A new report from the ACLU states American police forces across the country have adopted tactics and weaponry commonly used by America’s military forces.
The report focuses on the use of SWAT teams and their subsequent expansion since their inception in the late 1960’s.
These “quasi-militaristic” units, the report says, were created to handle emergency situations such as hostage scenarios, active shooter incidents, and riots. However, nearly 80% of all SWAT raids now focus on conducting search warrants for drug related offenses, while only 7% of SWAT operations were for dangerous situations.
The War on Drugs seems to be one of the major causes for the increase in militarization, claims the report, as police began stockpiling military-grade weapons to help combat drugs on the streets.
The Department of Defense Excessive Property Program has been the key component allowing police departments to obtain the military-grade weapons- most of which has been previously used in combat- for free.
Of the military-grade weaponry used by police across the nation, a New York Times report says about 500 planes, helicopters, and mine-resistant armored vehicles have been obtained, alongside 94,000 machine guns.
Kara Dansky, the ACLU Senior Counsel and author of the repoAmericrt, told Mashable in an interview, the increased militarization of the police in America might be “terrifying people, destroying communities and actually undermining public safety.”
Reckless and needless violence, as the report calls it, have also risen with the increase in firepower.
In 2011, Jose Guerena, a 26-year-old Marine who served in Iraq, was killed by a SWAT team in his home in Tucson, Arizona.
Guerena’s wife woke at night after hearing a noise and seeing a silhouette of a man outside their house. Guerena grabbed his personal rifle from his closet to investigate the noise, telling his wife to stay put.
SWAT teams were carrying out raids in the neighborhood in search of drugs, and upon seeing Guerena with his rifle they opened fire, resulting in his death on his own kitchen floor. No drugs were found in Guerena’s home and very little were found in the surrounding neighborhood.
The report claims the use of such impulsive tactics, such as these, results in not only a potential increase in distrust for officers everywhere, but also, “destroys property, and undermines individual liberty.”