Low-Level Drug Raids Using SWAT Teams
"Even though paramilitary policing in the form of SWAT teams was created to deal with emergency scenarios such as hostage or barricade situations, the use of SWAT to execute search warrants in drug investigations has become commonplace and made up the majority of incidents the ACLU reviewed. When the police are executing a search warrant, there has been no formal accusation of a crime; rather, the police are simply acting on the basis of probable cause to believe that drugs will be present.
"There is no criminal case, no formal suspects, and often little if any proof that a crime has been committed; it is simply an investigation. Thus, the use of a SWAT team to execute a search warrant essentially amounts to the use of paramilitary tactics to conduct domestic drug investigations in people’s homes.
"The majority (79 percent) of SWAT deployments the ACLU studied were for the purpose of executing a search warrant, most commonly in drug investigations. Only a small handful of deployments (7 percent) were for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios. The remaining deployments were for other purposes such as protecting visiting dignitaries, capturing fleeing suspects, and responding to emergencies. Our investigation found that in the majority of deployments the police did not face genuine threats to their safety and security.
"Further, often the quantity of drugs found did not seem to justify a SWAT deployment. For example, the Allentown SWAT team was deployed to search someone’s house for drugs. They executed the warrant at 6:00 a.m., knowing children were likely to be present. When gathering intelligence the day before, the team did not see any weapons. Nonetheless, the team deployed a distraction device, broke the door down with a battering ram, and entered the residence to find three adults and three children asleep in the home. The team found no weapons and what the report described as a 'small amount of marijuana.'"
"War Comes Home At America’s Expense: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing," American Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY: ACLU, June 2014), pp. 31-32.