It’s indecent for these guys to share a bed

Cool, huh? An 11-man SWAT team, heavily armed, yelling, swearing, breaking in an open door, and throwing flash bang grenades, raids a house and (pant, pant) captures a 68-year-old grandmother and her adopted daughter. Whoops, wrong house.

Viewing this video really steamed me up. It was another unneeded reminder of the issues that obsess me everyday anyway. Militarization of police. Unnecessary force. Guns, guns, guns. Violation of civil rights. Violation of human rights. Inhumane behavior.

But the steam that built up in me was nothing compared with the sense of outrage, disbelief, and anger I felt when I watched this second brief video, a newscast report by a member of the local TV network invited to come along with the SWAT team and see them in action.

What happened to the free press? David Shepherd, the so-called reporter for this story, seems more like the “bought press,” or the “seduced press.” Here is a blatant example of what can happen when people whose job it is to report the news become “embedded” in the action.

I was less steamed and could only laugh when I read a report on the raid in Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine, entitled “Ind. SWAT Team Tricked Into Raiding Grandma’s Home”. The moral of the story seems to be that the raid, the intimidation, the destruction of property was not the fault of the police who did those things. They were tricked into it.

A lot of people in this country go nuts in response to particular forms of coupling (white with black, men with men, etc.) It is the increasing tendency of coupling between members of the press  and gun-bearing members of the power structure that makes me nervous.

The good news is that the grandmother filed a law suit and the judge ruled that the SWAT team does not get immunity from prosecution.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

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11 Responses to It’s indecent for these guys to share a bed

  1. Amanda Clerke says:

    The fact that the media was “invited along to see the SWAT team in action” is a distinct form of propaganda. Everyone growing up in the US learned in some history class the impact that Propaganda had on World War II. We see samples of posters enticing people to join the draft or to make weapons for the war. But as we are sitting here analyzing those, I can’t help but think about the examples of propaganda that effect society today. Yes, the propaganda has transformed to be high tech and more discreet but it is still very much present.

    The article that was posted after the raid of the grandmother’s house blaming it on the chosen “target” is blatant propaganda in the form of crisis PR. Crisis PR can be defined as “PR that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation.” In my opinion Crisis PR is actually just a diffusion of responsibility. If every person who made a mistake defused responsibility then we would all be “moral, just, perfect citizens” but the reality is that we are not. Not one person walking down the street has never not made a mistake before, but the key difference is that they probably took responsibility for this act unlike the SWAT team who easily blamed the “bad guy”.

    The press presence at a live raid and investigation is also a form of propaganda enlightening the general public that what they watch may not always be the truth. What was the reason the press was invited to this raid versus another? What was their end goal? The SWAT team made it seem like they were just trying to help the media company thrive, but sadly nothing is ever one sided. The SWAT team had hidden intentions most likely about the public’s view on their organization. Hidden intentions and messages like this entire raid became is exactly what every high school student is studying right now. When they are analyzing World War II propaganda they may think they are learning about the past but little do they know that watching the news every night is also a continuation of their “past” studies.

  2. Amy Biggart says:

    As a country we put too much trust in the uniform that these men wear. We are taught to implicitly trust that men in uniform are acting to protect us, and are acting with our best interest at heart. With the recent public outcry against police brutality, we have finally begun to question whether or not our police force actually acts in the best interest of the citizens it serves. This case outlined in this article is just one example of the unlawful and inhumane actions that police and SWAT teams can get away with under the guise of protecting our citizens.

    Police report these stories with a tendency to deny their own responsibility to protect the innocent people who they harm in these raids. The acknowledged motto of many police forces in our country is “to protect and to serve,” two duties which these SWAT members failed at spectacularly in this raid. This elderly woman and her daughter both are citizens of this country and thus deserve the protection of the police.

    The media presence at this raid is unnecessary and just contributes to the spectacle that these SWAT and police have created. If the police and SWAT were merely serving justice there is no need for them to invite the media along to the raid on this house. The reporter’s telling of this story paints the police and SWAT as the victims without ever acknowledging that the people in this house were innocent and did not have anything to do with the threats made against the police. This case is another example of police resorting to unnecessary force at the expense of the citizens they serve. While the threats toward the police may have been real and dangerous, the police force and SWAT have a responsibility first and foremost to protecting their citizens. If the police do not act first and foremost in the best interest of their citizens, then people will likely lose what little trust in the police system they have left.

  3. Prachi Patel says:

    After reading this post, I decided to go ahead a read a “news report” on the events that had occurred throughout this situation. What I learned was that there were several threats sent to a few police officers and their families and after “tracking the IP address” of these threats, the officers decided to send in a SWAT team. What baffles me is the idea that the police establishment in this particular state decided to send in an 11 man, not 2 or 3, but 11 man SWAT team to a small time home. Not only was a SWAT team not necessary for such ambiguous threats, but the fact that 11 members were sent to “scope” the area is ridiculous. Just as Malley-Morrison describes, this is event only brings up some atrocious violations of civil rights and human rights. Not only that, this event goes to show the extent of the effects of militarization on our society today: excessive use of force, violence, and no gun control what so ever. (What did the SWAT team think they were going to find/use with 11+ guns on them?)

    The relationship between the press and the military/police establishments is also another troubling point to be made. The idea that press was invited to join the SWAT team while they were “in action” goes to show the media and gun violence go hand in hand. Free press is supposed to entail publishing without the restraint or censorship of a specific subject. It seems to me however, that there is some sort of restraint in the press by those with gun ownership and power. The press works hand in hand with these gun owning establishments to make sure that while they get the latest news and juiciest information/action, those that hand this information to them are shown in some sort of spotlight.

    Furthermore, it seems as if the military (and other gun owning establishments) also play tools in the hands of policy maker: gun violence and action play a huge role in the policy game in the US. The decision to carry out a certain air strike or engage in a certain conflict is all in the hands of the policy makers. Through the use of the press and the military, policy makers can create and make certain situations act in their favor (for example using conflict and media to portray involving ourselves in a certain war as the only option).
    So there might actually be more than 2 players in bed with each other…

  4. Esra Tanrikorur says:

    I agree that this video is a prime example of militarization of police and violation of human rights. What I found to be interesting is the police kept mentioning threats against their families and how they are taken more seriously. This reminds me of the concept of moral disengagement we discussed in class, and specifically K. Aquino’s explanation of advantageous comparison in A Grotesque And Dark Beauty. The author explains advantageous comparison to be a form of moral disengagement where an individual, or group, convinces himself/herself that his/her violent actions are not as bad in comparison to that of the enemy. The second part of this concept is justifying violence by thinking about what circumstances may occur if no action is taken.

    It seems as if the police force in this situation is justifying its violent actions, even when it turns out the SWAT team targeted the wrong house, because there were specific and consistent threats that could have endangered members on the police forces’ families. The main point the police force seems to come back to is they had to pursue the raid for fear that the tips and threats were accurate, which aligns with the second part of advantageous comparison mentioned earlier. Although this is the police force and SWAT team’s form of justification, I think the entire situation was unnecessarily glorified with the phrases you mentioned such as being “invited to come along with the SWAT team and see them in action”, especially considering the raid ended unsuccessfully.

  5. Corina Pintado says:

    While I agree that the media’s role in this situation could be considered as promoting propaganda, I’ve always found myself conflicted over the complex role the media has played in recent years. On the one hand, the media is there to inform the public and on the other, not only is the media a powerful sector working with and being influenced by other government sects (i.e. the military, legislative branch) but the media has a tendency to frame the news. The concept of framing, as famously described in George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” is when primary, definite ideas are carried out in a certain language. Basically, it’s a testament to the power of language and how the use of specific words can frame a simple story in a multitude of ways depending on whose perspective it is.

    The role of the media in this particular situation is also reminiscent of Finkel’s article (2006), which describes the lack of checks and balances in the post-9/11 era. The media has had an enormous influence in arousing fear, resentment and moral righteousness among the public, which leads to an overreaching of power in other branches of government. Again, the use of certain vocabulary or phrasing – like the headline “Ind. SWAT Team Tricked Into Raiding Grandma’s Home,” which pits the blame on anyone but the SWAT team – can sway public opinion, which in turn can affect the government and become a never-ending cycle. When reporting for the better good of the people, the media can partner up with the public to create positive change. But when the media presents propaganda or frames a story to intentionally deceive and inject fear into the public, that’s when the system must be questioned.

  6. Brian May says:

    When I try to imagine the shock and terror that must have been coursing through the veins of the grandma and her granddaughter when this S.W.A.T. raid occurred out of the blue (with flashbangs even!), it gives me chills. It is a prime example of what inadequate policing and detective work can produce. However, I am given some resolve knowing that the grandma is filing a law suit so that this poor police work can be stopped. She gets her justice, and hopefully a new front door.

    Dr. Alice LoCicero wrote earlier this year that after 9/11, Americans as a whole have begun to prefer security over freedom. This goes hand in hand with the post 9/11 militarization of police and why it has had such an impact today. Due to this devastating, tragic attack on our own soil, our police have had to meet the extreme threat that terrorist attacks pose on our land. I personally feel safer knowing that the police have the ability to defend us against an attack that requires such a use of force. Would anyone want our police to fight in a losing battle? Where their weapons pale in strength to the perpetrators, and the police are subsequently injured or even killed more regularly? It is a general fact of human nature that we find sensationalized articles like this to be “exciting” in some way and I believe that the saddest thing about this story is how the media is using this militarization for their own desires of viewership and propaganda.

  7. barbara says:

    I’m speechless. . . almost. It seems that for some people, violence is fun and funny. But those SWAT members aren’t Keystone Cops, programmed to entertain an audience. These are human beings who hurt other beings accidentally or on purpose, and oh what a lovely heroic story the local media made of it all.

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  9. Sarah Oppenheimer says:

    This display of the militarization of police and the displacement of blame of its consequences is a very vivid example of the violent American culture. This blog post brought to mind an article I recently read by Dr. Fernanez-Dols, a psychologist at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. He mentioned that there are three basic problems for the development of a culture of peace, two of which relate to this blog post.

    The first problem is that the concept of a culture of peace takes for granted that culture is static and coherent, but recent examinations emphasize that culture is changeable and contradictory. The narrow view that a culture is either entirely peaceful or entirely warlike does not leave room for change, and does not take into account the changeable nature of culture. The possibility of change leaves hope that violent acts, such as those displayed in the video, do not establish the US as an entirely violent nation and hope that the levels of violence can change. As Dr. Fernanez-Dols points out, cultures can include scripts for peace and war at the same time, which implies that if there are peaceful aspects to US culture, we can expand upon these and popularize peaceful ideas.

    The second problem with the concept of peace, according to Farnanez-Dols, is that it assumes that peace must be defined according to Western principles. This point argues that we cannot force Western ideas of what peace means upon others.

    The other problem, which relates to this post, is: the concept of a culture of peace characterizes violence and war as the same thing. Farnanez-Dols differentiates them by explaining that war is a specific, institutionalized form of violence, so they are not exactly the same thing. He explains that a society may be violent, but not at war, and a society can be peaceful, but take part in a lot of wars. The video included in the blog post displays a violent encounter illustrating the militarization of the US police. While this exemplifies the violent society within the US, this is different from taking part in a lot of wars. The US focuses a ton of effort on global and domestic militarization, which isn’t exactly the same thing as actively being at war. I believe that an emphasis on a more peaceful society should focus more on the violence of the society than the pro-war sentiment. The US has much institutionalized violence, and I believe that it is the first thing that needs to be focused on, because changing violence can change people’s mindsets, and later change their viewpoints towards war.

  10. Aneesh Patel says:

    I would like to focus more on Amanda’s earlier point that the media is a form of propaganda. I wholeheartedly agree; the media greatly influences our worldviews and has the extremely important role of supplying us with information. However, the media can be manipulated greatly into providing us with inaccurate or biased news, which then influences the target audience’s views greatly. I found that the use of the word “tricked” in one of the articles into raiding the home of this harmless woman and her daughter highlighted the dangerous trend in our media to blame the victims, which is in fact a form of developing a conflictive ethos, according to Bar-Tal. In the article, the media highlights the fact that the reason for the mistake was due to hacking into the woman’s IP address and posting information from there. The tone of this article, however, does not blame the police nor the actual hacker, but instead paints the woman as naïve and incapable of protecting her Wi-Fi. This is scary; how can we hope to hold people accountable for their actions if we continue to portray these situations in light and humorous ways? Let me emphasize that this is in no way a joke. The emotional and potentially physical trauma that the woman and her younger daughter may face can affect their psychological well-being, and simply laughing off the negative consequences of using a SWAT team is unacceptable. Take, for example, the death of Aiyana Jones, a 7-year old girl who was killed in a police raid. While the exact circumstances of her death are unclear, her death, as an innocent young girl, highlights the danger in using extreme violence against individuals. While the media may continue to portray the SWAT team in a humorous light as a case of getting the address wrong, we cannot ignore the potential death that could have happened that day.

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