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Police Shooting Raises Concerns Over SWAT Teams

Nationally, police SWAT teams now conduct 60,000 raids a year. (Fiatswat800/Wikimedia Commons)
Nationally, police SWAT teams now conduct 60,000 raids a year. (Fiatswat800/Wikimedia Commons)
March 23, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. – Following the police killing of a Stamford man, civil liberties advocates are calling for more transparency on how, when and why police deploy SWAT units.

Dylan Pape, 25, was killed in his home by a Stamford Police Special Response Team on Monday. The death is still being investigated, but it has been ruled a suicide.

David McGuire, legislative and policy director for the ACLU of Connecticut, said in the past 18 months, his organization has received two complaints about the misuse of SWAT teams in Stamford.

"We're not trying to single out Stamford, but we do think it's absolutely essential that all departments or regions that have SWAT teams account for how they use those teams," McGuire said.

Last year, a bill to require reporting and oversight of SWAT teams failed to pass in the General Assembly after a tie vote in the Judiciary Committee.

According to McGuire, that bill would have required reporting of the number of raids by SWAT units, demographics of the suspects, any use of firearms and whether evidence was found.

"And that would give legislators, as well as the public, the information they need to assess whether police are using SWAT teams in appropriate ways," he said.

SWAT teams were originally intended to be used only in extreme circumstances. But McGuire noted in recent years, they have been deployed more frequently when he said regular police would have been sufficient.

"We do know there have been several incidents in Connecticut where SWAT teams have been deployed in situations that are not critical, such as an active shooter situation," he said.

The ACLU says nationally, the number of SWAT raids has increased by 2000 percent, to 60,000 a year, since the 1980s.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT