Free «Overkill» Essay Sample


“Overkill: The raise of paramilitary police raids in America” by Radley Balko (2006) is a report devoted to the problem of hyper-militarized, heavily armed police units, which intrude into people’s homes and violate the laws without any punishment. Paramilitary police raids have become a normal affair in America. The article deals mainly with the cases when such raids cause numerous issues connected to deaths and injuries. The main problem in such raids is the fact that most of them intrude into the life of people who may be charged with misdemeanor only, namely nonviolent drug offenders. At the same time bystanders and innocent suspects are usually hurt because of mistakes and wrong behavior of police officers. Many children also appear in the focus of violence. Paramilitary police raids are wrong as they cause numerous deaths and injuries of innocent people or those guilty of misdemeanor only, while police officers do not get any punishment for this.

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The report starts with the discussion of the case with Anthony Diotaiuto, a 23-year-old part time student, who could be accused of taking drugs only. His mother, his classmates and neighbors showed only positive attitude to the boy, who was not involved in any criminal affairs connected to drug distribution. Anthony Diotaiuto was subjected to one of such paramilitary police raids when the police wears military uniform. He was found dead in this home after such a raid. There are no guilty people in this case; the police states that they used “knock and announce” warrant, but Diotaiuto took a gun and directed it to the police officer. Neighbors reject any announcement which could be heard. This was the first example of illegal actions of the police, which still could not be proven. The police acted in accordance with their rules and norms of behavior in such cases, but they still behaved with Diotaiuto as with a felon, which was wrong. According to the police report, some weapon registered on Diotaiuto was found and some amount of marihuana, which could not be used for sale, but for personal use only (Balko, 2006).

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Another case described in the report is connected to the wrong door entrance. Police officers can be mistaken as it was with Sharon and William McCulley. The police just broke into the wrong house having caused numerous injuries to absolutely innocent people (Balko, 2006). This is exactly how police officers work. Such raids have become dangerous not for criminals but for innocent people only. Also, the use of such raids must be prohibited for smaller offenders as it is completely wrong when people who can be accused of misdemeanor only become heavily injured or even killed because of misunderstanding. The article describes these cases with the purpose to show that such behavior is unacceptable and the state should reconsider its attitude.

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Such police raids are usually based on informants who report about a criminal or crime activities under a particular address. However, practice shows that informants may be mistaken; they can give a wrong address or false information, the police may come at a wrong time and all these factors may bring tragedy. The police uses confidential informants for getting information about law offenders, but it does not mean that they are always right (Balko, 2006). People can be mistaken. Informants usually work in the sphere of drug distribution and get to know the secrets. Still, no one can be sure in the information they deliver as criminal world is very dangerous and people get used to lie.

Overall, having considered the cases when paramilitary police raids took place and caused serious harm to people without any reasons, Balko (2006) tried to define the major problems the society had to deal with. Thus, the main issues are as follows. Police becomes militarized not only in big cities where it is necessary, but also in smaller towns and suburbs, which can cause illegal violence only. Paramilitary police uses heavy weapon very frequently, which causes numerous injuries to small offenders and innocent people. Police wears military uniform that brings confusion especially when a no-knock warrant is present. Such raids take place under the label of dynamic entry, which makes even innocent people panic and do some unexpected actions, which may be considered as misdemeanor by police officers. Therefore, all these circumstances cause very serious outcomes, which cannot be corrected in some cases. Basically, the article under analysis does not offer to reduce the number of such raids, it just warns the state and the police departments about the number of huge mistakes, which cause human deaths. The whole system should be reconsidered to assure that human life is still valued (Balko, 2006).

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The history shows that no-knock and quick-knock raids are not effective, that is why the policies must be reconsidered. The article offers several changes as the recommendations to improve the current system. First, the federal government requires changes, including the prohibition of using military ammunition against citizens. Paramilitary raids must be regulated by the federal law only without the possibility to create local paramilitary groupings. Second, state and local government policies require changes as well. SWAT unit must return to its primary function, namely the defense of US citizens and use of power only in emergency cases when human life is in danger. Additionally, local and state governments must accept a law of protecting the right home defense (Balko, 2006). Finally, the governments at all levels must accept strict liability, more transparency, more accountability, and no intimidation.

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