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I was on my way to church a few weeks ago when I noticed that several roads in my town had been blocked off. Turns out there was a 5K race to raise money for something called SRT. I had no idea what that was, but the logo — a gladiator helmet in front of crossed swords — looked pretty cool. When I looked it up, I discovered it stood for the police Special Response Team.
The SRT isn’t so much a team as some officers who volunteered to take extra training, sort of like a SWAT without snipers. They do, however, have all of the helmets, body armor, and assault rifles needed to play soldier. Some of these guys were soldiers once, but they’re not now. Now they are police officers.
All of the training and equipment for the SRT comes from fundraisers. As a taxpayer, I like that. Still, I have to wonder: Is this really needed?
I live in a small town of about 8,000. The Police blotter no longer runs in the local paper, but when it did, it was usually just the same family in it, week after week. One week, the 21-year-old son would be arrested for drunk and disorderly; the next week his dad would be arrested for the same thing; then it would be an arrest warrant for the son after he failed to show up for his court date, and so forth.
In the 10 years I’ve lived here, we’ve had one serious crime. A member of the local mosque killed his wife. Before you start thinking “honor killing,” though, this was more like a low-budget alternative to divorce. The guy had his friend fatally shoot the wife, then shoot him in the leg so he’d look like the victim. The police didn’t buy his story and the case was solved quickly. A young mother murdered while walking down the street is tragic, but this was clearly an isolated incident.
The point is that this is a relatively safe town. My wife and kids walk all over without any fear.
As a resident, I want the police to have all of the tools needed to do their jobs. Someday it could be my family they’re coming to save. But I know that the county has a full SWAT team, complete with an armored urban assault vehicle: If something extraordinary happens, we already have people who can assist. So on the one hand, I don’t think we need an SRT. But if no extra dollars are involved, should I care?
The few officers I know are really good guys. But guys like their toys, and the bigger the better. In the past, I’ve seen a neighbor use a chainsaw to cut up little twigs. Why? Because he has a chainsaw. We had some light dustings of snow this winter: I was able to clear off my driveway with a push broom; my other neighbor pulled out a huge snow blower, because he had a huge snow blower. When I was 10, my Cub Scout pocket knife would have been good enough to whittle a stick, but Dad’s Ka-bar was just sitting there in the garage. (40 years later, I can still see the scar.)
The point is, if you give the guys extra tools and training, they’re going to find an excuse to use them.
Upon further investigation, I found that a while back, they did find an excuse to use their SRT training. The first SRT mission was a sting on a drug dealer. An undercover contact set up a meeting to buy $400 worth of pot, and when the dealer showed up, the SRT guys went into action. After being arrested, the perp said, “That was cool. Like something out of a movie.” His reaction makes it pretty clear, to me at least, that this crime did not require a “special response.”
So, Ricochet, am I right to have apprehensions about the SRT, or is this just the result of hanging out on right-wing web sites, reading stuff like this?