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ACLU report criticizes increased police militarization

[JURIST] Increasing militarization of police forces is putting citizens at risk rather than protecting them, according to a report [text, PDF] released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The report titled, "War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing," analyzed data from 800 SWAT deployments conducted by 20 law enforcement agencies during the years 2011-2012. According to the ACLU's report, 79 percent of the incidents studied involved the use of a SWAT team to execute a search warrant while only 7 percent of deployments were for "hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios." The report condemned such use of SWAT teams, accusing the police of using "paramilitary tactics to conduct domestic criminal investigations in searches of people's homes." According to the report, the ACLU documented a total of "15,054 items of battle uniforms or personal protective equipment received by 63 responding agencies" during the study period. Of the 800 SWAT deployments, 62 percent were drug searches. The report also found that the "use of paramilitary weapons and tactics primarily impacted people of color," citing that of the people impacted by SWAT deployment executing a search warrant 42 percent were African American and 12 percent were Latino. The ACLU called on the federal government to roll back programs that "create incentives for local police to engage in excessively militarized tactics" advocating that reduced federal funding can help reduce police forces' access to military-grade tools. To gather their information for the study the ACLU sent public records requests to more than 260 law enforcement agencies in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Police conduct continues to face legal scrutiny, especially in terms of executing searches. Earlier this month the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that police must obtain a warrant to get a person's cell phone location history from the cell phone provider. In May the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that US Secret Service [official website] agents are entitled to qualified immunity despite having treated a group of protesters differently based on their viewpoints. Also in May the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in Plumhoff v. Rickard that police officers who fatally shot a driver to end a dangerous car chase did not violate the Fourth Amendment [text].

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