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Michigan Legislation Will Make SWAT Teams More Transparent

Concerns over an increasing number of SWAT team raids have prompted a call for new legislation in Michigan to make SWAT team activities more open to the public. The raids, which are often conducted against non-violent offenders, have also amplified concerns about the possibility of wrongful death lawsuits as well.

Rochester Hills Representative Tom McMillin is co-sponsoring legislation that will require police to file annual reports as to how often SWAT teams are deployed. Special Weapons and Tactics teams or SWAT, as they are commonly known, are given military style training and are equipped with military type weaponry at all times, even on raids.

An expert on the subject says one estimate reports over 40,000 SWAT team raids may be happening every year. He also tells of 150 raids that didn't go as planned.

SWAT teams were once the exception in emergency response situations. In the 1980s, SWAT teams were only called out in the case of hostage taking, hijackings, escapes from prison and barricaded suspects.

Though not specifically critical of SWAT team efforts, Rep. McMillin believes that SWAT team activities should be more transparent to the general public. He says that the public should be more informed about SWAT team operations and calls attention to police with automatic weapons, hurling flash grenades and knocking down the doors of suspect homes.

McMillin noted a May 2010 SWAT team raid during which a 7-year-old girl was killed when an officer's gun fired, hitting her in the neck.

Source: Michigan Capitol Confidential "Lawmaker Seeks More Transparency for SWAT Team Raids" Ken Braun, June 18, 2011

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