War comes home: Excessive militarisation of American policing

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THE American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, has just released a report on how heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) are forcing their way into people’s homes in the middle of the night, often deploying explosive devices that temporarily blind and deafen residents, simply to serve a search warrant on the suspicion that someone may be in possession of a small amount of drugs.
American police are becoming more and more militarised using weapons that are used in war zones against residents.
According to the ACLU, federal funds are being used by law enforcement agents to amass military arsenal purportedly to fight the ‘War on Drugs’.
SWAT was created to deal with emergency situations such as hostages, barricade and active shooter scenarios.
With time, however, it has moved from its original purpose and SWAT teams are being used to search peoples’ homes for drugs.
The War on Drugs is an ongoing escapade by American law enforcement agencies.
It is an escapade because Government is seeking to address a symptom and not the root cause of drug abuse in America.
By going after the alleged users of drugs but doing nothing to the dealers, buyers and drug cartels, the American establishment has only succeeded in destroying communities of colour, making drugs cheaper and more potent and caused the countless death of innocent people.
SWAT raids are undoubtedly violent events, numerous (often 20 or more) officers armed with assault rifles and grenades approach a home, break down doors and windows (causing property damage), and scream for people inside to get on the floor (often pointing their guns at them).
Tarika Wilson was not a suspect.
She died when SWAT officers broke down her front door and opened fire into her home.
Tarika Wilson was holding her 14-month-old son when she was shot.
The baby was injured, but survived.
The SWAT team had been looking for Wilson’s boyfriend on suspicion of drug dealing when they raided her house on the Southside of Lima.
She was black.
In another case, knowing there would be a pregnant woman inside, a SWAT team still opted to break down the door of a home and throw a flash bang grenade inside in order to execute a search warrant in a drug case.
Once inside the home, SWAT officers found one man, one pregnant woman and a four-year-old child.
Erie Stamp was in his pyjamas, watching a baseball game, when SWAT officers forced a battering ram through his front door and threw a flash bang grenade inside.
Stamp, a 68-year-old grandfather of 12, followed the officers shouting orders to lie face down on the floor with his arms above his head.
He died in this position, when one of the officers’ guns discharged.
Stamp was not even the suspect; the police were looking for his girlfriend’s son. Here is the kicker, moments before the raid, the suspect had been arrested, but SWAT chose to carry out the raid.
And yes, Stamp was black.
After the Phonesavanh family’s home in Wisconsin burned down, they drove their minivan to stay with relatives in a small town just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Just before 3 am on a night in May 2014, a team of SWAT officers armed with assault rifles burst into the room where the family was sleeping.
One of the officers threw a flash bang grenade into the room.
It landed in the baby crib.
It took several hours before Alecia and Bouknkahm, the baby’s parents, were able to see their son.
The 19-month-old had been taken to an intensive burn unit and placed into a medically induced coma.
When the flash bang grenade exploded, it blew a hole in the baby’s face and chest.
The chest wound was so deep it exposed his ribs.
The SWAT team was executing a raid in search of a person who did not even live in the house.
The police officers did not find any guns or drugs in the house and no arrests were made.
Jose Guerena, a 26-year-old Iraq war veteran, returned home and crawled into bed after working the graveyard shift at Asarco Mission Mine.
Around 9:30 am, his wife became nervous when she heard strange noises and saw the outline of a man standing outside a window.
She woke Jose, who told her to hide in a closet with their four-year-old son.
A SWAT team fired 71 shots at Jose, 22 of which entered his body and killed him.
Jose died on his kitchen floor, without medical attention.
In 2010, a seven-year-old, Aiyana Stanely-Jones was killed when, just after midnight, a SWAT team threw a flash bang grenade into the living room where she was sleeping.
The grenade burnt her blanket and when a member of the SWAT team burst into the room, he fired a single shot that instantly killed her.
These incidents have become a pattern for SWAT teams; interestingly most of these lethal raids occur when the targets are people of colour.
Policing tactics in America unfairly target communities of colour.
Los Angeles congresswoman, Maxine Waters, believes the system is racist, charging that the colour of your skin dictates whether you will be arrested or not, prosecuted harshly or less harshly or receive a stiff sentence or gain probation or entry into treatment.
It is common to have two individuals who have committed the same crime appear before the same court and one receive jail time while another receives court mandated treatment.
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to deduce which sentence a black person will receive.
The criminal justice system holds people of colour to much stricter standards than whites.
The colour of one’s skin in America plays a major role on how the police will treat you, whether you are a suspect or a victim, being black is like a licence to be treated shabbily.
What is frightening is that now as the police are moving to use weapons that the military uses in far off places like Iraq, Afghanistan, what will become of our already ravaged black communities.
Men of colour continue to be incarcerated at alarming rates in comparison to their white counterparts, those that escape jail are now being murdered in their homes by the very people who they are supposed to protect.
All the while, the White House continues to pay lip service to bridging the racial divide.

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