The nation’s SWAT teams are out of control and largely ineffective, and their proliferation marks a dangerous “militarization” of the police force, says a Pennsylvania author whose latest book offers a critical look at use of tactical teams nationwide, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jim Fisher, a law graduate, former FBI agent and retired Edinboro University criminalistics professor, is author of “SWAT Madness and the Militarization of the American Police,” which examines dozens of incidents in which SWAT response ended in injury, death or costly lawsuits that Fisher contends small departments can ill afford.
“If SWAT teams were just costly and unnecessary, that would be bad enough in bad economic times, when we have limited law enforcement resources to begin with,” Fisher said. “But when it’s breaking down police-community relations, when it amounts to high court settlement costs, when people are being injured  you have to say to yourself, ‘why are we doing this?’ ” The book will be published next week. Fisher spoke as more than 725 officers from 41 states and several countries gathered at Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the 27th annual National Tactical Officers Association conference. Pittsburgh SWAT officer Stephen Mescan said incidents that have captured recent news headlines underscore the need for well-trained and equipped tactical officers. He said they respond to situations patrol officers don’t have time to train for. “Tactical teams are life-saving units designed to handle critical incidents,” he said.