Another Day, Another 124 Violent SWAT Raids

It's 3:00 a.m. Your children are screaming and your dog is lying dead in a pool of blood. Scorch marks and shattered glass cover the floor. You're being held at gunpoint by towering figures wearing black and holding AK-47s.

This isn't a Hollywood movie set. Odds are this is a predawn SWAT raid targeting a family of color. Mission objective: search the home for a small amount of drugs.

There are an estimated 45,000 SWAT raids every year. That means this sort of violent, paramilitary raid is happening in about 124 homes every day – or more likely every night – not in an overseas combat zone, but here in American neighborhoods. The police, who are supposed to serve and protect communities, are instead waging war on the people who live in them.

Our new report, War at Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, takes a hard look at 800 of these raids – or at least what state and local law enforcement agencies are willing to tell us about them. We found that almost 80% of SWAT raids are to search homes, usually for drugs, and disproportionately, in communities of color. During these drug searches, at least 10 officers often piled into armored personnel carriers. They forced their way into people's homes using military equipment like battering rams 60 percent of the time. And they were 14 times more likely to deploy flashbang grenades than during SWAT raids for other purposes.

Public support for the failed War on Drugs is at its lowest ever, and yet police are still using hyper-aggressive tactics and heavy artillery to fight it. This paramilitary approach to everyday policing brutalizes bystanders and ravages homes. We reviewed one case in which a young mother was shot and killed with her infant son in her arms. During another raid, a grandfather of 12 was killed while watching baseball in his pajamas. And we talked with a mother whose toddler was covered in burns, shot through with a hole that exposed his ribs, and placed into a medically induced coma after a flashbang grenade exploded in his crib. None of these people was the suspect. In many cases like these, officers did not find the suspect or any contraband in the home.

Even if they had found contraband, the idea of cops-cum-warriors would still be deeply troubling. Police can – and do – conduct searches and take suspects into custody without incident, without breaking into a home in the middle of the night, and without discharging their weapons. The fact is, very few policing situations actually require a full SWAT deployment or a tank. And simply having drugs in one's home should not be a high-risk factor used to justify a paramilitary raid.

We can no longer accept such brutal tactics as a routine way to fight the War on Drugs. It's time for an exit strategy.

Our report showed that only very rarely – 7% of the time – were heavily armed SWAT teams used for their original purposes: hostage and barricade situations. Part of the explanation for this boom in inappropriate uses of SWAT can be explained by the fact that the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice are funneling billions of dollars to state and local law enforcement agencies every year to help them purchase military weaponry and equipment. The feds hold the purse strings, and they need to stop incentivizing tactics that erode trust in law enforcement and undermine public safety. Also, states need to put restrictions on the use of SWAT – such aggressive and dangerous force should only be used in cases where it's truly necessary to save a life.

It's time for the police to remember that our neighborhoods are not warzones and they shouldn't be treating us like the enemy.

We're not alone in calling for an end to excessive police militarization. Check out just a few of the other voices urging reform:

Read the complete report here.

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Fear mongering fools who wish to turn our police force into a bunch of useless mall cops. ACLU, make yourself useful and use your power to legalize cannabis instead of being worried about a police force that punishes crime. We need a tough police force to enforce laws and ensure safety. These raids should be carried out maybe a little more carefully and reasonably but they by no means should stop. When pot is legalized, far less people will care about his issue anyhow, because people who sell meth, spice, or heroin, deserve a friendly visit from their local SWAT team.


Thank you. Highway drug interdiction where the police rob people because of the unconstitutional tactics the courts, not us allow them to have is sickening. I can only imagine some state trooper taking a stingray device out on his night shift and searching phones without a warrant to see any information that could allow them to take cash and or marijuana from someone. They see on your text your buying a car in cash or a piece of farm machinery and try to get you to speed by acting like they're going to ram you just to say they smell marijuana and steal your money with an illegal search when all they find is cash. The civil assert forfeiture laws and the war on drugs make this country not free but more like the land of slaves. Thanks ACLU.


For the record, the SWAT team saved my f'ing life and I mean that as literally as you're not thinking of it.
I was held hostage in my bank by a goon with a gun, THREE goons with guns actually and they didn't have water pistols.
They had Uzis and other military repeating rifles. You don't counter Uzis and military weapons with Midnight Specials or cop pistols.
They held us hostage for 5 f'ing hours, terrorizing us completely (or terrorizing ME completely) and the only reason I'm even sane today is that the hostage negotiator from the SWAT team talked to the fool, and once or twice to me, stopping me from losing my mind.
I swear to God I mean THAT literally too. I was hallucinating strange events (I saw myself in a coffin being buried alive after he told me he would shoot and then bury me even if I were still alive) and I was terrified out of my mind. The only thing that brought me even the tiniest morsel of comfort was the hostage negotiator who talked to the asshole holding us as human bartering chips.
Consequently, I'll never appreciate people who paint the SWAT team as nothing but all bad, all the time.
Gimme a freakin' break. It seems like you people can't see a positive side in anything you just decide you're not going to like. But then you have no problem liking things that almost nobody else cares about, nobody I know anyway. Like gay marriage.
I don't understand how you can see only the positive in that but not see how the SWAT team can possibly save the lives of hostages but oh well. I don't expect to ever comprehend it.
But I'm going to say they saved my life even if the comment never gets published, because I believe from the depth of my soul that the hostage negotiator cared about me and is the reason I'm not still in some rubber room wearing a coat with sleeves that tie in the back.


Watch the first 25 minutes of this. Might be another source of this militarization. Jeff Halper:


Most people already know about the loose cannon LEOs, now how do we generate enough moral indignation to change the culture of the 'thin blue line?'


AK-47s... really? How about American made AR-16s? If the implication is that this is happening in the USA, I doubt that AK-47s are involved (unless these are our stalwart private Militiamen doing the raids).


If this is a trivial criticism on my part, then accuracy in "official" reporting isn't important any more. Throw your credibility away if you (ACLU) want; you only get to do so once. If I posted twice, it is because your site gives no indication that the first comment was accepted. I suggest that you work on this issue. BTW, I have been and still am a long time ACLU supporter. But, I prefer professionally vetted reports and professionally run websites. Read my second sentence again, please.

Myself and othe...

Wars are divisive, and so will come the end of our country's forever long summer. Since the sixties, back when the country tripped the hardest, we have been shoveled diversionary ideology, "Take sides! Demand that you have it your way" they'd said so many times - people never saw its reward.
Wars ARE divisive - after the summer, and so many hard trips, we've ended up with what division creates - the fall! M. Fettig


Of course, we're the enemy. Spend time around any police officer anywhere, and you'll find a vast majority of them all have the same mindset. There are two classifications of people--cops, and everybody else. Everybody who isn't a cop is a potential lawbreaker every lawbreaker is a scumbag, so don't take any chances--treat everybody who isn't a cop like a scumbag.


US law enforcement do not use AK-47's, issue weapon is M-4 carbine / M-16 , semi or full auto / Colt copy. Food for thought


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