Adam Ruins Everything – Our Overuse of SWAT Teams Makes Us Less Safe | truTV

Man, SWAT teams
are badass. Yeah, movies and TV
sure make ’em seem cool. They’re always busting
drug lords and freeing hostages. Hell yeah! But in reality, they’re hardly ever
used that way. Most SWAT deployments
are far more aggressive than the situation calls for. And that’s not good for the public
or the police. SWAT teams were introduced
in the 1960s to deal with extreme crises like hostage situations
and prison escapes. It’s a hostage situation
slash prison escape! Thank God we’re here. But today, these types
of situations only account for
7% of SWAT deployments. Instead, they spend
most of their time executing warrants for
routine drug searches. Freeze!
We’ve got a warrant! We are looking for literally
any amount of pot. Uh, okay, but have you
heard of knocking? ♪♪ Well, isn’t it better
than plain-clothes cops don’t have to face off
with drug lords unarmed? Oh, it’s not like
they’re taking down deadly drug cartels. Around two-thirds
of SWAT raids don’t even uncover
a weapon at the scene. We’re not finding
any weapons, Sarge. Ah, that’s typical.
But keep your guns in these people’s faces
just in case. And four out of ten SWAT raids turn up no contraband
whatsoever. (chuckling) Drugs in the freezer. Baking soda! Damnit! (family gasping) No wonder this place
smells so fresh. Okay, so maybe not every
SWAT raid finds something. But I’m sure the warrants
are justified. It’s not like
they’re just busting down anyone’s door
without cause. Actually, it is so easy to get a SWAT team
to raid a house, it’s even become a fad
to call SWAT teams on innocent people
as a sick, twisted prank. It’s called “SWAT-ing”, and it happens
over 400 times a year. Our tipster said
this was a hideout for the notorious terrorist
Seymour Butts. Keep searchin’, team. That’s not funny.
People could get hurt. And they do. People have died
from SWAT-ing. And maybe that’s because when the SWAT team
gets a call, they storm in, often in the middle
of the night, smashing doors and windows. Sometimes shooting
or throwing grenades, and putting innocent
bystanders at risk. (teddy bear squeaking) Teddy, no! (Dominic)
Oh my God, stop! Sometimes they don’t even
get the right apartment. In 2003, New York City’s
chief of police estimated that 10% of no-knock
SWAT raids go to the wrong address. Oh, crap.
This is apartment 3. We’re supposed to be
in apartment 3A. Sorry, folks. (picture crashing) What the hell, dude? If SWAT teams do
this much damage and we don’t even
need them that often, why do we use them
so much? Because for the past 30 years, there’s been
a deliberate effort to increasingly militarize
our police forces. Since the 1980s, the US government
has encouraged police departments
across the country to behave more like
military units than local PD. It started
with the War on Drugs when they began giving out
extra cash to police precincts that agreed to crack down
on drug crimes. I want you to help wage a discriminatory,
ineffective drug war. Ehh… There’s free money in it. Ooh! (cash register dings) And in the ’90s,
they started handing out more than just cash. They also gave away
used military equipment. Say “hello”
to my little friends. (Adam)
At the height of these
programs post-9/11, police precincts were receiving
billions of dollars worth of military-grade equipment,
including grenade launchers, helicopters,
and mine-resistant vehicles. Mine-resistant vehicles? Since when are cops
getting blown up by land mines? Yeah, they’re not. But that hasn’t stopped
the government from dishing ’em out
to precincts like candy. Today, 90% of American towns with populations
of 50,000 or more have fully militarized
SWAT teams. And to justify
their existence, we’re using SWAT more than ever. We got all this
money and equipment
to go after drugs, so use it or lose it,
right? (Adam)
Before the 1980s, there were only 3,000
SWAT deployments a year. But by 2014,
some estimates say there were as many
as 80,000. And it’s way more
than just SWAT teams.