Overuse of SWAT Teams

Recent incidents in Oregon and Missouri should give many people pause. In Columbia Missouri a SWAT team raided the house of a suspected marijuana dealer killing one of his dogs and injuring another. They found only a few ounces of the drug. In Oregon a man was taken into custody for what appears to be crimes the police thought he would commit:

This supposedly voluntary exchange involved two SWAT teams, officers from Medford and nearby Roseburg, sheriff’s deputies from Jackson and Douglas counties, and the Oregon State Police. Pyles hadn’t committed any crime; nor was he suspected of having committed one. The police never obtained a warrant for either search or arrest. They never consulted with a judge or a mental health professional before sending military-style tactical teams to take Pyles in.

“They woke me up with a phone call at about 5:50 in the morning,” Pyles says. “I looked out the window and saw the SWAT team pointing their guns at my house. The officer on the phone told me to turn myself in. I told them I would, on three conditions. I would not be handcuffed. I would not be taken off my property. And I would not be forced to get a mental health evaluation. He agreed. The second I stepped outside, they jumped me. Then they handcuffed me, took me off my property, and took me to get a mental health evaluation.”

One story involves a nonviolent crime and the other there was no crime committed at all. Neither situation called for the use of SWAT teams. The problem is that cities are incentivized to create SWAT teams when they have no use for them. Once the teams are in place the cities force the teams in to situations where they are not needed.

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