There’s some interesting stuff on SWAT teams proliferating in the United States (the Department of “Homeland Security” is dishing out money for kit to everyone, including little towns in middle of nowhere. And once you have the kit you start to use it, especially if it makes you feel macho…)
This is not, of course, new. See this from the 1972 book “The Locked Room” –
Some years ago someone in the police force had discovered a way of manipulating crime statistics. The methods used, though simple, were not immediately obvious, and without being directly mendacious were nevertheless utterly misleading. It had all started with demands for greater technical resources in general, and for more firearms in particular. To get this it had been necessary to exaggerate the hazards that policemen faced. Since verbiage had not proved politically effective enough, it had been necessary to resort to another method: namely the manipulation of statistics.
At this juncture the political demonstrations during the second half of the sixties had opened up magnificent possibilities. Demonstrators pleading for peace had been suppressed by violence. Hardly ever armed with anything but their banners and their convictions, they had been met by tear gas, water cannons, and rubber batons. Few were the non-violent demonstrations that had not ended in tumult and chaos. Those individuals who had tried to defend themselves had been mauled, arrested, and prosecuted for ‘assaulting the police’ or ‘resisting arrest’. All this information had been fed into the statistics. The method had worked perfectly. Each time a few hundred policemen were sent out to ‘control’ a demonstration, the figures for alleged assaults against the police had rocketed. The uniformed police had been encouraged ‘not to pull their punches’, as the expression went, an order which many a constable had been only too delighted to follow whenever possible. Tap a drunk with a baton, and the chances of his hitting back are always fairly high.
A simple lesson, which anyone could learn.
These tactics had worked. Now the Swedish police were armed to the teeth. All of a sudden, situations that formerly could have been cleared up by a single man equipped with a lead pencil and a pinch of common sense required a busload of police officers equipped with atuomatics and bullet-proof vests.
The long-term result, however, was something no one had quite foreseen. Violence breeds not only antipathy and hatred but also insecurity and fear.
In the end things had come to such a pass that people were going about being scared of each other and Stockholm had become a city containing tens of thousands of terrified individuals.
The Locked Room Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Translated by Paul Britten Austin
1972 (translation 1973)
Statistics, eh? Powerful things…