Target: Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner
Goal: End police use of military-style weapons and tactics against innocent people during routine home searches
Slate and other news sources report that in a recent drug-raid-gone-bad a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team horrifically woke a sleeping family with a flashbang grenade when it landed in an infant’s crib. The SWAT team was conducting a raid for drugs allegedly belonging to a nephew of the couple sleeping inside. This individual did not actually reside at their home. After hours of being denied the ability to hold and comfort her wounded son, the baby’s mother was finally able to take him to the hospital where the child was rushed to the intensive burn unit and placed in a medically-induced coma.
In January, 2008 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that SWAT members raided a young woman’s home on suspicion that her boyfriend possessed illegal drugs. He was not home at the time of the raid. Ms. Tarika Wilson was holding her 14-month-old son when she opened the door, at which time police opened fire and mortally wounded her.
These stories are just some of the most gruesome examples of the harm a militarized police force can cause. Studies conducted by the ACLU estimate that up to 80% of SWAT raids in the United States are conducted to serve search warrants, typically for drugs. What’s more such searches disproportionately affect minorities and individuals living in poverty, mirroring the prejudice inherent in the greater “War on Drugs.”
Join others in expressing outrage over this brutalization of innocent citizens. Urge Congress to advance legislation banning SWAT teams from entering civilians’ homes on search warrants for minor drug offenses with weapons and tactics more appropriate for the battlefield.
Dear Representative Boehner,
The use of paramilitary force against civilians sounds like a sad story we might read in the newspaper about people in a third world nation. Sadly, it’s also a story playing out in America at this very moment. SWAT teams have the power to conduct surprise raids at night in citizens’ homes to serve search warrants, often for minor drug offenses. Many times the individuals named in the warrants no longer reside at the homes being raided. It is often the innocent people present–including children and the elderly–who bear the brunt of the disproportionate police violence used.
Too often local police officials are presented with incentives in the form of weapons, vehicles and other equipment in exchange for more arrests for minor drug offenses. In a recent report entitled “The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” the ACLU describes the mindset of SWAT officers as having been militarized and encouraged to “…adopt a ‘warrior’ mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies.”
I urge you to use your power to put an end to this militarization of U.S. police forces and their brutalization of innocent citizens. Please help advance legislation to ban offering police paramilitary equipment as incentives, and to stop equating the potential presence of drugs with the threat of violence from innocent people.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Chico75 via Wikimedia Commons