Radley Balko, a senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, has published an excerpt of his new book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” in Salon, and the stories are frightening.
It begins with one about a detective who befriended a man named Sal Culosi so that he could investigate him for gambling.
Culosi liked to bet on football games with his friends, and the detective encouraged him to raise the stakes to the point in which they bet more than $2,000 in a single day.
That was enough to charge the man for running a gambling operation under Virginia law, and the detective sent the SWAT team to his house. Culosi, who thought he was meeting his friend to settle bets, was shot by one of the cops when he opened his front door.
Sal Culosi is dead because he bet on a football game — but it wasn’t a bookie or a loan shark who killed him. His local government killed him, ostensibly to protect him from his gambling habit.
Balko goes on to explain what he calls “SWAT team mission creep in America” by detailing the rise of SWAT raids performed to break up residential poker games, including those that were friendly games with a $20 buy-in.
“The typical police raid of these games . . . is to literally burst into a home in SWAT gear with guns drawn and treat poker players like a bunch of high-level drug dealers,” an attorney representing poker players said in 2009. “Using the taxpayers’ resources for such useless Gestapo-like tactics is more of a crime than is playing of the game.”
Police have justified the heavy-handed raids, Balko writes, by “claiming that people who run illegal gambling operations tend to be armed” and by “noting that poker games are usually flush with cash and thus tend to get robbed.”
He notes that SWAT raids have also been conducted, without warrants and under the guise of “administrative searches,” to investigate things like underage drinking, unlicensed barbers, immigration violations, massage parlors, and unlicensed strip clubs.
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