Thoughts on police states…

We live in interesting times. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I’m sure this will be an incomplete and probably unsatisfying posting of thoughts but I’ve gotta start someplace.

Paramilitary PoliceHere’s the news report that finally set me off today.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced the state’s largest undercover food stamp fraud bust and the arrests of three individuals involved on Thursday.

K & S convenience store employees Kameel Sweiss, 51, Ameer Sweis, 22, Faday Sweiss, 33, were arrested Wednesday for allegedly illegally conducting an enterprise, fraudulent schemes and artifices, money laundering, unlawful use of food stamps and computer tampering.

According to Horne, Wednesday morning SWAT units of the Phoenix Police Department entered the K & S convenience store to execute search warrants and seized $32,876 in cash, a key to a private bank vault holding $550,480 in cash, bank records, accounts, food stamp cards, business ledgers and three vehicles.

Let me be real clear here, I’m pleased these folks were arrested and I hope they go away for a long time. I find it somewhat interesting that the feds weren’t involved since the SNAP program that these guys were apparently busy defrauding belongs to them. I have about 1,000 words of snarky commentary on that, but I’ll spare you.

Here’s the part that disturbs the dickens out of me: “…SWAT units of the Phoenix Police Department entered the K & S convenience store…”

SWAT units – unitS, plural – were sent out to serve search warrants in a convenience store against three people who apparently do not have a violent criminal history. SWAT units.

I read frequent articles where people are concerned about the federal government mobilizing the US military against US civilians. In the world of things I think could happen, this one is in book 39, page 4,023. In other words, not gonna happen.

On the other hand, something that I have no doubt COULD happen is that local police could be mobilized against US civilians for any number of nationalized reasons. I’m no conspiracy theorist, pretty much every conspiracy out there is just too far “out there” to have any ring of probability, but the federal government using local police as a nationalized force to enforce the law hits too close to home.

Localities have, with the help of the federal government, been building a militarized police force for the last 30 years. Between the confiscation rules that local departments take advantage of to raise huge amounts of money and the availability of military equipment – armored personnel carriers, weapons, etc – that the feds make available at bargain basement prices, we have militarized forces in our midst and Posse Comitatus doesn’t apply.

SWAT units started out after some highly publicized shoot outs where police were seriously outgunned by bad guys. Metro police departments put together the original teams to respond to heavily armed suspects and they’ve grown from there. Today, even small cities have their own SWAT units and deployment of SWAT has escalated from responding to heavily armed suspects to serving search warrants and the “War on Drugs” is a major contributor to expanded use of SWAT.

In a 2006 Cato white paper they note that SWAT is deployed 40,000 times per year. You can bet your last dollar that they are deployed significantly more seven years later. Here’s the heart of the matter from their executive summary.

These increasingly frequent raids … are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.

We’re talking SWAT units with no-knock warrants and too often the warrants are for the wrong address or the people requesting the warrants, and those approving them, haven’t done their homework. The Cato paper is a long read, but if you’re interested in paramilitary policing, it’s a good primer.

It seems to me that “the thin blue line” is rapidly becoming history along with “To Protect and Serve”. Beat cops are a distant memory for people old enough for social security, our sons – 28 & 31 – have never seen one. I’m not at all happy about the current state of “community policing” that local departments practice. I can remember when the police were the good guys, and I’m not so sure anymore. I understand they have a difficult job, etc, etc, but frankly departments are not doing much to inspire trust in the community.

I know I’m painting with a broad brush and I’m certainly being unfair to lots of good cops, but until I see some dramatic change in the way police departments do business I’m ok with my broad brush.

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Posted by on August 30, 2013.
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Michael Becker is a long time activist and a businessman. He's been involved in the pro-life movement since 1976 and has been counseling addicts and ministering to prison inmates since 1980.Becker is a Curmudgeon. He has decades of experience as an operations executive in turnaround situations and in mortgage banking. He blogs regularly at The Right Curmudgeon, The Minority Report, Wizbang, Unified Patriots and Joe for America. He lives in Phoenix and is almost always armed.

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  • Brucehenry

    Your article makes sense to me.

  • GarandFan

    Large SUV passed me on the freeway today. Marked “Veterans Affairs Police”.
    Huh?

    • Commander_Chico

      Security police on VA hospital grounds. Better that than “Federal Protective Service” under Department of Homeland Security, at least they might get some training on PTSD and the need for respect for their clients.

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        Still waiting on the Easter Bunny I see…

    • M_Becker

      Don’t forget the department of education has SWAT teams too. They used one to take down a woman who had defaulted on her student loans.

  • Commander_Chico

    Good points. CATO does a good job listing abuses of militarized police.

    This is another effect of the overreaction to 9/11, and specifically the wars. “Community policing” now borrows more from counterinsurgency and involves comprehensive surveillance. Veterans’ preference in hiring is mostly a good thing, but there is a downside – a lot, maybe most, of police now being hired spent months kicking down doors in raids in Iraq and Afghanistan and being highly suspicious of the civilian population.

    • jim_m

      This has been coming for a long time before 9/11. A facile blaming of this on the Patriot Act ignores the fact that governmental overreach and militarization of law enforcement have been going on for a very long time. When the IRS, EPA and Dept of Education (!) all have SWAT teams we need to take a second look at WTF our government is really truing to do.

      • ackwired

        I agree that this trend started before the Patriot Act. But I think it is wrong to draw the conclusion that it is not related. The Patriot Act sent a strong message to every law enforcement agency in the country that they could abuse citizen’s rights and fear no reprisals as long as they could come up with an excuse. The message is that the federal government has their back. It is similar to Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. He was not just enforcing a contract that forbid striking by the union. He was sending a message to every manager in the country that they did not need to take any crap from their unions. Their government now had their back.

        • jim_m

          Sorry but that is just pure BS. The government does not have the backs of anti-union employers. Strikes have not ceased. Unions have not rolled over in contract negotiations.

          Instead, the NLRB has dramatically overstepped its bounds and held in favor of unions in idiotic claims such as the new Boeing plant.

          The air traffic controllers broke the law. What pains lefties is that Reagan was right and you will never admit it because the truth doesn’t ever fit your narrative.

          • ackwired

            Perhaps you are too young to remember what went on after Reagan action. The things you cite are from a different era.

          • jim_m

            Nothing that Reagan did had the effects that you are claiming. I am quite old enough to remember that.

            Heck, even my leftist parents were against the controllers union. But at no time were unions stopped from striking, at no time were they forced to settle for disadvantageous contracts, work rules were never rolled back. Nope, unions continued to break the back of American industrry leading to the destruction of the auto industry and the flight of millions of manufacturing jobs overseas and the loss of the majority of heavy industry jobs in this country. The unions have chosen fast cash over long term job growth and security and THAT is their legacy, enriching leadership at the expense of the interests of their members.

          • ackwired

            Oh. I guess it would be silly to think that any manager might have gained backbone against such an evil, vile, self-interested entity. But I knew many that did.

          • jim_m

            So what you really object to is that anyone should have the spine to stand up to your agenda. What you’re objecting to is that people might actually stand up against the thug unions instead of rolling over and cutting them a sweet deal so they can funnel the money straight into the dems.

            What you object to is that you cannot steamroll your ideological opponents. Cry me a river.

          • ackwired

            As usual you are making up everything that you attribute to me. All I said was that managers were empowered to stand up to the unions. You did not even address that, just took off on your own as usual.

          • jim_m

            Managers were empowered to stand up to unions before that. What you are claiming is that people were encouraged to stand up for their legal rights with respect to unions and you take the position that this is something that is wrong, that people should never have been encouraged to stand up for their legal rights when confronted by leftist union thugs.

            You blame Reagan for encouraging people to assert their legal rights with respect to unions. You have no claim or evidence that unions have suffered due to illegal action. You are just bent that your lefty friends are in decline and this showed that there are legal and just limits to union power.

          • ackwired

            You are crazy! I didn’t say nor imply any of those things. Get a grip!

          • jim_m

            Look at what you write! You say that the PATCO strike was the beginning of the end for unions and that is because Reagan taught employers that they could stand up to unions. Bullshit.

            You imply that Reagan is to blame for the union decline and you imply that this is because his actions are responsible for illegal anti-union activity by employers. That is pure BS. Why else bring up PATCO and claim that the union decline is a direct result of that?

            Unions were already in decline back then and that has only accelerated because unions lack any interest in the personal well being of their members.

          • ackwired

            What I said was that Reagan was sending a message to management that the government now had their back. All the rest of that is stuff I do not believe and that you just made up.

          • jim_m

            Name one instance where the government interceded for employers like they did in the PATCO strike.

            You can’t. You made this up.

          • ackwired

            No, JIm. As usual, YOU made it up. I said, “He was not just enforcing a contract that forbid striking by the union.
            He was sending a message to every manager in the country that they did
            not need to take any crap from their unions. Their government now had
            their back.”

          • jim_m

            The notion that the government has your back implies that the government would actually do something for those people. Show us where that was the case. Otherwise, as I have repeatedly stated, your claim is BS.

          • ackwired

            No implication at all. The fact is that I was calling on managers throughout the western half of the country, and virtually all of them got the message and talked about it. And the fact is that all of the law enforcement agencies got the message of the Patriot Act. However, you are welcome to remain in denial.

          • M_Becker

            If you think that companies got a spine to stand up to unions you’re delusional. In fact, the real issue with government and unions is that the Labor Dept has been gathering more and more power for the last 40 years and today they are THE most leftist part of government and are absolutely aligned against employers.

            Google “Craig Becker” – no relation.

          • ackwired

            “In 2010, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United
            States (or total labor union “density”) was 11.4%, compared to 18.4% in
            Germany, 27.5% in Canada, and 70% in Finland.[1] Union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7%[2] — levels not seen since 1932. Unions allege that employer-incited opposition has contributed to this decline in membership.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States

            Just the facts, ma’am.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            And most of the union members in the United States these days are in Public Sector, where unions should never have been allowed at al.

          • jim_m

            Unions in those countries have evolved to be supportive of the aims of employers. That never happened in the US. In some of those countries unions actually have seats on the board so they are directly responsible for the success of the company. Also, in those countries unions didn’t become extensions of the mafia more interested in enriching themselves than in benefiting the employees.

            So in the US you get unions that destroy the value of businesses like the auto industry, or put the company out of business like Hostess Foods. Or you get unions like those at Boeing that make the company expand operations elsewhere because they cause so many problems in the existing union plants and then they sue the company for trying to mitigate their risk by building in right to work states.

            Unions are the enemy of economic growth, they are the enemy of employment and they are the enemy of workers because they create bogus work rules that make their jobs more difficult and they create an antagonistic relationship with management that all but eliminates the worker’s opportunities for promotion.

            You want to know why people don’t want to work in a union shop anymore, look at what the unions have become. It isn’t about the law, the law makes it easy to form a union. Why are unions demanding thug tactics like card check where they can pressure people into signing ballots or a law that prohibits secret balloting for unionization so they can intimidate people into forming a union. If people wanted to form unions they wouldn’t need laws like that.

          • ackwired

            I find it amazing that 7% (lowest since 1932) could have so much influence. I guess management isn’t responsible for anything.

          • jim_m

            Where unions are they are doing great damage. The reason they have declined is because by refusing to demonstrate any concern for the welfare of the businesses they are in or the long term benefit of the workers they represent they have made themselves an anachronism. They are irrelevant today because they have not changed and the world around them has changed.

        • M_Becker

          It may one day morph into an extension of the Patriot Act, but that’s not what’s going on today. The driver today, and for 20+ years is the “drug war” and the opportunity for asset seizure.

          The joke in Phoenix is, if you hear shots fired in your neighborhood don’t call 911 and report “shooting”. Cops will be there in half an hour when it’s over. Call 911 and report “a drug deal in the street, one guy is in a gold 500 Mercedes and one is in a blue 740 BMW and it looks like he’s got a suitcase full of cash.”

          Every cop with a radio on will show up before your phone call is over.

          • ackwired

            I like it!

      • JWH

        I have to blame it in part on the PATRIOT Act and/or PATRIOT Act-related appropriations. In the wake of 9/11, the federal government started providing grants for every police agency and its mother to buy military-type weapons.

  • Brian_R_Allen

    …. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced … the arrests of three individuals involved on Thursday ….

    Does that mean that those who were involved Friday through Wednesday got away?

    Or: Am I alone in remembering when a working command of the English Language was a prerequisite to employment as a “writer” and/or “reporter?”

    • jim_m

      The horrors of misplaced modifiers!!

    • M_Becker

      I totally missed that one Brian, and I’m considered a Grammar Nazi by everybody who even knows me a little. Good job! Seig Heil. :-)

  • yetanotherjohn

    The local police used on a federal agenda would be an unreliable tool in the hands of the federal government. It certainly could be used. As an example, consider the drug war. They are routinely used to prosecute the drug war. But it took years of federal legislation building on already in-place laws (state and federal) to put that in place. This wasn’t something enacted by one party or the other,
    On the other hand, something highly political, such as a federal order for rounding up abortion clinic employees or gun store employees would likely not be obeyed. Especially the gun store employees at least some of whom would be on a first name basis with many of those local cops.
    I have tended to reflexively take the police side on issues until more facts are in. I am tending away from that position because of the abuses which often tend around SWAT.
    A simple starting point would be to require cameras on SWAT executing a raid and that the camera footage along with the police report and warrant for the raid must be published on the web. There can be a delay, but certainly no later than charges being dropped or the defense counsel getting access to these items. If a judge signs off on these being delayed until after trial, but the motion for that on line also after the trial.
    This would then allow the army of Davids to monitor SWAT for abuses. It wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would be a start. Of course the first complaint is that such recordings would teach the bad guys SWAT tactics and it is a first complaint. But that has to be weighed against the actual and potential abuses.

  • Brian_R_Allen

    Jokes aside, this is a timely, thoughtful piecethat talks about a very serious problem that has been created by the feral gummint but at the local level — and that need to be arrested!

    The retired colonel who is featured on the youtube link there (and here: http://tinyurl.com/mqjwrseis a MUST WATCH item!)

    Here’s another look at it: http://tinyurl.com/kly3gya

    The Obama Gang is creating and heavily arming its end-run around Posse Comitatus. A domestic military-styled force. Its very own Gestapo!

  • freshideaguy

    These three guys are evidently big time crooks. What does it matter that they have a non-violent history? Who knows for sure? A SWAT team may be a little over the top, but how many of our finest who are part of a two or three officer arrest/search team are gunned down by one or two suspects?

    Food stamp fraud is rampant, (especially among immigrants from the Middle East),and should be easy to catch. Why are more resources not put into play? Most of the guilty have been doing it for several years and a simple comparison of the food stamp dollars turned in to the federal government for reimbursement compared to actual grocery sales should, if hanky-panky is being played, provide the instant proof for criminal indictment.

    If guilty these three will receive a 2-3 year sentence and an order to pay back the stolen money. They will never pay back the money, (they have been robbed of their ability to cheat), and it isn’t likely they will serve their full term.

    Once they are convicted and serve their time they should be stripped of their citizenship, (if they are citizens) and deported, never to return.

    If they are Muslims, according to the Quran their crimes are not crimes at all.
    They come here, indpired by the Doctrine Of Hijra, not to assimilate but to conquer, and anything they do to accomplish that mission is forgiven.

    • jim_m

      Fraud is not a violent crime. There are many, well documented incidents of no knock raids with SWAT teams ending up in the death of innocent civilians when it turns out that the raid was based on bad information.

      The SWAT team had a place back in the 70′s and 80′s but as in all things, when you have a tool you find ways to use it, whether those ways are necessary or not. Instead of investing in more reasonable tools for law enforcement, our police are investing in paramilitary training and equipment so they can treat nonviolent offenders like terrorists. Not a good plan unless your long term intent is to suppress the civilian population.

    • M_Becker

      Read the CATO white paper. You’re in denial. You should also check out Radley Balko’s book.

    • LiberalNightmare

      but how many of our finest who are part of a two or three officer arrest/search team are gunned down by one or two suspects?

      A fair question, but if the purpose is to justify the behavior of swat teams, its not a complete question.

      To consider all of the variables, we also need to know how many innocent civilians are gunned down by swat teams.

      How many times have people (innocent and guilty) been denied due process by swat teams?

      The police department enjoys a special status when it comes to application of deadly force due to the nature of the job, but with that status comes a special duty to ensure that the rights and lives of the people are protected. Its starting to look like the police dept’s are failing that duty

      • M_Becker

        Read Radley Balko’s book, there have been hundreds of people killed by SWAT teams. And as for “special status” with regard to deadly force, bullshit.

    • M_Becker

      You do what cops have done for generations. You wait for them to leave the store and you arrest them. A SWAT team made no more sense here than the SWAT team the Commerce Department sent to Gibson Guitars to recover some mahogany they said was illegally imported.

      • Garymother Freekincoleman

        too many macho right-wingunts employed on police forces with lots of shiny toys and nothing to do with them , what could go wrong ? right ?

        • M_Becker

          Actually hotshot, most of ‘em aren’t right wing folk. For the most part they’re not politically involved beyond being “law & order” folks. If they pay any attention to their unions, they’d be solid Democrat voters.

          In fact, the problem isn’t so much with the rank & file, it’s with the leadership. And, the leadership is solidly in favor of government control over just about everything.

          Example for you: rank & file cops tend to be pro-2A, gun-rights people. Police chiefs and mayors are overwhelmingly not.

          • Garymother Freekincoleman

            Yeah and the overwhelming majority of pro-2a cops and their superiors are republican, white,christian,social conservatives.

            I am an Unapologetic liberal who is also pro-2a and owns guns. My problem with police is they all mix their politics with their jobs, take a look at the iraqi war veteran guy in Connecticut who was trying to talk reason into the city council about their wanting to buy an armored vehicle. WHY exactly is this stuff needed… simply put… it’s not. The alarmism, and fear mongering of right wing politics are becoming a black hole of unending redundancy.

          • M_Becker

            No need to let facts disrupt your comfy little cave. And I’m sure the city council in the Connecticut town was solidly Republican.

  • JWH

    The SWAT teams’ overuse is disturbing. I mean … for food stamp fraud? I’ve also read of SWAT teams moving in on marijuana grows that are patently unconnected to organized crime, and into liquor-license enforcement.

    It’s really, really over the top, especially when SWAT is used for situations that might be better served with a couple accountants with clipboards and three or four armed REGULAR police officers.

  • Rick Caird

    Yes, there seems to be this over reliance on SWAT teams. I suspect a lot of these uses are as much for practice and experience as they are for expected need. But, SWAT teams can get out of control and when that happens, people get killed. Plus, there is no penalty on the SWAT team members for mistakes, like raiding the wrong house.

    We need strict laws as to when a SWAT team can be used. The warrants need also to authorize a SWAT team. Further, we need to override sovereign immunity for SWAT team errors. We need to make SWAT risky so it gets used in a more responsible manner.