid, so if the “thrills and adrenaline rushes that bullies get when they violently assault” is the actual cause, why wouldn’t it be employed here?

    You can also argue that police only like to raid on innocent people or non-violent suspects, but then you have to explain away raids on people who are actually guilty.

  3. #3 |  DocHoliday916 | 

    Hey V…HOW do you know people are guilty? Guilt or innocence is determined by a court of law…not me, not you, or anyone else. A “potentially violent suspect is the best justification for a raid?” Yup, there are a lot of violent people out there that the LEO’s have to confront everyday and yes the drug trade is a major haven for violent people acting out and defending their illegal enterprise. When the police confront an armed suspect and everyone knows who everyone is, I’ll side with the police any day if the perp is shot and killed. I’ll also contend that the data of the last 31 years indicates that the majority of the raids in the post investigation showed that the suspects apprehended and the evidence obtained were such that guilt was validated in the subsequent trial. The problem is that there is a small but nonetheless, significant number of raids executed based upon questionable intelligence, judges signing off on warrants with insufficient due diligence resulting in raids on the innocent and too many times with fatal consequences. It’s not worth it. The police ARE NOT warriors, they are civil peace officers. On a personal note as a retired warrior, I despise the cops trying “work my side of the street” and they wouldn’t like the converse either. But if the cops are going to take this warrior mentality then they better start understanding the way of the warrior according to Sun-Tzu and Sun-Tzu is taught at every level of professional military education all the up to the most senior level of War College. Here’s a few writings of Sun-Tzu:

    “To win without fighting is best!”

    “The general who achieves victory without conflict is a treasure.”

    Sun-Tzu showed how understanding conflict can lead not only to its resolution, but even to its avoidance altogether.

    One thing that is common between war and these botched SWAT raids is that both consume lives and treasure and in the case of the latter, dead civilians, dead cops, cost of lawsuits, the cost of the monetary settlements and the survivors of the dead permanently embittered and their lives wrecked. We are after all human beings with brains that hopefully result in using better judgement. But the problem too often occurs that when someone is given a hammer, they ultimately view the world as a bunch of nails. We all deserve better…much better.

  4. #4 |  Ellen | 

    “Keep records of all SWAT raids …” HAW!

    It’s surprising how often the records turn up missing, even when they are kept. And if the Law sees some *citizen* keeping records, they seem to prefer to arrest him and stomp his camera. The Law does not *want* an open society with good record-keeping.

  5. #5 |  Mrs. C | 

    #51…Oh gawd where do I begin? Much to unload here. Sorry for the length but I’d be obliged if all bare with me.

    …You’re welcome.

    #53…One thing that is common between war and these botched SWAT raids is that both consume lives and treasure and in the case of the latter, dead civilians, dead cops, cost of lawsuits, the cost of the monetary settlements and the survivors of the dead permanently embittered and their lives wrecked.

    …very sad…but very true.

    #53…We are after all human beings with brains that hopefully result in using better judgement. But the problem too often occurs that when someone is given a hammer, they ultimately view the world as a bunch of nails. We all deserve better…much better.

    …human beings…yes…but not always HUMANE.

    Without accountability…and consequences for wrongful actions…justice is denied…and without citizens’ support…involvement…and a dialogue…the issues that need to addressed…and resolved…will not see the light of day.

    To just be “deserving better”…isn’t going to happen…on its own.

  6. #6 |  DocHoliday916 | 

    Mrs. C, thank you for your comments. I am familiar with the tragedy you note. I see in earlier posts that this was our son. You have my condolences. I have silently watched this case as this case along with other recent tragedies is making my blood boil. Myself and many others did not serve this country to see this. I’ve seen war and it’s bad enough to see it on foreign soil and a scandalous poverty that in this country and with all of the talent we have at hand, cooler heads cannot prevail and find better ways to take violent criminals off the streets. The first of General Colin Powell’s rules is, “It can be done!” I agree that to deserve better, effort is required. As I said in previous posts, I’m just another unknown face in the crowd but there are many more out there like me who have been taking notice for some time we don’t like what has happened. I’d like to think in all humility that if we are angry at this SWAT behavior, something is wrong very very wrong. Further, I think it’s a pretty good bet that the police are here lurking reading these posts and hopefully, they’ll begin to see that the tide of opinion is turning against them and they can take the initiative and make the choices now to create new tactics techniques and procedures that minimizes the use of a SWAT team or eventually, the masters i.e. the people will impose on the public servants i.e. the police new procedures they will not like. All the best! -DH916

  7. #7 |  BatChainPuller | 

    “Probably because it didn’t fucking happen, dunphy. Or do you really want us to give the benefit of the doubt to the same people who shoot first and ask questions later when the suspect is holding a water nozzle, hero sandwich, golf club, Mars Bar, cellphone, etc.”

    “happens all the fucking time……”

    But it didn’t happen it the imaginary case that you cited…did it?

    Similar to all the imaginary BS reports that juvenile SWAT teams use to justify whatever illegal BS they get their idiot selves involved with

  8. #8 |  Quote of the Day–Uncle (06/27/2011) | The Minuteman | 

    […] But if you’re an actual dangerous criminal suspected in 19 murders who has 20 guns in the house, they lure you out with a phone call. […]

  9. #9 |  nomorepolicestate | 

    And this is exactly why my local PD KNOWS i have and arsenal and a saferoom.

    If a SWAT team ever comes to terrorize my family they better kiss their wife and kids goodbye … cause they ain’t coming home.

    I have had it with this police state crap. Ya know how folks always talk about protecting themselves from the possibly of a SS type government arm.

    Well here it is … not lock and freaking load already its time to make the term SWAT = Testing your life insurance policy

  10. #10 |  DonM | 

    Really the solution to this problem is to deputize every non-felon American over 21.

    That way we are all police officers, and we all have the same rights as police officers.

    What, you say that police officers are trained in a government school so they can excercise the rights and responsibilities correctly? We all have been given training in a government school, except for the few who went to private school, and those tend to get better education and training than the average graduate of the government school.

  11. #11 |  Mrs. C | 


    thank you..for your condolences…all the best to you too.

  12. #12 |  Militant Libertarian » Officer Safety | 

    […] The Agitator […]

  13. #13 |  Joe Arpaio deserves a strongly-worded reprimand § Unqualified Offerings | 

    […] on the subject of police behavior, when Whitey Bulger was arrested Radley Balko noted that the cops didn’t send in SWAT to break down his door.  They tricked him into exiting the building and arrested him outside.  It seems that the SWAT […]