SWAT teams have become so widespread that people across the country (and even Canada.) are calling in false reports designed to elicit a SWAT raid–a practice known as “swatting.” Naturally, this is causing some distress among the SWAT teams who have been punked in such a manner, as UPI reports:
In Wyckoff, N.J., 40 members of a Bergen County Police Department SWAT team responded July 23 to a call from a man who said he had killed four people and taken several others hostage. After throwing tear gas through windows, the SWAT team members found only a cat.
Such calls divert officers from legitimate police work and place innocent people in danger, Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox said.
“You’ve got police officers running around with high-powered weapons acting under belief of a potential threat against them,” he said. “What’s if there’s an accident? What if somebody innocently comes out of their house because of the hoax and it’s perceived by officers on scene as someone else?”
Yes, that could end very badly with innocent people and police officers killed in the confusion. What Fox does not mention is that these dangers exist in every SWAT raid, which is a damn good reason why SWAT teams shouldn’t be deployed except to deal with inherently violent situations. Unfortunately, it appears that SWAT teams are mostly used to serve search and arrest warrants, frequently for non-violent drug offenses. This unnecessarily endangers both police and civilians and carries enormous monetary costs, which encourages SWAT teams to look for methods of self-financing, such as asset forfeiture. These things ain’t cheap, after all: