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Camouflage cops

A SWAT team armed with machine guns and clad in the latest paramilitary gear descended earlier this month on a small organic farm in Arlington, Texas, looking for marijuana. Drones and helicopters scouted the area while the farm’s residents were handcuffed and held at gunpoint. By the end of the 10-hour raid, police failed to find any drugs. Instead, one person was arrested for outstanding traffic violations, and some ordinary bushes and plants were hauled away as “evidence” of nothing more than the growing of tomatoes and blackberries.

As the land’s owner, Shellie Smith, explains, she and her fellow farmers just want to go about their business and be left alone: “We have been targeted by the system because we are showing people how to live without it.” This is an example of how training police to become experts in conducting raids creates an incentive to come up with excuses to conduct raids. It’s becoming more common as America’s police forces adopt military tools, tactics and mindset.

A soldier’s job is to accomplish his mission and get home alive. While that works in Afghanistan or Iraq, here at home it can create an attitude elevating police officer safety above the safety of the public. This was seen in February when the Los Angeles Police Department went on a manhunt for Christopher Dorner, a former cop who allegedly shot and killed three officers. Dorner owned a blue Nissan pickup truck, but when overzealous officers happened upon a blue Toyota truck, they riddled it with 102 bullets. Had they bothered verifying their target, they might have noticed that a mother and daughter, not Dorner, were inside the vehicle delivering newspapers. Fortunately, the women survived, as did another innocent truck driver who was also shot at on the same day.