With brute police force making headlines, in Ferugson, Missouri, police militarization has once again been thrust into the national conversation. It's just another piece in the "long history" of SWAT teams in the United States, according to Retro Report producer Bonnie Bertram.
In an interview with HuffPost Live on Monday, Bertram chronicled the rise of SWAT teams, which arose after a “flat-footed” and uncoordinated response to the 1965 Watts Riots. While new tactical units were quickly put into place following the riots, their deployment among police forces began to shift.
“[During] this 50 years of evolution, they really changed from their initial intent," she told host Alyona Minkovski. “They were designed to deal with very violent confrontations starting primarily in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was ramping up the drug war and these … federal grants [were] coming in to take military surplus goods and transfer them to local police forces. Those two things sort of coalesced.”
As the drug war coupled with law enforcement’s ability to gain tactical military weaponry, the ascent of police militarization had begun.
“Increasingly, SWAT teams have been springing up in small cities," she said. "Now we’re at a point where we’re seeing 160 raids on private homes every day in this country, and primarily they’re serving warrants for drug arrests.”
Watch the full HuffPost Live interview about the history of police militarization here.
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