During the past few decades we have witnessed what could be described as the militarization of law enforcement in the U.S. The obvious manifestations of the process are the adoption of military style uniforms by special units of the agencies as well as the acquisition of mechanized mobil equipment bearing an uncanny resemblance to military armored cars.
Probably the most radical departure from traditional law enforcement is the current mindset of todays police personnel which I will attempt to illustrate by relating the following true anecdote.
ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ arrived at Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lennox station on 25 December 1973 at 22:30 hrs. to relieve the evening shift watch commander who advised that a barricaded suspect incident was being handled by the adjoining jurisdiction (LAPD) in the Baldwin Hills district. He, the lieutenant, had been notified by the LAPD SWAT team commander due to the situation's close proximity to the unincorporated area in the Sheriff's jurisdiction. The LAPD SWAT team had been on the scene since 20:00 hrs. on Christmas day.
At 00:30 hrs. the Sheriff's patrol unit working the concerned area notified me that LAPD had determined that the incident was in fact located in the unincorporated area and was about to formally request to be relieved by Sheriff personnel. I decided to respond to the scene to evaluate the situation.
I arrived at the LAPD command post about one block from the location and was advised of the following by the LAPD lieutenant: The residents of the location, a single family dwelling had been engaged in a domestic altercation resulting in the female leaving accompanied by the two minor children. The woman had called the police from a relative's home to advise of the incident. She related that the male had been physically abusive to her and the two minors and that she believed he was about to shoot her with a shotgun which she stated he kept next to the sliding glass door at the rear of the residence. The woman was seated in the back seat of a nearby radio car and I interviewed her.
I noted that she exhibited no evidence of trauma and asked her if the suspect had pointed a weapon at her. She said she had not actually had a weapon pointed at her but had seen a shotgun leaning against the wall the day before. She further stated that the male was in the residence when she departed and had yelled at her.
The LAPD lieutenant advised me that the residence was surrounded by SWAT personnel and attempts to reach the barricaded suspect via telephone were not successful but there were sounds coming from within the house. I asked him if anyone of his team had knocked on the door or attempted to contact the suspect by voice and he looked at me as if I were insane.
I advised him that I would have my patrol crew cover the rear of the house while I knocked on the front door. He attempted to dissuade me and advised that the responding Sheriff's SWAT team would be wise to use gas. He was incredulous when advised that I had not as yet requested SWAT team services.
As I approached the front of the residence I observed SWAT personnel taking cover behind garden walls as well as crouching in the gutter next to the high curb. I noted that the sounds coming from within the house seemed to be that of a loud radio. My loud knocking on the front door elicited no response from within and I proceeded to the rear of the building to join the two deputies covering that exit. We approached the sliding glass doors of the rear bedroom and the drapes were open about 6 inches. I tried the sliding door and it opened. We carefully entered the house and found it to be empty of any living creature. At this time I dismissed the LAPD swat team and advised the "victim" female to reoccupy the residence or proceed to her nearby relative's home. She chose the latter.
By 10:00 hrs on Boxing Day a full investigation revealed that in fact NO CRIME HAD OCCURRED!
Domestic disputes can be the most dangerous situation a policeman encounters and each one is a potential tragedy but the requirements of police personnel are not identical to that of the military.
cross posted at: Eternity Road