|Framingham death cited in report on SWAT teams||June 26, 2014|
|Danielle Ameden 508-626-4416||Metrowest Daily News|
Eurie Stamps was in his pajamas, watching a ballgame on TV when a SWAT team battered its way into his Framingham home in January 2011. The 68-year-old grandfather, whose stepson was a target of the stealth drug raid, cooperated with police but was shot dead when an officer tripped and pulled the trigger of his M4 rifle.
In Ohio in 2008, Tarika Wilson, 26, was fatally shot while she held her 14-month-old son, as SWAT officers sought her boyfriend on the suspicion he was dealing drugs.
And in Georgia, just last month, a 19-month-old nicknamed Baby Bou Bou was badly burned and put into a medically induced coma after a SWAT team threw a flashbang grenade into his crib as part of a drug investigation of a relative.
The American Civil Liberties Union used these stories and others to illustrate its new report, "War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing."
The ACLU said it found state and local law enforcement agencies around the country are sending heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics teams into homes in the middle of the night, searching for suspects who may be possess a small amount of drugs.
The paramilitary policing is resulting in tragedies, escalating the risk of needless violence, destroying property and undermining individual liberties, the organization said.
"This report is not to say police are bad," Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Project, with the ACLU of Massachusetts, said Wednesday. But she said the job of police is to serve and protect.
"Increasingly, they are being tasked in the role of warriors and soldiers," Crockford said.
The report found 62 percent of the 800 SWAT deployments the ACLU studied were for drug searches, which isn't the purpose for which teams were first formed, Crockford said.
She said the militarized response is appropriate and meant for hostage or barricade situations, or when there's an active shooter and threat to the public.
Instead, SWAT teams are forcing their way into homes, guns drawn, for routine drug cases.
"That's exactly what happened in Framingham," Crockford said, "and he lost his life, an innocent person lost his life as result of a botched drug raid."
Framingham's SWAT team came under heavy scrutiny following the killing of Stamps.
Framingham Police initially reduced the size of the SWAT team from 18 to 12, beefed up training requirements and told officers to keep their rifles on "safe" mode until ready to shoot. Then, last October, outgoing Chief Steven Carl disbanded the team as he and the deputy chief who headed it up were both leaving the force for other departments.
While the Middlesex District Attorney's office ruled Officer Paul Duncan's shooting of Stamps was accidental, Stamps' family has a wrongful death lawsuit pending in federal court against the officer and town of Framingham.
Police, at the time of the raid, arrested Stamps' stepson Joseph Bushfan, and his cousin, Devon Talbert, on cocaine distribution charges.
Crockford said the report reflects the conflict between the increasing militarization of police and the increasing unpopularity of the war on drugs.
"These are our communities, these are our homes," she said. "One of the messages I take away from the report is we need to end the war on drugs."
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