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The frightening overuse of paramilitary SWAT teams

Printed in the Indiana Daily Student, October 02, 2013

Printed in the Herald-Times, October 14, 2013

To the Editor:

The original idea behind SWAT teams was a good one - go in with overwhelming force to defuse things like hostage situations, bank robberies or terrorist attacks. The problem is that the use of SWAT has been greatly expanded to the point where they are now used primarily to raid non-violent drug offenders.

Radley Balko spoke on September 26 at Indiana University's Woodburn Hall, giving an overview of this frightening escalation in the use of force by law enforcement.

Balko explained that our founding fathers knew the dangers of having the military act as law enforcement, which has led to things like posse comitatus. But when law enforcement is given weapons more appropriate for a battlefield than domestic policing (including tanks) and told they are fighting a "war" on crime or drugs, we are setting up a dangerous situation.

Now SWAT is used well over 50,000 times a year, almost entirely on nonviolent drug offenders. A wise man once said that in a free society, if someone is knocking on your door at 3:00 am, it is probably the milkman. Today, it is likely to be a paramilitary strike force, and they might not even have the right house.

Scott Tibbs.