Monday, January 26, 2009

PULLMAN: SWAT team called in to search WSU fraternity

The Pullman Police Department called in members of the regional SWAT team to execute a search warrant at a Washington State University fraternity Wednesday night.

Police responded to the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity shortly before 8:30 p.m. after receiving reports that members of the house located at 500 NE Colorado St. were furnishing alcohol to minors. When they arrived on scene, Pullman Cmdr. Chris Tennant said police found a crowd of intoxicated individuals playing with air soft guns.

An observing sergeant was notified that illegal substances were in a red Honda parked on the street. He flashed his light in the car and found a bong and bag of marijuana lying on the backseat floorboards, Tennant said.

A search warrant for the car was provided by the Whitman County District Court, and another warrant was granted for the house when the owner of the vehicle was later identified as a member of the fraternity.

Tennant said with four Pullman police officers and two from the Washington State University Police Department on scene, more law enforcement was needed to search the three-story house.

The regional SWAT team — made up of officers from the PPD, WSUPD and Whitman County Sheriff’s Office — were alerted shortly before midnight.

“We activated the SWAT team not because we needed special weapons and tactics, we just needed the bodies,” Tennant said.

Tennant said no one was hurt during the search, and no arrests were made. Officers did find marijuana, bongs and pipes in the house. He expects misdemeanor possession or unlawful use of drug paraphernalia charges to be filed against several individuals as the investigation continues.

Though no one present at the fraternity party was taken in to custody, a bystander, WSU student Ronald D. Gaydeski, 25, was cited for obstructing an officer.


SWAT raid for underage drinking at Washington State University
by J.D. Tuccille, Civil Liberties Examiner

Last week, at a Washington State University frat house, a SWAT team was called in to respond to reports of underage drinking. Wait. Did I just write that? Indeed, I did. Let me rephrase that. Paramilitary police officers trained for high-risk, violent confrontations were dispatched to arrest college students who were a year or three younger than the current legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages.

Ah-ha! Drugs and guns!

But airsoft guns are toys. They shoot little plastic pellets and are used the same way paintball guns are used, for combat games.

As for "a bong and bag of marijuana" ... Oh, c'mon. It's grass. Yes, it's illegal (though it shouldn't be), but calling in the heavy weapons to address that particular legal transgression is a major overreaction.

Tennant of the Pullman PD insists, "We activated the SWAT team not because we needed special weapons and tactics, we just needed the bodies.”

But bodies could well have been the end result. When SWAT teams were originally developed in Los Angeles (see page 100 of this LAPD report (PDF)) they were intended to address "riots," "the sniper," "political assassins" and "urban guerrilla warfare." Their training "to successfully combat urban violence" makes them not-so-logical a choice for breaking up a kegger. Well, not unless you really want to break up the keg -- with machine-gun fire. Sending SWAT in to control "a crowd of intoxicated individuals playing with air soft guns" makes you wonder if somebody in the command structure of Pullman PD has a brother in the coffin business.

No, that's not just a morbid joke. The use of a SWAT team to arrest Salvatore Culosi, a 37-year-old optometrist, for sports gambling (the plague of this troubled land) resulted in the shooting death of Culosi. (Fairfax County, Virginia, uses SWAT "for most search warrants").

Police detective Jarrod Shivers was killed by panicked homeowner Ryan Frederick during a misfired SWAT raid that turned up a baggie of marijuana. (Frederick, who enjoys widespread community support, is now on trial.)

Tarika Wilson was killed and her one-year-old son lost a finger when a SWAT officer opened fire on the cowering woman during a drug raid in Lima, Ohio.

A Minneapolis SWAT team engaged in a shootout with a homeowner after barging into the wrong address.

And, of course, Berwyn Heights, Maryland, Mayor Cheye Calvo's two dogs were killed when a SWAT team raided his home after he accepted delivery of a package of marijuana brought to his door by police officers. Calvo was cleared of any wrongdoing, but has yet to receive an apology.

SWAT teams and enforcement of laws against nonviolent activities are two things that don't go so well together. Unless, that is, you think downing a beer a few months before your 21st birthday should carry the death penalty.


Swat teams have no business being called in for routine calls. Their training and mindset are such that it takes very little to trigger the honed in militaristic tendencies - it's why they are swat members in the first place. Dangerous and stupid.

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