Continuing to Extend the Use of SWAT Teams

Originally, police departments (especially, and most famously, the LAPD) formed SWAT teams to deal with violent, dangerous situations, such as hostage situations. I remember watching SWAT in the ’70s. They never showed the SWAT guys serving drug and gambling warrants, just dealing with really bad situations where innocent people were at risk of losing their life in violent criminal situations. And they certainly never showed the SWAT team showing up when a guy threatened to take his own life and no one else’s life was at risk.

Trevor Bothwell, of Who’s Your Nanny? brings us a story of SWAT intervention in a suicide attempt. Naturally, the suicide attempt ends with the death of the person threatening suicide, CPL James Dean, an Army Reservist. When Dean’s family called the police because he was threatening suicide, the police sent SWAT teams, according to a local news report:

Lawmen said this week that they did what they could to peacefully resolve the overnight confrontation off Brown Road in Hollywood. They said it ended shortly after noon on Tuesday when Dean raised a gun at approaching officers. A police sharpshooter fired once, killing him.

The next day, quiet had returned to Dusty Lane, which leads to the Dean family’s three homes on cleared land surrounded by woods. James Dean, who turned 29 last weekend, and his wife, Muriel, married last August and had their own home in the Hollywood Shores community, but police report he had gone to his parents’ home on Christmas night. He was alone there when family members called authorities from elsewhere shortly before 10 p.m. for them to check on his welfare.

So, apparently, when someone is home alone, and not threatening harm to anyone else’s life, liberty or property, the appropriate response is to send para-military police out, including armored vehicles (see these photos), engage in a half day stand off with the individual, create a violent confrontation, and then kill the individual with sniper fire.

Is there anyone besides me that finds this to be a bit of an over reaction? Anyone else think that maybe Dean didn’t have to die by the gun of a police officer? Anyone find it odd that we now use SWAT teams to serve warrants and intervene in suicide attempts?

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  • Clark Baker

    The LAPD, local politicians, and the media have done a miserable job explaining the tactics used to take suspects into custody. As a result, HOLLYWOOD has taken up the vacuum and, after a while, people start to believe what they see on TV, and start to distrust reality.

    If you’ve been weaned on Hollywood crime shows like CSI, you’ll be confused. If you’re a real cop who has responded to real events, you’ll think comments like yours are imbicilic.

  • Adam Selene

    Clark, to whom are you speaking? If you think that I believe that SWAT is all about the TV show, you’re wrong. I simply point out that the show, correctly, showed the original purpose of SWAT teams. That purpose was to quickly control violent situations that ordinary police could not handle. It was not to serve drug and gambling warrants in non-violent situations. Nor was it to deal with people intending to commit suicide who did not threaten anyone else because there was no one else present.

    This key point is completely ignored by everyone. As is the subtle Rambo insinuations of the police in the news article linked to.

    Even worse is that so many citizens now seem to think that it is perfectly fine to use para-military police units in a very wide variety of situations. They appear to believe that a few broken eggs is just a sad result.

    As far as the track backs comments about “libertarian distrust of government agencies” goes, two thoughts. First, as I seem to continually have to remind people, I am not a libertarian. The supposedly “true libertarians” agree with me on this point. Second, the only way to guard my liberty is to distrust everyone who has the power to violate my liberty. There is nothing paranoid about this, it is simply reality, reinforced by the examples of thousands of years of history.

  • Brian Wolovich

    Further research on this will find the victim, Cpl James Dean, was a decorated sharpshooter who spent 12 months in the forgotten war, Afghanistan. He returned to the states in 2005, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome and went into depression. Spending the last year and a half getting his life back in order, and was making progress.

    He recently received a letter for him to report to Ft.Benning, Georgia by January 15th, and this sent him to drinking and rages according to his wife, Muriel. She also reports that he was refusing to return to fight in the middle east.

    The state sponsored use of the SWAT team against a man who barricaded himself into his father’s home, and was a threat to nobody but himself…is a complete waste, and over application of paramilitary units. What happened to self-responsibility? If this man is going to kill himself, then he is going to kill himself. May he now be at peace from the torments he was experiencing.

  • Adam Selene

    Like I said somewhere else, the Rambo insinuations are really sad. And indicative that we are returning to a view of soldiers similar to the one in the 1970’s. And, of course, the use of a SWAT team created a violent confrontation where none existed. CPL Dean could have been left inside that house, a psychologist could have tried to talk with him, etc. But bringing in SWAT teams and armored vehicles escalated the situation to the point where Dean was killed by police rather than being allowed his own choices.