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Kim Dusseldorp | January 28, 2016
This week at the Austin City Council, Right on Crime’s Derek Cohen spoke to the Public Safety Committee about having more transparency when Austin SWAT teams are utilized in police operations.
SWAT teams are an important tool for law enforcement. SWAT teams are generally armed with higher-grade equipment than regular police and receive specialized training to deal with the most perilous situations. Because of this, they are commonly deployed to provide tactical assistance and resolve the most violent and dangerous situations in the most peaceful manner possible.
However, nationwide, there has been a rise in the utilization of SWAT team usage, causing concern that this higher level use of force is being over-utilized. When the use of force used by law enforcement is much higher than the threat level requires, there is a potential for unnecessary risk to all parties involved.
According to Cohen, having more transparency on when and why SWAT teams are deployed would shine a light on this behavior, and it would make it easier to take more preventive measures to avoid such situations.
The Austin Police Department is one of the most transparent agencies in Texas. However, providing information to the public and to lawmakers on when SWAT teams are used in their communities, certain concerning behavior can be spotted sooner and can be corrected faster.
Cohen made several recommendations to the Committee where more transparency is needed. What is the SWAT team called out for exactly? Did the suspect have a history of mental illness, or was he experiencing an acute mental health crisis? When SWAT teams were deployed, were the officers and/ or suspect injured? Which weapons did the police officers and suspect use, and was there any kind of support material? And if relevant, what were the demographics of the police officers and suspects?