ACLU LGBTQ Police War on Drugs Zero Tolerance and School Discipline

SWAT Raid Study, Restraining and Isolating Students as Punishment, Settlement in Wrongful Death Suit Against LASD, and New Gay Marriage States


The ACLU released a report this week detailing the extreme militarization of police forces in the US. According to the report—which compiled data on 800 SWAT raids by 20 local, state and federal agencies between 2011-2012—62% of raids were conducted in search of drugs. Only 7% of SWAT deployments were for hostage, barricade, or shooter situations (the original function of SWAT teams when they began at the LAPD).

Nearly 80% of deployments were to serve a search warrant, predominantly for drugs, something the ACLU says can and should almost always be done by regular officers—not a paramilitary team.

And in at least 36% (but as high as 65%) of drug search raids, no contraband was found.

SWAT raids also disproportionately affect minorities. Of the raids executed to serve a search warrant, 42% targeted African Americans, and 12% targeted Latinos.

Here’s a clip from the ACLU’s website:

There are an estimated 45,000 SWAT raids every year. That means this sort of violent, paramilitary raid is happening in about 124 homes every day – or more likely every night – not in an overseas combat zone, but here in American neighborhoods. The police, who are supposed to serve and protect communities, are instead waging war on the people who live in them.

Our new report, War at Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, takes a hard look at 800 of these raids – or at least what state and local law enforcement agencies are willing to tell us about them. We found that almost 80% of SWAT raids are to search homes, usually for drugs, and disproportionately, in communities of color. During these drug searches, at least 10 officers often piled into armored personnel carriers. They forced their way into people’s homes using military equipment like battering rams 60 percent of the time. And they were 14 times more likely to deploy flashbang grenades than during SWAT raids for other purposes.

Public support for the failed War on Drugs is at its lowest ever, and yet police are still using hyper-aggressive tactics and heavy artillery to fight it. This paramilitary approach to everyday policing brutalizes bystanders and ravages homes. We reviewed one case in which a young mother was shot and killed with her infant son in her arms. During another raid, a grandfather of 12 was killed while watching baseball in his pajamas. And we talked with a mother whose toddler was covered in burns, shot through with a hole that exposed his ribs, and placed into a medically induced coma after a flashbang grenade exploded in his crib. None of these people was the suspect. In many cases like these, officers did not find the suspect or any contraband in the home.

Even if they had found contraband, the idea of cops-cum-warriors would still be deeply troubling. Police can – and do – conduct searches and take suspects into custody without incident, without breaking into a home in the middle of the night, and without discharging their weapons. The fact is, very few policing situations actually require a full SWAT deployment or a tank. And simply having drugs in one’s home should not be a high-risk factor used to justify a paramilitary raid.

This militarization has occurred without oversight to speak of, and with minimal data-collection.

Here’s a clip from the report’s recommendations:

…State legislatures and municipalities should impose meaningful restraints on the use of SWAT. SWAT deployments should be limited to the kinds of scenarios for which these aggressive measures were originally intended – barricade, hostage, and active shooter situations. Rather than allowing for a SWAT deployment in any case that is deemed (for whatever reason the officers determine) to be “high risk,” the better practice would be for law enforcement agencies to have in place clear standards limiting SWAT deployments to scenarios that are truly “high risk.”

SWAT teams should never be deployed based solely on probable cause to believe drugs are present, even if they have a warrant to search a home. In addition, SWAT teams should not equate the suspected presence of drugs with a threat of violence. SWAT deployment for warrant service is appropriate only if the police can demonstrate, before deployment, that ordinary law enforcement officers cannot safely execute a warrant without facing an imminent threat of serious bodily harm. In making these determinations it is important to take into consideration the fact that use of a SWAT team can escalate rather than ameliorate potential violence; law enforcement should take appropriate precautions to avoid the use of SWAT whenever possible. In addition, all SWAT deployments, regardless of the underlying purpose, should be proportional—not all situations call for a SWAT deployment consisting of 20 heavily armed officers in an APC, and partial deployments should be encouraged when appropriate. Local police departments should develop their own internal policies calling for restraint and should avoid all training programs that encourage a “warrior” mindset.

Finally, the public has a right to know how the police are spending its tax dollars. The militarization of American policing has occurred with almost no oversight, and greater documentation, transparency, and accountability are urgently needed.

A requirement that SWAT officers wear body cameras would create a public record of SWAT deployments and serve as a check against unnecessarily aggressive tactics.

In his book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, Radley Balko
outlines the history of the over-militarization civilian police forces
and how disastrously unsafe it can be for citizens and law enforcement, particularly in smaller municipalities.


ProPublica’s Heather Vogell turned an investigative spotlight on all-to-common and punitive use of physical restraint and isolation on kids in schools across the nation.

In 2012, schools recorded 163,000 instances of physical restraint. Straps or handcuffs were used 7,600 of those times. And kids were placed in isolation rooms or “scream rooms” around 104,000 times.

At least 20 kids died between 1989 and 2009 allegedly due to being restrained or locked in isolation at school.

(Vogell’s story is co-published with NPR.) Here’s a clip:

Restraining and secluding students for any reason remains perfectly legal under federal law. And despite a near-consensus that the tactics should be used rarely, new data suggests some schools still routinely rely on them to control children.

The practices—which have included pinning uncooperative children facedown on the floor, locking them in dark closets and tying them up with straps, handcuffs, bungee cords or even duct tape—were used more than 267,000 times nationwide in the 2012 school year, a ProPublica analysis of new federal data shows. Three-quarters of the students restrained had physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities.

Children have gotten head injuries, bloody noses, broken bones and worse while being restrained or tied down—in one Iowa case, to a lunch table. A 13-year-old Georgia boy hanged himself after school officials gave him a rope to keep up his pants before shutting him alone in a room.

At least 20 children nationwide have reportedly died while being restrained or isolated over the course of two decades, the Government Accountability Office found in 2009.

“It’s hard to believe this kind of treatment is going on in America,” says parent and advocate Phyllis Musumeci. A decade ago, her autistic son was restrained 89 times over 14 months at his school in Florida. “It’s a disgrace.”

The federal data shows schools recorded 163,000 instances in which students were restrained in just one school year. In most cases, staff members physically held them down. But in 7,600 reports, students were put in “mechanical” restraints such as straps or handcuffs. (Arrests were not included in the data.) Schools said they placed children in what are sometimes called “scream rooms” roughly 104,000 times.

Those figures almost certainly understate what’s really happening. Advocates and government officials say underreporting is rampant. Fewer than one-third of the nation’s school districts reported using restraints or seclusions even once during the school year.

Schools that used restraints or seclusions at all did so an average of 18 times in the 2012 school year, the data shows. But hundreds of schools used them far more often—reporting dozens, and even hundreds, of instances.


More than four years ago, federal lawmakers began a campaign to restrict restraints and seclusions in public schools, except during emergencies. Despite a thick stack of alarming reports, the legislation has gone nowhere.

Opponents of the legislation say policy decisions about the practices are best left to state and local leaders. The federal government’s role, they say, should be limited to simply making sure districts have enough money to train staff to prevent and handle bad behavior.

But states and districts have shown they won’t create enough safeguards on their own, say advocates and other supporters of the legislation. Despite years of public concern about the practices, schools in most states can still restrain kids even when imminent danger doesn’t exist.

This February, timed with the re-introduction of legislation to limit the practices, Senate staffers released a report concluding that dangerous use of restraints and seclusion is “widespread” in public schools. Neither practice, the report said, benefits students therapeutically or academically.

“In fact, use of either seclusion or restraints in non-emergency situations poses significant physical and psychological danger to students,” it warned.

ProPublica also has a podcast on this issue that’s worth listening to.


A settlement of $1.5 million will be awarded to the family of 22-year-old Arturo Cabrales, who was fatally shot while unarmed by LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Paez.

Paez allegedly forcibly entered Cabrales’ property, after telling Cabrales that he didn’t need a warrant. Cabrales turned and ran, at which point the deputy allegedly shot him six times in the back and the side.

The suit accuses Paez and his partner Julio Martinez of trying to cover up the incident by planting a firearm in a neighbor’s yard and filing false police reports claiming Cabrales pointed a gun at the officers before throwing it over a fence.

Paez and Martinez were both fired in February 2013 after being charged with planting guns at a marijuana dispensary in order to falsely arrest two men. The ex-deputies face more than seven years each behind bars, if convicted.

LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus has the story. Here’s a clip:

The suit alleged that Paez and other deputies involved in the shooting were associated with the Regulators, a deputy clique operating out of the Century station. The suit blamed former Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka for giving tacit support to such cliques. Tanaka is a candidate for sheriff in the November election.

Paez is no longer with the department. In April, he and another deputy, Julio Martinez, were charged with conspiracy and perjury for allegedly planting guns at a medical marijuana dispensary to justify an arrest. Those charges are still pending. Paez and Martinez were both terminated in February 2013.

Ellis contends the two cases add up to a pattern of false reports and planted evidence. In the shooting case, the lawsuit alleged that Cabrales was standing inside the gate of his home, near the Jordan Downs housing project, when he saw four deputies harassing his uncle.

Paez, one of the deputies, began talking to Cabrales and tried to enter his property. Cabrales objected that the deputies did not have a warrant, at which point Paez answered in “foul, offensive and intimidating language,” saying that he did not need a warrant. Paez forcibly entered the gate, and Cabrales turned and ran. Paez then opened fire, according to the suit. Ellis said Cabrales was hit twice in the size and four times in the back.

Read on.


On Wednesday, just a day short of the anniversary of the Defense of Marriage Act’s abolishment, federal courts struck down gay marriage bans in both Indiana and Utah. The states have joined the list of (now) 21 states that boast marriage equality. (Congratulations, Utahans and Hoosiers!)

Reuters has more on the decisions.


  • Re: Swat Raid study by the ACLU my initial reaction is one of being stunned a la a sucker punch & a subsequent flood of anger. The report is directed to a very important subject but comes in nothing short of the equivalent of a piece of hate mail. It’s like being forced to answer yes or no to the question “have you stopped beating your wife yet?”, when you have never beat your wife. The only thoughts I have at this point is that the authors lack objectivity to the point of being bigots. Here’s a bet, let’s ask each individual who is party to this report to lead a drug warrant drug door knock & have them choose what assets they want around them. I doubt there would be a single taker.
    In deference to my good friend Sgt. Larrel Smith who lost his life in one of the so called inappropriate & benign drug warrant entry’s I declare that I have lost my last remaining respect for the ACLU.

  • Don’t you just love the ACLU? They lose their minds over a lame analysis of 800 SWAT entries, neglecting to measure that against all the search warrants services that were done WITHOUT SWAT, because the high risk indicators were not present. I can assume LAPD’s criteria is similar to LASD’s, and perhaps the ACLU should focus their wrath on the eager-beaver GI Joe mentality of Podunk PDs, chock full of inexperienced cops who want to play like they do in the big leagues.

  • Guns and illegal narcotic sales go hand in hand. Most narcotic enforcement units throughout the country are not trained or equipped to serve warrants on high risk locations with known armed criminals inside, SWAT teams are. What the ACLU fails to acknowledge is we live amongst very violent criminals that can not be negotiated with.

    It is horrible that innocent people get hurt or killed. Better training will mitigate that.

    It is a ridiculous argument to somehow limit SWAT teams serving warrants. If my neighbor is selling drugs, I want my local SWAT team hitting that house armed with automatic weapons, all the armor they can muster, flashbangs, and rams.

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rought men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell.

  • “Over-militarization of civilian police forces….”

    Reminds me of when I was in the 187th Infantry a good many decades ago. At the time it was an Airborne (parachute) unit. In WWII it was a Glider unit; now it is a helicopter (Air assault) unit.

    We had a barracks inspection, and a soldier told a lie about some incredibly minor thing. The platoon leader was a West Point graduate, imbued with the West Point ethos of “you don’t lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those that do.”

    So that soldier spent the entire night digging a six foot hole atop a heavily forested hill with lots of tree roots & rocks, using an entrenching tool about this long:—->.

    Soldiers who flunked out of jump school–the one run by the 101st Airborne Division when it was a jump division–were, interestingly, reassigned to the Military Police.

    Exactly the kind of militarization LASD needs.

  • Radley Balko is a cop hating liberal. Bottom line, SWAT warrants save lives. They are better trained and equipped. Take SWAT out of warrants and more people will die..cops and civilians. Police are becoming more militarized because the streets can erupt into war zones at any moment. All you have to do is watch the LAPD during the North Hollywood shootout to realize how two armed savages can hold down an entire division. Firepower wins firefights, sorry libs.

  • Boils my blood. hadn’t they heard of Jack Miller ( narco deputy killed during an entry.) How about the LAPD swat officer, Randy killed during and entry ? And yes, Larrel Smith. how many more cops would be killed if Swat was not there to do what the train to do ? How many suspects are actually killed by SWAT ? damn few considering the number of entries. And in those cases didn’t the AH fire first ? This BS is irresponsible … PERIOD !!!!


  • Once again our friendly ACLU writing about crap they know nothing about. I always love how the sheep (ACLU, liberals, media) sit and Monday morning quarterback Law Enforcement operations without ever facing the real danger. You are pathetic, the only way you asshats will wake up, is when you become a victim of a violent crime and scream OMG these criminals are really bad people. But some may not and just want to offer the criminal some cake and ice cream because they feel sorry for them. Lets make a real life “Purge” like the movie and just have the liberals and criminals participate.

  • LATBG,
    Your last sentence in #2 sounds like something Ithaca Boomer would say. Of course, he would refer to all other stations than those in RII when making an arrogant comment like that. You refer to the Podunk PD’s.
    It takes serious balls to to do what they do with little to no training. I wouldn’t be disparaging them. I would be admiring them for their courage. It isn’t their fault they don’t get the training. Aside from that if they pick up the phone and call SEB or LAPD they aren’t going to go serve their warrants for them are they?
    Perhaps a little more humility and a little less arrogance would alter your opinion. We are very fortunate to have SEB. It doesn’t make us better men or more courageous than those guys on Podunk PD. It only means we have a dedicated unit that gets the best training available. In turn that makes us more professional at serving high risk warrants.
    Before you disparage Podunk PD for not having the exceptionally trained people we do, maybe you should remember the old parable about glass houses. You may laugh at them for the way they serve high risk warrants. Maybe they have been laughing at us for a few years. After all, haven’t you been one of the most vocal critics of the way LASD has been conducting it’s business since Baca was elected? Haven’t you yourself referred to him as Moonbeam? We all have seen your utter disdain for Tanaka.
    I wouldn’t be throwing rocks at Podunk PD.
    I doubt they have been as dysfunctional as the LASD the past 15 years.
    Glass houses my friend. Glass houses.
    Put the pom poms away. You are making yourself sound like a hypocrite.

  • Wow, oh well, you devoted an awfully large amount of ink to escoriate my post. The Podunk PDs I have in mind are not the rural ones with limited resources, but the suburban ones in large metro areas who refuse to use regional resources that are better equipped and trained. I agree with your observation regarding the courage of small PDs with limited resources, I don’t envy their job.

    While I put the Pom Poms away I suggest you put the shanks away, your comments are eerily reminiscent of the Tanaka crowd indexing, tabulating, storing, and researching my every post. I’ll continue to hope all the bad guys go to jail, the good guys clean house, and we begin the long process of healing. And less you forget, the story was about the ACLU’s take on militarization of civilian law enforcement, hence my concern for over zealous search warrant operations.

  • Oh Well, let’s not let the LATBG’s take the discussion off track. The ACLU report is part of the current & opportunistic reproach of governmental police powers. The theme, as I interpret it, is that SWAT interventions are an instrument of a form of fascism. SWAT interventions are highly likely to be used in drug search warrants in minority communities & therefore inherently racial in effect. The report’s use of averages, statistics fail to meet objective review & are frankly dishonest. As Will Rogers said “there are lies, dirty lies and statistics”. The cases where an agency’s SWAT use looks inappropriate or has an unintended result will/ are cited as the norm. A hand held slide hammer for a door entry is inferred as a “battering ram” as if it was the tank-like vehicle with a ram on the front used by the penultimate villain LAPD & Chief Gates of the past. The ACLU report is a poor effort at word smithing & biased story telling.
    I think that law enforcement leaders need to acknowledge the ACLU challenge & prepare for a national legislative & political debate as to SWAT use.

  • Everybody knows the ACLU is not a friend of LE. That goes without saying. Any take they have on any procedures/stats is going to be skewed to make LE look like the bad guys. For anybody out there, whether it’s WLA or anybody else, who likes to put any weight in any opinions of the ACLU to “broaden discussions” this is all you need to know. The ACLU supports NAMBLA. They believe child molesters have the right to conspire with each other to train each other how to acquire victims. How’s that for broadeniing the discussion?

  • LATBG,
    Google Podunk. It isn’t used as a term to describe a suburb of a large metro area. Therefore the Podunk PD’s you refer to aren’t Podunk PD’s. The lack of understanding of the slang you choose to use has led to a misunderstanding between us.
    Forgive me for having a better understanding of the slang you use than you do.
    Perhaps it’s your ego, your need to feel superior, that causes you to refer to suburban PD’s in large metro areas as “Podunk PD’s”. Podunk, of course, meaning a holler or an insignificant, out of the way small rural town.
    Many would call it arrogance. Hence my post.
    Or maybe you’re just one of those guys who uses words or terms without even knowing what they mean and then get butt hurt when you’re corrected.
    The obvious need for you to refer to somebody who corrects you or disagrees with you as sounding like a Tanaka supporter is noted.
    My point was, our beloved LASD has problems. Serious problems. Have had for a very long time now. This isn’t the time for an LASD member to be disparaging ANY other LE agencies from ANY other place. Hence my referral to glass houses.
    Your reference to us as the big leagues, while referring to those around us as Podunk, most likely comes off to those around us as naïveté at best, arrogance at worst.
    Let the healing begin.

  • Guess it’s fair to say I’m a liberal on issues I consider important, though not a fore breathing one. Here’s my take away from this story:

    The vast majority of cops are just us, They don’t want to look or behave like an occupying force. They know they have to have our trust. Imagine what a transition it would be coming from a place like Afghanistan to Middle Town, America, where there aren’t crazies being every rock trying to kill them. Not that we don’t have plenty of batshit crazy over here, of course.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s important not to view law enforcement as some kind of monolithic structure. We need these guys to reflect the best of our society. Without that, it’s chaos.

  • Oh Well, we agree on many things, including how jacked up we are and the need for healing to begin. If I came across as smug or whatever unworthy descriptor you wish to apply, I extend an apology and olive branch for speaking brashly. You made some very good points, but you started losing it when you tried your hand at psychoanalysis. You even attracted the likes of Dulce to your side!

    The first step in healing is laying down the arms.

  • LATBG,
    1. I didn’t bring Dulce “over to my side”. Dulce just did what Dulce does, hate on you, like she has been doing since day one. Her saying something that is critical of you is not an indicator that she and myself are simpatico.
    2. I didn’t index, tabulate or store your post. All I did was read your post on this thread and respond to it. I didn’t mention nor refer to anything you’ve said in the past.
    3. Did you not say my response was “eerily reminiscent of the Tanaka crowd”?
    4. Brash. Yes, you are correct. I interpreted your post as very brash indeed.
    5. Olive Branch and apology accepted. I have no vested interest in debating, disparaging or psychoanalyzing you. But rest assured if I interpret you as speaking brashly, or arrogant or hypocritical in the future, I will once again bring it to your attention. As I would hope that you would do the same for me. I’m not looking for a love fest. I’m looking for honest discussion. If one of us gets a little too high and mighty, I would hope that others bring me down to earth. Put me in check. I checked my ego and machismo at the door. All you get when that isn’t done is comments like Boomer and Dulce make. Pom poms being waved. Stones being thrown at everybody and anybody who’s pretend resume doesn’t match theirs exactly. It doesn’t lead to anything but juvenile arguments.

  • Let’s see, “your need to feel superior,” “the obvious need for you,” sounds an awful lot like a venture into unchartered waters for you, so don’t get “butt hurt” when I bring it to your attention.

    Likewise, you comment: “After all, haven’t you been one of the most vocal critics of the way LASD has been conducting it’s business since Baca was elected? Haven’t you yourself referred to him as Moonbeam? We all have seen your utter disdain for Tanaka.” And then make the claim you are responding to my post on this thread only?

    There are many ways to get a little too high and mighty. You’ve taught me a good lesson on being careful in my statements, and I will endeavor to promote better understandings in the future.

  • LATBG,
    Your previous labeling of Moonbeam (as I myself have referred to him) had nothing to do with suggesting that PERHAPS it was a feeling of superiority on your part. The “superior” bit had only to do with you referring to those around us as Podunk, while we’re the big leagues. No more. No less.
    I could see where you could get that impression. That wasn’t my intent pertaining to Moonbeam or your previous criticisms of the way LASD has conducted business. I’m with you 100% on that.
    Again, it was strictly the Podunk/big leagues comparison.
    No worries. It’s all good. I consider it a done deal.

  • No one is surprised by the lame, ultra liberal ACLU who defends and supports gangsters and the down low criminals of our society. They needed to validate their existence with something to continue getting grants and money. They are nothing more then a bunch of immature, low level attorneys who look for something to create. If there was a polling to people in LA what they think about LAPD SWAT by and large there would be huge support. Smart people know all to well the terrorists and violent criminals in our own backyards now and SWAT is at the top of the game.

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