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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Combat Ready in Erie, Pennsylvania

   In August, the Erie Police Department, a force made up of 173 officers in a town of 102,000, took delivery of a new Lenco BearCat armored personnel carrier (APC). The 12-foot high APC weighing more than 17,000 pounds can carry up to ten SWAT officers. It also came equipped with a 50-caliber gun turret and the technology to detect radiation and explosive gas.

     The $201,000 truck, funded by a federal grant, will be available to law enforcement agencies in Erie and four nearby counties, a region not known for high rates of violent crime. In Erie proper, police involved shootings are rare. (The last, involving the police wounding of a 17-year-old high school student, took place in July 2010.)

     For the police in this northwest corner of the state to even have a SWAT team is operationally absurd. To waste federal taxpayer money for this militaristic monstrosity compounds the problem. At best the police tank will collect dust between Fourth of July and halloween parades. At worst the police will use it to intimidate (and impress) citizens in low-risk deployments. Like hundreds of small police departments throughout the country, Erie law enforcement authorities are caught up in the SWAT team craze. While the citizens of Erie and surrounding communities are not safer, they can expect a more militarized form of policing. No wonder this country is broke.

1 comment:

  1. Jim,

    I see your point about "small PD's" having SWAT TEams, but what other recourses do they have? PSP? it takes hours for a PSP team to be assembled and ready to go. If The COUNTY of Erie would train and equip officers on a County-Wide effort for SWAT this idea would be the best.
    Example here. A man barricades himself in a home in Erie and threatens to kill himself and his wfie and two young kids. It is 1000hrs. on a Saturday Morning. A county-wide SWAT Team that is trained/equipped could be there in an hour. They are familiar with the region and probably the actor himself. If you wait for PSP you are talking HOURS and by then who knows what.
    Local SWAT, IF(big if here) are trained/equipped and follow proper procedures can be effective.