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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Radley Balko on the "Rise of the Warrior Cop"

Nickie Phillips


The Institute for Peace & Justice and the Center for Crime and Popular Culture welcomed Radley Balko to St. Francis College on November 26 to present his findings on the increasing militarization of U.S. police forces, as well as the legal and political implications of invasive drug searches. He is a senior investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, and a former senior editor for Reason magazine. In 2011 the L.A. Press Club named him Journalist of the Year. Peter Kraska, Chair and Professor in  Police and Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, and expert on the militarization of policing, describes Balko's book the book Rise of the Warrior Copas "A fascinating, highly educational, and deeply disturbing read."

Here's an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal review of the book:

In Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko chronicles the steady militarization of the police in the U.S. A detailed history of a dangerous trend, Mr. Balko's book tracks police militarization over the past 50 years, a period that not coincidentally corresponds with the rise of SWAT teams. First established in response to the armed riots of the late 1960s, they were originally exclusive to big cities and deployed only against heavily armed and dangerous criminals. Today SWAT teams are nothing special. They've multiplied like mushrooms. Every city has a SWAT team; 80% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people do as well. These teams are busy; in 2005 there were between 50,000 and 60,000 SWAT raids in the U.S. The tactics are pretty much what you would expect—breaking down doors, rushing in with military weaponry, tear gas—but the targets aren't. SWAT teams are routinely deployed against illegal poker games, businesses suspected of employing illegal immigrants and barbershops with unlicensed hair stylists. In Prince George's County, Md., alone, SWAT teams were deployed about once a day in 2009, overwhelmingly to serve search or arrest warrants, and half of those warrants were for 'misdemeanors and nonserious felonies.' Much of Mr. Balko's data is approximate, because police departments don't publish data, ad they uniformly oppose any attempts at transparency or oversight. But he has good Maryland data from 2009 on, because after the mayor of Berwyn Heights was mistakenly attacked and terrorized in his home by a SWAT team in 2008, the state passed a law requiring police to report quarterly on their use of SWAT teams: how many times, for what purposes and whether any shots were fired during the raids.

Sociologist Emily Horowitz, author Radley Balko, and criminologist Nickie Phillips