Armed and dangerous:No-knock raids, assault weapons and armoured cars: America’s police use paramilitary tactics too often

Saturday, March 22, 2014
By Paul Martin

Economist.com
Mar 22nd 2014

EARLY one morning a team of heavily armed police officers burst into the home of Eugene Mallory, an 80-year-old retired engineer in Los Angeles county. What happened next is unclear. The officer who shot Mr Mallory six times with a submachine gun says he was acting in self-defence—Mr Mallory also had a gun, though he was in bed and never fired it. Armed raids can be confusing: according to an investigation, the policeman initially believed that he had ordered Mr Mallory to “Drop the gun” before opening fire. However, an audio recording revealed that he said these words immediately after shooting him. Mr Mallory died. His family are suing the police.

Such tragedies are too common in America. One reason is that the police have become more militarised. Raids by Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units used to be rare: according to Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University there were only about 3,000 a year in the early 1980s. Now they are routine: perhaps 50,000 a year (see article).

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