Google Maps Mashup: SWAT Gone Bad

SWAT overkill Google Maps mashupRadley Balko published his year’s worth of investigation into botched paramilitary police raids over at the CATO Institute today — Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. The paper is a bit hefty for casual reading, but Balko’s post at The Agitator also points at an accompanying Google Maps mashup that tracks the SWAT overkill, saying:

We’re also launching an interactive map to accompany the paper. And I frankly think the map is what’s going to convince most people of the scope of this problem. I’ve plotted every botched raid I found in my research, with a description of what happened and a list of sources. You can sort the map by type of incident. So, for example, if you wanted to see only those raids where an innocent person was killed, it would look like this. If you wanted to see raids where a nonviolent offender was killed (a recreational gambler or potsmoker, for example), it would look like this. If you wanted to see all of the “wrong door” raids where no one was killed, it would look like this.

The map is also searchable by year, state, and type of incident. Lots of people have emailed me over the last year to ask what they can do to change policy at the local level. The map I think is a good tool. Do a search on your state, then fire off a letter to the editor listing the botched raids that have occured near you.

Balko’s been a great crusader against increasing police-state tactics, especially when they target non-violent offenders, innocent people who’s only crime is living at the same address that a criminal had once used in the past, and of course… rampant puppycide. Even veteran cops are disgusted these days by the Rambo tactics being used by today’s crop of “dynamic entry” SWAT tactics.

20 Comments
  1. Police departments are full of what I call “adrenalin junkies.” I know some personally. They are in fact, rather sullen when they have do other more mundane (patrol) duties.

    Finding any cops who believe the old motto “to protect & to serve” is tough in this day and age.

  2. Very surprised how clean Alabama came out there. I would think this state would be prone to this sort of thing.

  3. Excellent interactive map. A real eye opener for me. I knew of only a couple TX incidents.

  4. I used to worry about getting pulled over and having the leo find a roach in my ashtray, now I worry about them busting my door down in the middle of the night and killing my dogs. Every time Radley chronicles another puppicide incident my blood starts boiling. I hope that situation never comes, but if it ever did I think that would be the end of me.

  5. Balko for LP presidential candidate in 2008! Let’s start a petition :o) Ahh, if only he didn’t have so much baggage (i.e. – truthiness) on his blog others could manipulate.

  6. I’ve started a “Law Enforcement Abuse Task Force” in my town to resist police misconduct.

    Farmington (NM) is where Juan Mata was charged with “criminal libel” for filing a complaint about a bad cop. The CL was kicked out as unconstitutional on it’s face, but he’s still facing “stalking” and “Harrassment” charges for videotaping the cop driving by his home and picketing the police station. Trial happening TODAY:
    http://www.daily-times.com/news/ci_4064195
    For the whole sad saga, contact me at [email protected] but give me a few days – no internet at home and car broke down!

    Joseph from New Mexico

  7. Oh yeah, The Law Enforcement Abuse Task Force has a defense fund going – make checks payable to JUAN MATA FREE SPEECH LEGAL FUND, mail to LEATF, Box 698 Flora Vista, NM 87415. [Verify at Four Corners Community Bank, Farmington, NM]

    Joseph from New Mexico
    Hardcore Libertarian
    Critic of Law Enforcement Community

  8. While there are examples of gross police misconduct ie Ruby Ridge and Waco, there are thousands of warrants served every day and a very small percentage cause property damage or physical abuse. Before they can “kick in your door” Police must get a search warrant from a judge. If there is no probabile cause that evidence of a crime exists in your house, the judge should not approve the warrant. There many houses in YOUR city where gangs distribute drugs and guns and plan crime against citizens like you. They guard themselves with attack dogs and guns. You want them arrested, but you don’t want the police in your neighborhood.

  9. Mark – have you even read any of Radleys research?

    first, one of the issues at hand is wrong door raids. You understand that concept, don’t you? Completely valid warrant, oops, wrong door! Sorry you’re hurt or worse, we were just doing our jobe!

    Second, another issue at hand is collateral damage, be it little old ladies who were a little slow in answering the door and caught one in the face, or the family pet who, justifiably, challenges an intruder. It’s not the “the bad guys” who are getting hurt, my friend. You infer that since the percentage of served warrants that go go bad is “very small” the we should accept it as an unavoidable consequence of law enforcement? Well, I say the list st http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2003/08/17/drugWarVictims.html is too long.

    …,cont…

  10. …cont…

    Certain law enforcement tactics, such as the utilization of heavily armed SWAT teams to serve no-knock warrants, tend to exacerbate the “collateral damage” problem. Originally intended to be used in high-risk situations such as hostage rescue. Nowadays there’s so much military surplus that’s gotta find a home that even Podunk, Idaho has a SWAT team. Are you seeing a problem, Mark?

    Furthermore, it’s morally repugnant to me to imagine the use of said heavily armed SWAT teams being used to capture non-violent offenders, period. That to me is a glaring sign that we are, in fact, living in a police state. Is that what you think America should aspire to be? Is that what the Framers wanted it to be?

  11. Reading through the comments, it appears that some posters are against police, period. If you don’t like police, try living without them. For those of you “recreational users,” it really would drop the odds of a “mistake” being made with you it you were not breaking the law in the first place. Make no mistake, drugs are the scourge of the US. While there are some mistakes made, and some small jurisdictions with poorly trained SWAT teams that should not have them, I will be the first to tell you that police and SWAT are a necessary evil. My team does every thing it can to ensure we don’t make a mistake – a matrix to gauge the need for the team, a review of the warrant, detailed briefings, and investigation to determine if innocents and non participants might be present, and we triple check the address. The warrants we handle are for the most serious and violent offenders in a large metro Atlanta jurisdiction, and guns are always present. You still may not care, but I’ve had my say…

  12. SWAT Officer in Georgia – first of all thanks for taking the time to comment. I am somewhat suprised/pleased that you’re even reading this site. Secondly I’d like to assure you that I, for one, am not “against police, period.” I’m all for them catching robbers, murderers, rapists, con artists, etc. Anyone who physically hurts others or takes their stuff should rightly be worried about the long arm of the law catching up with them.

    That said, it does seem, from the man on the street’s perspective, that the incidents of LEO’s violating peoples’ rights or otherwise breaking the law has been on the rise, with limited accountability. Maybe if you guys spent more time catching said murderers and their ilk and spent less time writing traffic tickets, herding protesters into “free speech zones”, using heavily armed SWAT teams to serve warrants for unpaid parking tickets, etc., etc., etc., the public at large will start to think of you (LEO’s in general) more like a peace… *CONTINUED*

  13. …officer who’s there to “protect and serve” who we can turn to for protection and less like a tax collector or jack-booted thug who we need to be afraid of.

    How about standing up and denouncing the criminal acts perpetrated by some of those in your profession? How about DEMANDING that your brothers in arms who commit crimes be held accountable? How about speaking out against unjust laws and refusing to enforce them?

    In conclusion, I’ll address your statement that “police and SWAT are a necessary evil.” I’d agree with that, but add that while police and SWAT may be necessary evils, puppicide isn’t. Bashing an old woman in the face when her door is broken down during a wrong-door raid isn’t. A police officer being shot by a person who’s instinct was to defend his home when jack-booted thugs (who happen to be LEO’s) break down his door in the middle of the night so serve a no-knock warrant for a non-violent crime isn’t either.

    You still may not care, but I’ve had my say.

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