Over at Huffington Post, Radley Balko covers a disturbing story:
Jose Guerena, a 26-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran, was killed May 5 when a SWAT team broke into his home a little after 9:30 a.m. According to Guerena’s wife, Vanessa (who was home at he time, along with their 4-year-old son), Guerena thought the police were home invaders. He ushered his family into a closet, then grabbed a rifle. When the police battered down the door, they saw Guerena and his rifle, and opened fire. The SWAT team released 70 rounds. Guerena didn’t fire a shot; the safety of his rifle was still on.
Last week, Arizona attorney Chris Scileppi filed notice of a $20 million lawsuit against Pima County, Ariz., on behalf of Guerena’s family. The lawsuit provides a good opportunity to look back at what has happened since since the morning of May 5…
Do read the whole thing – because it does bring to my mind, at least, a question about the utility of “special forces” units in our local police forces. Indeed, it brings up along with it a question about what the police are for, and how civilian control is to be effected.
This story is extra meaningful to me because we here in Las Vegas also had a case of police officers wantonly gunning down a military veteran of excellent character…and then we watched as the police slandered the dead man, and then used a rigged investigation system to ensure that no officer was called to account for his errors. If even our military veterans aren’t safe from out of control police actions, whom among us is? When will the heavy club of law enforcement fall upon us? Whom among us has the resources to fend it off?
Keep in mind that I am pro-police. As I stated in my linked article, the police do a job I am not good enough to do. Those people who are dedicated police officers are better men and women than I could ever hope to be. But a baleful spirit of careerism, bureaucratic infighting and union corruption has taken over all too many of our local police forces. The good cops are powerless against these forces…the bad cops get to rule the roost because they have gained control of the levers of power. And, so, when a SWAT team goes on a stupid raid which results in an innocent death, no one is called to account. Time and time again we have all seen this.
To me, the reason we have things like SWAT but don’t have a cop on the beat is because of the bad influences which have taken over the police. Rather than have armored, heavily armed combat forces which can come crashing through my door at 2 am, I’d rather have a patrolman walking my neighborhood at night. The patrolman will ensure that no one is breaking in to my home, that the teenagers are off the streets at a reasonable hour and that there is thus no need for anyone out there to think that my door should be battered down. Corrupt and bureaucratic police forces like flashy things like SWAT teams; they make it seem like the cops are doing something good, when all they are donig is wasting time and resources which should be spent on crime prevention. Police forces made up of people dedicated to law enforcement and keeping the peace have cops on the beat, who know their neighborhoods…who is supposed to be there and when. It isn’t as sexy as SWAT, but it gets the job done.
My view is that what is most needed is a re-assertion of civil control over the police as this will ensure that the police get back to business. That is, get back to seeing their primary task as peace keeping…preventing crime, rather than investigating crimes after they have happened. Making certain the crack house never gets started, rather than raiding a house with machine guns at the ready, even if they’ve got the wrong house. To that end, in my linked article I suggested the Civil Review Board – a means whereby average citizens can submit complaints about the police without the police being able to stop or control an investigation. That, in and of itself, would go a long way towards fixing the police…the next step would be to find political leaders who would be willing to take on the police unions (who really drive the corruption) and force the law enforcement agencies to do what the people need, not what corrupt unions bosses want.
Among the many callings a person can have, being a police officer is one of the most honorable. Done properly, it is the height of service – the definite willingness to show the greatest love of all: that of being ready to lay down one’s life for another. The police should never lack for support – monetary and moral. They do one of the dirtiest jobs in the world and all of us should be wary of second-guessing a police officer in the performance of his duty. But the police must be what we need them to be – guardians of the peace in our communities, not armed forces using razzle-dazzle, super-cop nonsense to cover up incompetence.