(Balko 2006) Overkill

Balko, Radley. Overkill: the rise of paramilitary police raids in America. Washington, DC, USA: Cato Institute; 2006 Jul 16. Available from: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6476. Accessed 2012 Mar 13. Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/668Sz7CEE.

Balko documents the drastic increase in the use of paramilitary SWAT teams for routine policing in the USA since 1980. Most of the increase is in paramilitary raids to make arrests for drug offenses. Tens of thousands of raids occur yearly; deaths, often of innocent bystanders, are not uncommon. Large-scale donation of surplus equipment by the military has facilitated the expansion of SWAT teams; once they exist, the need to justify continued funding creates an incentive for increased use. Asset forfeiture laws add a further incentive by allowing police forces to profit from their operations. Raids are typically conducted with little or no warning, often leading residents to resist with violent force, thinking their homes are being invaded by criminals. The courts have laid down complex theoretical conditions on the circumstances under which forced entries and no-knock raids are allowed, yet these rules have failed to act as a significant check on paramilitary raids in practice. Court decisions have shown a consistent pattern of imposing severe penalties, sometimes including the death penalty, on residents who use force against raiding police officers, but failing to impose meaningful penalties on police who injure or kill residents.


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Last revision: March 7, 2013