SWAT Teams and Cory Maye Again

by Kieran Healy on March 21, 2006

The BBC are running a story about SWAT raids. The hook is the case of Dr Salvatore Culosoi, a Virginia doctor who was under investigation for illegal gambling. Culosi was unarmed, had no history of violent behavior, and threatened no-one during the raid. He was shot dead by a police officer. A striking statistic from the article is that the number of SWAT raids per year has increased from 3,000 in the 1980s to “at least 40,000 per year” now. Seems like a straightforward garbage-can process at the organizational level, or a neoinstitutionalist story at the field level: SWAT teams are effective in certain situations. Initially, it’s cutting-edge departments who have them. They also get a lot of press. The gear makes a nice recruiting tool, too. Pretty soon, you need one if you want to be seen as a respectable police department. Once you have one, it’s a solution sitting around waiting for problems to apply itself to. Seeing as your podunk town is unlikely to have a hostage crisis, the bar for its application gets lowered way, way down. Voila, the police force is now militarized.

The story led me back to Radley Balko’s outstanding coverage of the Cory Maye case, which I wrote about late last year. It’s to Balko’s great credit that he’s been following up on this miscarriage of justice. He’s working on a magazine article about the case, which I sincerely hope appears where people will see it. Right now the Maye case shows that a lot of blogger agitation (about a nonpartisan issue, no less) can just sink without a trace unless it gets picked up by the media.

{ 22 comments }

1

abb1 03.21.06 at 12:05 pm

To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

2

des von bladet 03.21.06 at 12:22 pm

abb1: He has to _only_ have a hammer, which is an important distinction. I am a man and I have a hammer, but I also have an spanner, and I don’t tighten the nuts on my bike with the hammer, I can promise you that.

(Since Lois Proyect was a no-show in the other thread, perhaps you could favour us with some obscurely conspiratorial remarks on the Zionist tendencies of spanner-owners?)

3

Steve LaBonne 03.21.06 at 12:28 pm

Some of the Podunk departments I work with in my county, the question is whether the coppers should be allowed to carry weapons at all. The idea of them having SWAT teams? Yikes… I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

des, we Murkans don’t have spanners. We do have wrenches, though. ;)

4

lemuel pitkin 03.21.06 at 12:57 pm

Oh, so spanner is a British-ism for wrench? Gotta say, I learn more on this blog…

5

abb1 03.21.06 at 1:05 pm

What was that all about, Des? When did I favour you with conspiratorial remarks on Zionist tendencies? And I don’t remember Louis doing it either. Try to control yourself and calm down.

6

Sebastian Holsclaw 03.21.06 at 1:14 pm

“Right now the Maye case shows that a lot of blogger agitation (about a nonpartisan issue, no less) can just sink without a trace unless it gets picked up by the media.”

Is the problem that nearly all the bloggers agree on the issue? We aren’t fighting with each other about it so how important could it be….

It is almost certainly that we aren’t as important as we like to think, but I wonder if the lack of controversy makes some sort of difference.

7

Henry (not the famous one) 03.21.06 at 1:50 pm

Either the WSJ or the LAT or some other very respectable rag covered this issue ten or fifteen years ago, citing the example of a police department in a mid-sized city in the Central Valley of California that had trained its SWAT team in rapelling, even though there were no buildings of more than two stories in the town.

Mr. Pitkin: go to your library and look for John Lennon’s first book of short stories.

8

Aaron Swartz 03.21.06 at 2:05 pm

Christian Parenti’s book Lockdown America includes a great section about SWAT teams, everything from the government programs that encouraged cities to adopt them to his first-person experience traveling with one in Fresno, California where they would regularly harass immigrants into giving up their fourth amendment rights.

9

Aaron Swartz 03.21.06 at 2:09 pm

(BTW, here’s Lockdown America on Amazon.)

10

Brett Bellmore 03.21.06 at 3:23 pm

“Oh, so spanner is a British-ism for wrench? Gotta say, I learn more on this blog…”

No, a “spanner” is a particular sort of wrench, though for all I know the British may refer to all wrenches as spanners.

11

jet 03.21.06 at 3:51 pm

When the MSM decides to give some air to right an injustice, they usually don’t chose well. Corey Maye’s story was competing with “Tookies'”, so no wonder it didn’t make the nightly news.

12

jet 03.21.06 at 3:56 pm

Kieran Healy,
You realize you entered into the same stomping grounds as the far right nationalists and are argreeing with them?

13

abb1 03.21.06 at 4:04 pm

And the far right nationalists can’t be right about anything, of course. They probably want more cancer too.

14

Kieran Healy 03.21.06 at 4:18 pm

You realize you entered into the same stomping grounds as the far right nationalists and are argreeing with them?

Let me know if you catch me ranting about the pussification of the western male.

15

jet 03.21.06 at 4:19 pm

Abb1,
Kim is about as popular as a flaming turd here at CT, so I just thought it slightly humorous that their views should overlap (although I guess about 99.999% of the blogsphere overlapped on this issue).

Over at http://www.mayeisinnocent.com/ it appears that Corey is truly fukt. The state is going to kill, what probably is, an innocent man. Looks like they are asking for money to hire investigators, but the funds appear lacking. Remind me never to be born a poor minority in rural Miss.

16

abb1 03.21.06 at 4:43 pm

Btw, this reminds me – since the far right and Zionist tendencies are being discussed together here – do any of you smart freethinking professors care to mention this new essay in your excellent online publication?

Thanks.

17

Hogan 03.21.06 at 5:46 pm

You realize you entered into the same stomping grounds as the far right nationalists and are argreeing with them?

The militarization of domestic police forces goes back at least thirty years. Far right nationalists didn’t have a problem with that until militarized police started going after white people.

18

Barry Freed 03.21.06 at 7:34 pm

abb1: He has to only have a hammer, which is an important distinction.

Good point, but if anyone here has ever worked in construction, replace the “hammer” with a Milwaukee Sawzall;* — Now you’re talking Raw Power!

And des: Do try to refrain from abb1 baiting in wholly irrelevant threads, please.

*Kieran, just doing my bit in the Great War Against The Pussification of the Western Male.

19

abb1 03.22.06 at 2:21 am

Good point? C’mon. Clearly “a man with a hammer” does NOT mean “a man who owns a hammer”, it means “a man with a hammer in his hand”.

Buy a sickle too, des – then we’ll talk!

20

des von bladet 03.22.06 at 6:00 am

You’re Austrian? We had no idea!

And Baruch’s Law is in fact canonically If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I am quite willing to forgive myself for thinking you were alluding, rather than coining a rival abb1 theory of the unputdownability of hammers.

The other suggestion was gratuitous, and I withdraw it with apologies to all.

21

abb1 03.22.06 at 6:51 am

…theory of the unputdownability of hammers

Do you realize that the theory of inevitability of perceiving everything as a nail when all you have is a hammer is not exactly hard science either?

22

Steve LaBonne 03.22.06 at 8:43 am

Let me know if you catch me ranting about the pussification of the western male.

What, you don’t want to follow in the footsteps of the great Hahvaad Perfesser Harvey Mansfield?

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