As a law-enforcement officer with more than 15 years of experience, I read with interest assistant professor Jonathan Mummolo’s study on the militarization of police (Life of the Mind, Nov. 7). While I agree that the use of military-style tactics (i.e., SWAT) by police as a routine crime deterrent is detrimental, there are several instances when using a SWAT team is beneficial.
Professor Mummolo’s study claims that 90 percent of SWAT deployments are for “non-emergency situations, such as serving a search warrant.” What the professor fails to realize is that while these situations are often “non-emergency,” they oftentimes have a high potential for violence. In October 2018, seven police officers were shot, including two fatally, while they were serving a warrant in Florence, S.C.
As part of its mission in protecting New York City from terrorist attacks, the New York Police Department routinely uses counter-terrorism officers with military-style weapons and training to secure high-target facilities. Deterrence is one of the key components in securing these facilities. After the November 2018 attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the NYPD was able to rapidly dispatch these officers around the city to help assuage fears. The NYPD’s tactics proved successful when, in 2003, Al-Quaida decided against a plot to attack the Brooklyn Bridge because the location was too well protected by these teams.
While military-style police tactics should never be used as a crime deterrent or as a routine matter, to wholeheartedly discount them as ineffective is drawing a false conclusion from the study.