For several weeks now, the nation’s attention has been focused on Ferguson, Mo., and in particular, the militarized response of police to mostly-peaceful protests of the killing of 18 year-old Mike Brown. On Wednesday, a considerably less-tragic reminder of overboard police tactics occurred in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo. when, after receiving a fake call, a SWAT team raided the offices of The Creatures, a YouTube group streams live video of gameplay.
The entire raid was caught on video by a user named “Kootra,” who, in a particularly meta touch, was playing a game in which he’s ostensibly part of a SWAT-like tactical team. What’s fascinating about this is that before the SWAT team even busts in, Kootra immediately knows what’s happening, and maintains an amused smirk throughout the breach:
The “SWATting” phenomenon has been gathering steam for a few years, but apparently has now morphed from a malicious dirty trick into a trend among viewers and gamers who use an app called “Twitch”, which was recently purchased by Amazon for $970 million to stream live video of game play. Kootra immediately recognizes the noises in his office as a SWATting in progress. Sure enough, Littleton Police were responding to reports of an “active shooter,” a particularly cruel hoax given that town’s history as the site of the infamous Columbine massacre.
Given that history, it’s hard to see the police action in this case as an overreaction, but out of context, it serves as a cheeky illustration of where policing has gone in this country, while also neatly satirizing the differences between white interactions with police, and those involving predominantly black communities. Thankfully, no one was hurt in this raid, no unarmed white people were shot, no pregnant white women were taken down for mouthing off. It also illustrates, I believe, the wrongheadedness of the current view emerging among media elites that the solution to Ferguson-style policing is to take away their toys.
This call was a false alarm, but the scenario it raised, particularly in a place like Littleton, shows the necessity of at least some of the tactical training and equipment. There are questions of degree and cost, but taking away the cops’ toys won’t fix the problems exposed in Ferguson. Like any good kid, the police state has always shown a lot of imagination without those toys, and it’s those minds that need to be changed.