Adam Ruins Cops

Sep 25 2019

Adam polices the truth behind the overuse of SWAT Teams, illustrates how using school officers can create a pipeline for prisons, and examines the origins and intended purpose of police officers.


"SWAT Teams were introduced in the 1960s to handle EXTREME crises, like hostage negotiations and prison escapes."

Clyde Haberman. “The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing.” New York Times, 7 Sep 2014.

"But today, those situations are only 7% of SWAT deployments. Instead, they spend MOST of their time executing warrants for run-of- the mill drug searches."

“War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” ACLU, 2014.

"SWAT raids only uncover a weapon at the scene around a third of the time."

"War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing." ACLU, 2014.

"And, 4 out of 10 SWAT raids turn up zero contraband whatsoever!"

Bonnie Kristian. “The troubling rise of SWAT teams.” The Week, 19 Jan 2015.

"Actually, it’s so EASY to get a SWAT Team to raid a house, it's even become a fad to call SWAT teams on people as a sick, twisted PRANK. It's called Swatting, and it happens over 400 times per year."

Adrianne Jeffries. "Meet 'swatting,' the dangerous prank that could get someone killed." The Verge, 23 Apr 2013.

"Actually, people have DIED from swatting! And maybe that's because when SWAT teams get a call, they head in guns blazing, often in the middle of the night, smashing doors and windows, sometimes even shooting or throwing GRENADES, and putting innocent bystanders in danger!"

Matt Stevens and Andrew R. Chow. "Man Pleads Guilty to ‘Swatting’ Hoax That Resulted in a Fatal Shooting." New York Times, 13 Nov 2018.

"‘Militarized’ SWAT Teams Under Scrutiny as Toddler Recovers from Grenade." NBC News, 7 Jul 2014.

"Sometimes, they don’t even get the RIGHT APARTMENT! In 2003, New York City’s chief of police estimated that 10% of no-knock SWAT raids go to the WRONG address."

Dara Lind. “Cops do 20,000 no-knock raids a year. Civilians often pay the price when they go wrong.” Vox, 15 May 2015.

"Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has encouraged police departments across the country to behave more like MILITARY units than local PD. It started with the “War On Drugs,” when they started giving out EXTRA CASH to precincts that agreed to crack down on drug crime."

Michelle Alexander. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New Press, 2010.

"Then in the 90s, they started giving away more than just MONEY -- they also gave away used MILITARY EQUIPMENT. For FREE!"

"How America’s police became so heavily armed." The Economist, 18 May 2015.

"At the height of these programs, in the years after 9/11, police precincts were receiving BILLIONS of dollars’ worth of military-grade equipment, including grenade launchers, helicopters, and MINE- RESISTANT VEHICLES."
Tom Jackman. “Trump to restore program sending surplus military weapons, equipment to police.” Washington Post, 27 Aug 2017.

"Today, 90% of American towns with a population of 50,000 or more have fully militarized SWAT teams. And to JUSTIFY their existence, we’re using SWAT more than ever."

Radley Balko. The Rise of the Warrior Cop. PublicAffairs, 2013.

"Before the 1980s, there were only 3,000 SWAT deployments per year. But by 2014, some estimates say there were as many as 80,000!"

Craig Atkinson. Do Not Resist, 2016.

"In 2014, Juneau County, Wisconsin, had such LOW crime, there were ZERO murders. But they still accepted an ARMORED vehicle."

Craig Atkinson. Do Not Resist, 2016.

"And even though the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is just patrolling, you know, FISHERIES AND WILDLIFE, they received 96 night vision goggles, 67 sun sights, and seven M-14 rifles! "

Shawn Musgrave, Tom Meagher and Gabriel Dance. “The Pentagon Finally Details its Weapons-for-Cops Giveaway.” The Marshall Project, 12 Mar 2014.

"And even thought it’s technically ILLEGAL to use SWAT teams for crowd control, they’ve even been deployed to intimidate activists at protests."

Shirley Li. “The Evolution of Police Militarization in Ferguson and Beyond.” The Atlantic, 15 Aug 2014.

"Studies show that receiving federal military equipment is correlated with higher rates of police brutality. And a New York Times investigation of SWAT raids from 2010-2016 found 13 instances of officer deaths, and 81 civilian casualties. The bottom line is, these increased SWAT raids and military tactics aren’t keeping people safe -- they’re just creating escalated situations that are more dangerous for citizens AND cops."

Kevin Sack. "Door-Busting Drug Raids Leave a Trail of Blood." New York Times, 18 Mar 2017.

"Today, this philosophy is widely DISCREDITED. But back then, it was so pervasive, even SCHOOLS started adopting it! And they’re STILL using it today!"

"Policing the Police." Frontline, PBS, 2016.

"YES! 69% of school cops are involved in ROUTINE discipline cases that normally, schools would handle themselves!"

U.S. Department of Education, 2014.

"Today, 40% of schools have at least ONE full-time cop, and those schools have arrest rates FIVE TIMES HIGHER than those that don’t. Disrespecting a teacher, using their cell phone in class -- with cops in schools, ANY of these things can turn into a criminal offense!"

Alex Vitale. "A Short History of Cops Terrorizing Students." The Nation, 28 Oct 2015.

"Exactly! And that’s the BIGGEST problem with having cops in schools. Most states DON’T mandate special training to work in schools, so school cops just rely on their regular police training."

Mark Keierleber. “Why So Few School Cops Are Trained to Work with Kids.” The Atlantic, 5 Nov 2015.

"Oh yeah, this REALLY happens! A 2012 lawsuit alleged that cops in Birmingham Schools used pepper spray on around 200 students."

"SPLC Suit Over Police Use of Pepper Spray Against Students in Birmingham, Ala., Gets Major Boost with Class Action Certification." Southern Poverty Law Center, 5 Sep 2012.

"And in Texas, one student was TASED by a school cop, and wound up spending 52 days in a coma!"

Jaeah Lee. “Chokeholds, Brain Injuries, Beatings: When School Cops Go Bad.” Mother Jones, 14 Jul 2015.

"And that’s not the ONLY heavy artillery these school officers are equipped with. At least 100 school districts have received military equipment through those SAME federal programs that equip SWAT Teams! Five schools even got GRENADE LAUNCHERS!"

Niraj Chokshi. “School police say they will return military-provided grenade launchers.” Washington Post, 16 Sep 2014.

"[And the worst part is, these overly punitive, aggressive disciplinary actions aren’t doled out evenly. 70% of in-school arrests are Black or Latino students, and Black students are suspended and expelled at 3x the rate of white students."

"Latest Data Shows Black Students Disproportionately Suspended, Expelled, Arrested." Equal Justice Initiative, 2017.

"Well, cop shows sure make it seem that way! But in reality, on average, officers make an average of just ONE felony arrest per year."

Alex Vitale. The End of Policing. Verso, 2017.

"In 1999, a Denver woman called the police because her abusive, estranged husband had violated a restraining order and KIDNAPPED THEIR KIDS."

Linda Greenhouse. "Justices Rule Police Do Not Have a Constitutional Duty to Protect Someone." New York Times, 28 Jun 2005.

"You’d think so -- but when she tried to bring a LAWSUIT against them, the Supreme Court ruled the police WEREN’T at fault."

Linda Greenhouse. "Justices Rule Police Do Not Have a Constitutional Duty to Protect Someone." New York Times, 28 Jun 2005.

"Instead of investing in mental health services and social support, we’ve effectively turned mental illness into a crime. 20% of arrests involve a person who is mentally ill, and the nation’s three largest psychiatric hospitals are in PRISONS."

Sarah Varney. “By the Numbers: Mental Illness Behind Bars.” Kaiser Health News, 15 May 2014.

"And instead of safely regulating drugs and offering harm reduction services for addicts, we’ve criminalized addiction with drug laws that have DEVASTATING penalties for even SMALL amounts of narcotics. Half of ALL federal inmates are incarcerated on drug charges."

Sam Taxy, Julie Samuels and William Adams. "Drug Offenders in Federal Prison: Estimates of Characteristics Based on Data." Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice, 2018.

"In many cities, Black men are more likely to be stopped or pulled over by police, and 1 in 3 black men are imprisoned during their lifetimes. Unless you’re a full-blown racist, those numbers just don't add up."

"Criminal Justice Facts." The Sentencing Project, 2011.

For More on These Topics

Radley Boyko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop is a shocking primer on just how militarized our police forces have become in the past few decades.

Alex Vitale's The End of Policing is an accessible, persuasive read on the structural forces behind modern policing, and why seemingly sensible reforms aren’t enough to fix it.