They Sent a SWAT Team for WHAT? 5 Minor Crimes Met with Police Aggression

Care2 has been watching the increased militarization of police, particularly the gratuitous use of SWAT teams in safe, non-emergency situations. We’ve already looked at “5 Unnecessary SWAT Team Raids Gone Terribly Wrong,” but they don’t have to go tragically wrong to realize that they’re harebrained.

To illustrate the point that SWAT teams are being utilized in the most unwarranted situations possible, here are five ridiculous scenarios where a simple, run-of-the-mill arrest or citation would have sufficed:


1. A Parody Twitter Account

When Jon Daniel created a parody Twitter account to mock the mayor Peoria, Illinois, he never would have guessed his little joke would result in a SWAT team raiding his house. Nevertheless, Mayor Jim Ardis was so incensed at the fake Twitter account that he authorized maximum force to apprehend the jokester in the form of a SWAT team. (Frankly, he sounds like the kind of guy who deserves to be mocked on Twitter.)

While that response seems completely unwarranted given the “crime,” amazingly, a judge this week declared that Peoria had the right to SWAT raid the suspect’s house because of a law on the books about “false personation.” Notably, however, local prosecutors dropped charges against Daniel, realizing that a satire Twitter account is not the same as stealing someone’s identity.

2. Verifying Hair Cutting Licenses

Think of the most heinous crime imaginable.

Okay, now think of someone who cuts people’s hair without a proper barber license. I’ll go ahead and guess there’s a great disparity between those two things. So why, then, did SWAT teams with pointed weapons raid a barbershop in Orange County, Florida to verify whether the hair cutters had proper certification?

Considering that all of the employees’ paperwork was in order and nothing illegal was found on the premises, it’s all the more absurd that law enforcement entered the business in this manner. The good news is that, although it took four years, the U.S. appeals court has finally said this was not an appropriate way for the police to handle these matters.

3. Underage Drinking

After hearing that Elevate, a New Haven, Connecticut club, had a crowd that exceeded the legal fire occupancy including several underage Yale students who were allegedly drinking, the local police department sent in a SWAT team. Having SWAT officers raid the club certainly raised tensions in a way that normal officers wouldn’t have. The officers’ repeated demands for club-goers to put away their phones (to avoid having their excessive force recorded) couldn’t have helped matters either.

In a statement, police justified their behavior: “Elevate presented such a risk that it was necessary to respond with a strong police presence that involved members of SWAT team as support.” However, even the New Haven mayor attempted to distance himself from this nonsense by saying that sending a SWAT team was not the right course of action.

4. Holding an Umbrella

At California State University San Marcos, someone called police after he or she thought he saw a man carrying a rifle. Immediately, school faculty and students took emergency precautions and barricaded themselves in classrooms.

Hearing a description of the “gunman,” a CSUSM staff member realized that the tipster might have meant him. His “rifle” was nothing more than a closed umbrella – a perfectly acceptable tool for a day with precipitation – and reported himself to the police. Alerting the police to the mistake and armed with only an umbrella, that didn’t stop the SWAT team from swarming him to settle the already settled misunderstanding.

5. Disrupting Poker Games

Years ago, Dallas police showed how seriously they took the matter of illegal gambling by busting up private poker games. If the police think, in a city known for its violent crimes, that arresting peaceful, consenting adults playing games in a kitchen is pursuing, that’s their prerogative since it is technically illegal.

However, it shouldn’t be anyone’s prerogative to pounce on these friendly games in riot gear and with pointed weapons. These weren’t Mafioso type situations, these were normal adults playing cards while betting money. The fact that an A&E camera crew was present with the SWAT team during some of the raids couldn’t have possibly motivated the officers to put on an unnecessary show to make good television, now could it?


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

The police, in general, have gotten way too comfortable using excess force/shooting against everyone, anyone and anything. With that said, it is sad to say that this article and the stupidity of the forces and acts do not surprise me. They face no consequences. It seems to me they have been given their own free passes and are above the law. They use any excuse to be able to shoot a living being. No longer can we count on them for protection; we have to worry if they will be in a shoot first ask later frame of mind.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

Soemthing we can agree on Eric. They have decided to SERVE the law instead of USING the law to SERVE the citizens.

Eric Lees
Eric L4 years ago

We need police to return to the role of serving and protecting. Protecting the innocent should be their highest priority even above protecting their own lives. Most cops in America escalate the situation rather than deescalate the situation. It goes back to how they are trained and the character of the people hired to be cops.

Dale Brown of Detroit-based Threat Management Center is On-Point

Karen Everton
Karen E4 years ago

officers should all wear body cameras

Nimue P.

You people are nuts.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

very scary

Matt L.
Maitreya L4 years ago

It's not just extreme force either, undercover regularly entrap protestors and others. For example, undercover cops went into a Occupy protest group and built illegal "lock boxes" (which allow protestors to link arm-to-arm in a way that is hard to break apart) then talked the protestors into using them, which is a felony offense, so they got arrested for felonies for something they would not have thought of themselves.

That a device used for peaceful protests is a felony is pretty disturbing in itself.

Kamia T.
Kamia T4 years ago

The only thing that is going to prevent police officers and departments from continuing these ridiculous maneuvers is a) voting out of office anyone elected to these departments and b) suing the pants off of them over and over until they can't even find a liability company willing to cover their stupid behinds.