It has become fashionable, especially on the right side of the political edge, to decry the use of military-style equipment and vehicles in law enforcement contexts. An article today by John Fund, respected journalist for The National Review, makes the case for restricted use of SWAT teams. He proposes banning surplus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from being given to police departments. I would suggest that Mr. Fund has never been given the task of resolving an armed conflict.
I've written this before, so I'll not engage in the angry diatribe my dogs endured as I was making their breakfast. Oh, they know I wasn't growling at them. Let me just....
Officers respond to the report of an armed man in a quiet neighborhood. The guy fires multiple rounds at them with a rifle, pinning them down. One officer engages him with a shotgun at close range, allowing other officers to find cover. Miraculously, although rounds strike around him he is unharmed. The department does not yet have an armored vehicle, so there is no way to provide protection for officers who need to move from the line of fire. A SWAT-trained officer with a rifle successfully returns fire. The wounded man is later found inside the home and arrested by SWAT, his children rescued from their bedrooms.
An Ohio police officer is shot while processing a crime scene. Her department does not have an armored vehicle. Several officers are wounded trying to rescue her. She dies of her injuries.
Local FBI SWAT is advised that a man wanted for murder in LA has taken refuge in an apartment in a Denver suburb. He is most likely armed and no-doubt dangerous. Experienced operators expect a prolonged standoff, perhaps gunfire. Rather then hide behind a vehicle that stops bullets sometimes they roll up in an FBI MRAP. Suspect peeks out the window and cannot wait to surrender. Elapsed time - 3 minutes.
A Colorado homeowner having a very bad day engages arriving officers with gunfire and retreats into his house. SWAT responds with their team, equipped with their armored vehicle. The resident fires several shots at officers who, protected by their Bearcat, are able to shoot back effectively. One round from the resident strikes the windshield of the Bearcat, but the officer inside is safe.
Arvada officers chase an armed suspect on foot. He forces his way into a residence and takes a teenage boy hostage. Over a period of hours, while officers outside endure sub-zero weather (and falling snow) the suspect threatens to kill his victim. An armored vehicle approaches, the occupants safe inside. A sniper firing from behind the protective shield on their truck is able to kill the suspect. The officer is in close, increasing the odds that the victim will not be accidentally struck.
An armed suspect has barricaded himself in a motel room. No real cover exists in close, so officers will be exposed as they approach. Their MRAP rumbles into the parking lot. The suspect peers out the window at the vehicle, throws aside his weapon and surrenders.
Think whatever you want. Those are my friends in the SWAT gear, risking their lives to protect our community. Our citizens expect us to be able to deal with these situations safely, professionally and within the law. My friends deserve the best equipment, the best training and the support of people who understand just how dangerous these situations are.
Thanks for your input, John. See you on the inner perimeter?