Are robots and technology the future of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactical)? With movies like Robocop and The Terminator, some may question whether or not we could save lives by creating machines to do the dangerous jobs found in law enforcement, specifically in SWAT teams.
John Pilmer recently wrote a book called ‘Green Spin,’ where he discusses the tactics and decisions that law enforcement officers when faced with the challenge of a hostage situation. Such situations, where men or women directly threaten the lives of others, are some of the scariest situations we could ever face in this life.
In his book, we can see the affects of a very important part of SWAT teams as they are today: they have the ethical decision making ability we as humans possess. This element of law enforcement is crucial to getting the job done, and getting it done right. But there are many who argue that the possibility of bad decision making and emotional compromise is what worries them about giving men and women so much power in law enforcement. Especially when there have been many publicized “bad judgment calls” in the media.
I think that we just see so much about bad calls because those are the things that make the headlines. We live in a world where information is readily available, and with the progress of the Internet, social media, blogs, and 24-hour news stations, companies and individuals are constantly vying for our attention. To get our attention, each person or company must produce information that is more stunning, controversial, or globally impacting than the other guy. This has led to what I feel is the sensational generation. We don’t want to be bothered by information or news unless it is sensational.
Because we require such sensational stories, we don’t have time for those things that aren’t incredibly controversial. And lets face it, SWAT teams and law enforcement officers getting the job done each day isn’t very sensational. We usually only see such things in the news for one of two reasons: first, the bad guy or the situation was such a big deal, that news covered the response, or second, because the officers were able to accomplish a great feat that was sensational in courage and valor. But more often than not, such things aren’t as interesting anymore.
What is interesting, however, is when an officer gets trigger happy, or profiles someone because of race, or tasers a 72-year old woman. It hits the news wire with incredible speed, and the public fires up. This, I think, has caused many to view law enforcement in a negative light. When all we see is the bad, we think the bad is all that exists. But it isn’t. Our perception has become our reality.
I think this is the case with SWAT teams. Many view SWAT as a necessary evil or as the American Gestapo. Even many law enforcement administrators would agree that SWAT teams are considered the ‘special forces’ or brute squad of law enforcement.
I think these feelings are especially true because we hold SWAT up next to the ideal of the negotiator. But, there are times when negotiation doesn’t work. In ‘Green Spin,’ John Pilmer writes about the crucial need for SWAT when negotiation attempts fail or are hampered, and how that threat of SWAT and police affect the decision making of the bad guys. Yet even though SWA is crucial to the team, some still despise the tactics and necessity of them.
It is feelings like that that make people wonder if there is a better way to keep the peace. We sometimes wish we could find a technology that would allow us to always have the right answer, always make the right decision, and leave out the bad experiences that find their way into our media. But as much as we may want that, I don’t think it is in the future for our law enforcement. No, I think we have a blessing with the law enforcement in America. Granted they do make mistakes, but they also make very good decisions that no robot or technology could ever make. Robocop is a Hollywood fantasy. What he have in reality are brave men and women who step up and put themselves in the line of fire to keep us safe; the necessary evil that gives us confidence to leave our homes each morning.
Even though we don’t hear about it very often, but as noted by John Pilmer in his book, there are many men and women who sacrifice much, even their own lives, to maintain the freedoms that we share and hold dear. We sometimes cringe when we see in the media an officer or SWAT member make a bad call, which results in greater problems in the situation. But I really think such situations and decisions are the exception, not the norm. What we have in real life, absent the movies and sensational news, are real people, with the ability to make real decisions based on logic and ethics. Real people just like you and me.
I think it is wonderful that there really are people out there in law enforcement and SWAT who are willing to fight against such evils to protect the lives and liberties of their neighbors.