Why Militarizing Police is a Very Bad Idea

St Louis County SWAT team in Ferguson, Missouri

Militarization Fails to Enhance Police Safety or Reduce Crime but May Harm Police Reputation


Law school professors David Harris of Pittsburgh and Jonathan Mummala of Princeton talk about Mummala’s research into the growth of SWAT teams among American police — an evaluation of their effectiveness and impact.

I have discussed the SWAT team issue on this blog in the past (see below) questioning their overall effectiveness and negative impact on building trust in poor communities and those of color.

While SWAT teams are necessary, they should not be used except for that which they were designed — barricaded, armed persons, active shooters, or other violent emergencies — not for routine warrant service.

“Since the creation of the first SWAT teams in the 1960s, militarized police units have multiplied. SWAT teams can rescue hostages or handle emergencies – but are they used that way? Do they increase public safety? And what’s the impact on the public, and on officers? Guest Jonathan Mummolo, Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, discusses his new research into the effect of police militarization – on crime, on communities of color, and on police agencies themselves.”

Militarization Fails to Enhance Police Safety or Reduce Crime but May Harm Police Reputation


Listen to this excellent interview HERE.


Key Findings

  • Over 90% of citizens in the United States have at least one SWAT team present in their county of residence.
  • 91% of SWAT call-ups are not for armed, barricaded persons, but in non-emergency warrant services ( which often result in property being seized and damage to the property ( door breeches).
  • Cities instituting SWAT teams do not experience a reduction in crime or reduction in officer injuries (the primary reasons for their organization).
  •  The higher the percentage of African-Americans in a given area the more SWAT team deployments in those neighborhoods.
  • 84% of the time property is seized and 70% of the events are forcible entries.
  • Less than 1% of the time are shots fired or persons killed by SWAT teams.
  • The result of this is a negative impact on trust and support of police which is necessary for police effectiveness.


Earlier posts on this subject: