The Washington Post has a story up called, "Deadly Force," which recounts in detail the story of the botched drug raid on the house of Cheye Calvo, Mayor of Berwin Heights, Maryland. I remember when this story first broke. To summarize, police mistakenly raided Calvo's house with a SWAT team. They broke down his door, killed his two harmless pet dogs, put a gun to his mother-in-law's head, and kept him and her bound for almost four hours while they ransacked the house. They finally figured out that they had the wrong place. The police lied about what happened in their report, refused to apologize, and still insist they did nothing wrong.
Is it too much to expect the police to use some judgment and commonsense before launching a military style assault into someone's house? Is it too much to ask that the incompetent fools who authorized and planned the raid be removed from law enforcement forever? Apparently it is. This type of mistake has occurred far too often, and sometimes leaves innocent people dead, not just pets. Why does a SWAT team need to invade a home for a mere drug bust? Here's an idea. How about we save the urban assault tactics for locations that are known and confirmed to be occupied by armed and dangerous criminals?
The reason these types of incidents take place isn't just because of the war on drugs, although that has been a major catalyst in the militarization of the police. It's because in many areas, the police and those who control them have forgotten that the police forces are supposed to be public servants, not mere government enforcers. The reason that the police like using SWAT teams is obvious. As with a military operation, overwhelming force lessens the risk to the attacker. Why send a couple officers to knock on a door? That could be risky if criminals are inside. Instead, why not launch a surprise attack with SWAT and overwhelm them before they can react? It's much neater and safer from a police standpoint. But there's one problem with this sort of thinking. The primary mission of the police is not to protect themselves from harm, it's to serve the public. And when they screw up in a major way, there should be major consequences. All too often that isn't the case.