Rise of the Warrior Cop
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Author:  PeterScott [ Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Rise of the Warrior Cop

I have ranted here before about the militarization of police in the USA, so you might be tempted to write this review off as a giant case of confirmation bias. If so, at least give the book a chance to speak for itself.

would be less unsettling if its author was some beatnik with a chip on his shoulder to match his axe to grind. However, Radley Balko is an investigative journalist with solid creds, and the meticulous research glitters on every page.

And that tips the scales in making this book so profoundly disturbing.

Balko documents how police forces have evolved into military organizations with the same armament as the army but disdained by real soldiers as lacking the same discipline, training, and oversight. He traces it from the foundation of the first SWAT team in the LAPD to where every podunk hamlet now has one, armed with weapons that forty years ago were considered unthinkable for a police force to possess.

Popular wisdom would have it that this is necessary because the Bad Guys [TM] started the arms race first and the Thin Blue Line is just playing catch-up. But this isn't true: instead a few incidents such as the North Hollywood Shootout of '97 have been inflated into bugaboos to make us think so.

In fact, even in situations that looked like the raison d'ĂȘtre of SWAT teams, a discordant story emerges. Take Columbine: multiple SWAT teams converged on the school - yet none of them entered the building for a considerable time, during which time they could have saved lives by doing so. The reason they gave? "It's too dangerous."

So if Columbine wasn't what SWAT was intended for, what was it? The answer: no-knock raids. The targets: drug offenders. Here again, popular wisdom (and numerous shows) would have us believe that they were raiding urban fortresses manned by mercenaries guarding meth labs to their last breaths.

Not so.

The principal targets have been the casual offenders, named by informants of dubious pedigree. Commonly turning up less than an ounce of marijuana, where they found anything at all. If they even went to the right address, that is. I know: nobody's perfect, there's bound to be the occasional regrettable accident despite all the safeguards, but that's no reason to impede the good work of the police, right?

Except that it turns out that what's wrong with that statement is... everything.

The number of raids on the wrong address was estimated at 10%... by a police official who was proud that it was so low. Wait, but they're supposed to have a warrant, right? Only it turns out that judges sign so many of the things that they don't actually read them... as admitted by a judge himself when warrant errors so egregious as to be obvious to the casual reader came to light. His description of this blind signing? "That's not wrong." And it is now so easy to justify a no-knock raid without a warrant that they don't bother getting them that much anyway.

The average Joe might still not care that much; after all, in today's polarized America, the only folks at risk of this misidentification must be in the underclass living on the wrong side of the tracks, no? Tell that to the Fortune 500 CEO who was raided and forced out of his bed at gunpoint. Tell that to the mayor who was mistakenly raided, his dog killed (a favorite intimidation tactic is to seek out the family dog and kill it, even if it's chained in the back yard), who not only received no apology, but the officer in charge said he saw nothing wrong with their actions.

This book contains page after nauseating page of accounts of such events. The psychology isn't hard to understand, but the book lays it bare anyway: when one town gets an armored assault vehicle, the next one has to too. Even when said town hasn't experienced a homicide in the last five years. And when you've got a toy, you want to play with it. Cops attending conferences in t-shirts sporting slogans boasting of their prowess in mowing down slum dwellers only ram the point home.

I know I railed on this topic here in the past, but I always thought I might have been cherry-picking incidents to serve my pet peeve. Now I find that that peeve wasn't even close to being as bad as I thought. If you have high blood pressure or are quick to anger, don't read this book; I wouldn't want your demise on my conscience. It documents and proves the systematic destruction of liberty in the United States. We should mourn, and we should fight.

Author:  BillMullins [ Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Radley Balko's is worth following, if you are interested in this sort of thing.

Author:  PeterScott [ Fri Mar 07, 2014 5:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Thanks. Now I'm even more depressed. The one about the government freezing a defendant's assets so they couldn't pay for a lawyer is just... argh.

Author:  sakeneko [ Fri Mar 07, 2014 3:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Balko has an excellent reputation as a reporter on police issues; I'm quite familiar with it. I hadn't heard about his new book, though. Unfortunately it is available only in hardback and as an ebook right now, but I bit the bullet and ordered the hardback from Powells. I'll report back after I've got it and read it.

I don't know if I'm looking forward to reading it. :/ I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the same topic as Peter does, but also some counterinfluences that he doesn't in the form of two Los Angeles-area police officer brothers-in-law, one of whom was on his PD SWAT team til he retired recently. (He's in his late 40s, getting a bit old to do the physical stuff.) *He* is also concerned about the direction policing and the law have been taking on many issues, this being one of them.

My feeling on the issue.... Having a SWAT team available in a big region for the rare hostage-taking or mass-shooting event is one thing, quite likely a good thing. Having a SWAT team in every city PD is another thing entirely, because then the powers that be have this ugly tendency to tell you to use it or lose it. In addition, for legal and insurance purposes a lot of police commanders and not a few of their managers don't want to take any chances with police lives, even if by using a SWAT team they put citizens at greater risk. The combination is lethal and ugly. :(

More after I've read the book.

Author:  PeterScott [ Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

One more mind-numbing account from the book: A woman called her police department distraught because her husband was suicidal. The request went to the SWAT team, whose leader told the squad, "Let's go get the bad guy." And they did, shooting him from a range of 43 feet upon finding him cowering unarmed underneath a tree.

When the only tool you have is a hammer...

I don't have the words to capture my outrage.

Author:  PeterScott [ Fri Apr 18, 2014 7:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

video taken shortly after the incident showed the dog playing peacefully with children.

Author:  sakeneko [ Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Author:  PeterScott [ Tue Jun 24, 2014 5:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Police raided a house looking for someone who wasn't there. But a family was, and SWAT tossed a flashbang into a 2 year-old's crib. While preventing the mother from going to her baby, they told her he was alright even though she could see the blood from the hole blown in his chest.

It looks like the child will live.

Some things cannot be fixed by winning a lawsuit.

Author:  DanHenderson [ Thu Sep 04, 2014 1:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

I wish we could post decent-sized images here. Failing that, here's a link to a on this topic.

Author:  PeterScott [ Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Nice that it's finally penetrated the national conversation, even if only to the degree of first-order thinking. No one as yet is wondering where this militarization came from or why it started.

Author:  sakeneko [ Sun Sep 07, 2014 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

I've seen quite a bit of dicussion of where the militarization came from. General agreement seems to be that it started with the War on Drugs, and accelerated with the War on Terror. In other words, it was caused by two pseudo-wars on non-country-entities, wars with no clear victory conditions. This means, there's no way to say "we've won" and deem the war to be over. :/

Drugs and terrorism are both real threats to individuals. At a large enough scale, they can also be threats to whole countries. However, the American people sold themselves a bill of goods when they decided that these threats were great enough to justify suspending or ignoring the limits our constitution places on what our government can do to individuals to prevent them from breaking the law or punish them if they do. And we're all paying the price now.

Author:  PeterScott [ Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Oh yes, but that's more or less the When. I mean the Why. Why do cops react this way to the WoD? Or is this entirely the fault of the Nixon administration?

Author:  DanHenderson [ Mon Sep 08, 2014 9:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

If I recall correctly, part of the Why is because both the terrorists and the drug cartels were either known or presumed to be better armed than the police before this program started.

Author:  PeterScott [ Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Except that as the book points out the superior firepower is almost never used against similarly armed bad guys, but invariably in no-knock raids against lightly armed criminals or innocents. In situations where there were bad guys with lots of weapons, the cops usually waited it out in the sidelines.

And then there's civil asset forfeiture, as egregious a violation of the constitution as I can think of, abuse on a massive scale: ... and-seize/

Author:  sakeneko [ Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Another article (blog) on the Washington Post about civil asset forfeiture. ... w-who-won/

Good article. Bad practice. :/

Author:  PeterScott [ Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop


Author:  sakeneko [ Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

I'm not sure whether to rejoice that the Los Angeles schools police are giving up grenade launchers (?!) or to shudder at the idea that they had them in the first place.

Both, I guess. :roll:

Author:  RobWright [ Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rise of the Warrior Cop

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