“Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.”
–One nation under SWAT: How America’s police became an occupying force, Matthew Harwood
Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT) raids have become increasingly common in America, ballooning from 3,000 in the 1980s to somewhere between 50,000-80,000 per year today. Many of these are raids on suspected non-violent drug offenders. Though rare, teams sometimes raid the wrong house or kill pets/people living within. Sometimes, both happen.
Programs exist that have enabled this rise in SWAT and paramilitary tactics in policing. The Department of Defense’s 1033 program allows departments to obtain surplus or outdated military gear for no cost. The 1122 program allows police departments to purchase cutting edge, new equipment. These programs, combined with the rapid production of new technology in support of post-9/11 conflict (and therefore obsolescence of a great deal of military tech), have allowed police departments to cheaply support SWAT teams and tactics. There are no set national standards for training received by those using this equipment; anecdotally, it does not appear most departments’ training is adequate.
One potential avenue for my thesis is a project that traces this gear from Vietnam and the Middle East to US-based police forces – using stories of war to better understand why this equipment’s increasing domestic use is especially troubling.
My project this week is a simple, rough attempt at evoking an emotional response by mashing up media from these different contexts and places. I have overlaid audio of a former soldier speaking about his first firefight in Iraq with helmet video of a SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri. The video that sourced the audio is not public domain, and is used only for the purposes of a dirty prototype – for my thesis, I will be collecting original stories.
BOTH THE AUDIO AND VIDEO IS GRAPHIC