I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Sunday, June 20, 2010

America's paramilitary police.

Also from the Center for Investigative Reporting:

G.W. Schulz | Update: Elevated Risk | June 17, 2010

More observers asking if Detroit's 'paramilitary' police tactics go too far

Submachine guns like the MP5 are common among SWAT police units, including Detroit's Special Response Team. Flickr image courtesy Mateus 27:24&25

The military-style methods promoted by Detroit’s police chief have come under fire since officers shot and killed a small girl last month during a botched house raid that ignited public outrage. Chief Warren Evans took over the police department there last year and embarked on an aggressive campaign to win back the city from its stubbornly high violent-crime rate by among other things dispatching a so-called Special Response Team for everyday law enforcement activities.

The unit’s members dress in intimidating SWAT attire and carry submachine guns capable of unleashing an extraordinary 800 rounds per minute. At least that’s how their firepower is described on the website of “S.W.A.T.,” a television program hosted by the cable TV network A&E that showcases Detroit’s elite law enforcement team alongside two others in Dallas and Kansas City.

Elevated Risk previously asked whether the tragedy that exacerbated already deep fissures in Detroit between the black community and police also showed that local law enforcement in the United States had become overly militarized since Sept. 11. Time magazine answered that question in part by later reporting that the techniques Evans preferred for turning around Detroit were backfiring and Mayor Dave Bing had publicly declared the city would be “reigning him in.”

Before the SWAT raid, Evans appeared to be someone who could reinvigorate a city in slow decay. As Time notes, Evans was born and raised in Detroit where notable black radicals visited his parents and family members helped break down barriers to employment for African Americans in health care and public safety. The mayor no doubt believed Evans was capable, because Bing hired him even though the two were at one time political opponents. Responses to 911 calls improved on Evans’ watch, and reported homicides dropped, too.

The police department’s leadership is now under a microscope following last month’s killing. The Detroit Free Press on June 6 reported in depth on another unit in the agency known as the Mobile Strike Force that openly turns even the smallest infractions – including jaywalking and loitering – into a search for drugs and weapons. “In a city where an average of three people are shot every day,” the paper wrote, “Chief Warren Evans said the only way to combat guns is to get the illegal ones off the street. If that means stopping people breaking minor laws, he said, so be it.” Inevitably, that’s led critics to accuse the police of profiling citizens and relying on tactics better suited for Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the increased use in Detroit of its SWAT team parallels an ongoing trend nationally of police departments seeking to emulate the armed forces. Many officers are in fact reservists who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. A flood of federal homeland security grants awarded by the billions since 2001 has further encouraged this new look of local law enforcement, enabling police agencies to buy armored assault vehicles, muscle-bound RVs known as incident-command trucks, beefy tactical body armor and battering rams.

As part of our months-long project examining homeland security in the United States, the Center for Investigative Reporting has seen community after community snap up such special tactics gear amid thousands of pages of grant spending records reviewed – night-vision binoculars, ballistic helmets, “under-door remote viewing” devices, material for outfitting snipers, bullet-proof entry shields and much more. (Attempts to learn about Michigan’s purchases stalled after the state police demanded over $1,000 in fees to process an open-government request.)

(go here to finish)