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by Lynton Lynn Hanson

When the man comes a' knocking.

Did you know that S.W.A.T stands for Special Weapons and Tactics? The first SWAT units were formed by the Los Angeles Police Department many years ago. The justification was that criminals and criminal elements, say gangs, had become better armed than police officers.

SWAT teams are paramilitary units trained and equipped to bring an overwhelming force against any resistance that they should meet. For this we can be thankful. They are small units within the larger police force. For this too, we can be thankful.

From what we see on television, SWAT units are always dressed in black. They wear helmets, their faces hardly visible, the outline of a bullet proof vest visible, and black pants with large pockets and black combat boots. I doubt if there are any small men that are members of SWAT teams. They all seem to be well over six feet tall, and no long hair allowed. Their visage is to install fear and bring immediate obedience to their commands from any one they meet, criminal or bystander. They dress well for this.

A common image of SWAT teams in action is what we see on television. Over and over again, each piece of film uncomfortably looks like a rerun of the all the others.

Eight men charge up the steps to the house. Two men with a heavy metal ram break the door down. Six to eight officers, following closely behind with pistols drawn, held high at the ready, rush through the doorway to dash quickly from room to room. They are yelling at all times, at the top of their voices, that they are the police.

When they confront someone, any one, they point their weapons at them and scream: "Lay face down! On the floor! Put your hands behind your back!" This command continues, over and over, with threatening gestures and shoves, until the command is obeyed. Then they cuff the person.
When all is secure they serve the warrant and conduct a search. We see very little of the search except at the end of the film. The camera zooms in on an officer holding a bag of what we suspect is illegal contraband. End of episode.

There has never been SWAT operations of this sort in Bel Air or along Rodeo Drive. The threat of a lethal confrontation is considered nonexistent in these neighborhoods. There is a rumor that the police will contact residents of these communities and make an appointment to discuss probable cause.

Most don’t fear the intrusion of a SWAT unit in their home. After all, we are law abiding citizens. It can’t happen to us. But the fear is real and justified in less affluent neighborhoods. Confrontation with a SWAT unit is traumatic. No one who goes through it is able to forget it. But anyone can make a mistake. SWAT units have hit the wrong house more than once.

So there you are, peacefully sitting in your living room, feet resting on the coffee table, watching wrestling on TV. Suddenly all hell breaks loose. Men dressed in black have smashed down your front door and are rushing into the room. They point guns at you and are yelling something at the top of their voices. Fear grips you. Are they the police or a neighborhood gang? You get an adrenaline rush. Fight or flight?

Don’t raise your fists, don’t run, don’t ask questions. Do what they say and get on the floor, face down. Your life is in jeopardy. The term SWAT-U can well mean SWAT-You.




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