June 4, 2010
By GW Shultz from The Center for Investigative Reporting;
A house raid by law enforcement in Michigan that led to the killing of a 7-year-old girl May 16 sheds new light on the question of whether police have become overly militarized in the post-Sept. 11 age of terrorism. The Detroit Police Department was executing a “no-knock” search warrant intending to nab an alleged murderer with the help of its SWAT team when authorities say Aiyana Jones was accidentally shot by one of the officers.
A lawyer for the family insists the shot was fired from outside and that a flash-bang grenade tossed through the window burned the girl before she was fatally wounded by gunfire.
Crew members from a popular reality TV show, “The First 48,” captured footage as the raid occurred and subsequently turned it over to investigators looking into the shooting, according to press accounts. The show is produced by a UK company called Granada Media, also coincidentally the force behind another A&E cable network program called “S.W.A.T.” It chronicles the high-octane work of police special weapons and tactics units from three major cities. One of them is Detroit.
The show’s website features images of Detroit’s special response team dressed in military-style apparel and carrying sub-machine guns capable of spraying 800 rounds per minute. One officer wields an intimidating, large-barreled “multi-launcher,” which fires tear-gas projectiles “to disorient potential threats” and “less-lethal rounds,” such as sand bags that are used for crowd-control situations. Reporters have attributed the shooting of Aiyana Jones to team member Joseph Weekly, who still appears on the site.
Police departments across the United States have used federal homeland security grants to equip these teams with armored vehicles, battering rams, modern devices for conducting surveillance, incident-command trucks resembling RVs on steroids and SWAT attire that seems to visually transform local police into the armed forces.
In one area of Hawaii, police use a 19,000-pound armored BearCat purchased with $240,000 in grants “mostly for executing high-risk search warrants,” according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The vehicle has detectors on board for radiation and methane gas, and it’s followed on “missions” by a $330,000 mobile-command pos
Read more of GW Shultz’s investigative report;