Home | Video | Petition | Tell-A-Friend | Fact Sheet | Talking Points
Raid Cases | Recommendations | News | Resources | About | Donate
Originally created to deal with emergency or other very-high intensity situations (e.g. snipers, hostages, barricaded suspects), SWAT teams were deployed on fewer than 3,000 occasions in all of 1980. Today, SWAT teams conduct raids more than 50,000 times per year, mostly while doing low-level drug enforcement. The driving force behind the rise in SWAT team deployments has been drug war funding streams such as the Byrne police grants program.
Americans for SWAT Reform holds that SWAT teams should be available but only rarely used. Every time police enter a home with sudden, overwhelming force in the way that SWAT teams are trained to do, a trauma is caused to the people inside from which they may never recover. Many of the buildings targeted house completely innocent people -- roommates, spouses, children, victims of wrong address reports -- and the vast majority are low-level offenders at worst.
Even more troubling, using a SWAT team when a situation is not already close to violence risks creating an altercation that could otherwise have been avoided. Reports have detailed numerous cases in which unarmed people were shot by police officers who had become trigger happy due to the rush of doing a dynamic entry. In some cases police officers have themselves been killed doing SWAT raids, by people inside who were taken by surprise and who in fear of losing their lives opened fire. Reports of SWAT officers killing pets are common.
The "Petition for Responsible SWAT Reform" calls for SWAT teams deployments to be limited to mainly emergency situations. Copies of signatories petitions are sent by email to their federal and state legislators, with the initial goal of putting the issue of police militarization on the radar screen for policymakers.
"SWAT Raids -- No One Is Safe" is a short online video that draws attention to the overuse of SWAT teams. It is built around a famous 2008 case in the small town of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, in which the county's SWAT team raided the home of Mayor Cheye Calvo, handcuffed him and his mother-in-law, and then shot Calvo's two dogs. "SWAT Raids -- No One Is Safe" uses sophisticated graphics to communicate the basic points about the issue, and makes background use of actual SWAT raids footage.
The video also makes background use of news reports about three infamous raid cases:
"SWAT Raids -- No One Is Safe" was funded by a grant from the Marijuana Policy Project, with additional support from Richard Wolfe. Production and Editing was done by Robin Bell. Motion Graphics were provided by Erik Loften. Music was created by dubpixel.
Americans for SWAT Reform is a project of StoptheDrugWar.org.