SWAT Teams Meet in San Diego; Is Occupy on the Menu? You Betcha!

by on November 28, 2011 · 20 comments

in Civil Rights, Military, Popular, San Diego

While Occupy movements around California are struggling to maintain a presence in the face of ever-increasing pressures from local governments, law enforcement “tactical officers” from around the State are ensconced at San Diego’s Manchester Hyatt this week for their annual State-wide confab and trade show. There are well over a hundred departments within California featuring SWAT Teams—which is the common name for tactical police groups—, with San Diego County along offering up eleven such outfits. There are so many such outfits—not including University and other specialized police departments—that the California Association of Tactical Officers (CATO-not to be confused with the conservative/libertarian think tank of the same name) breaks the State into seven regions for administrative purposes.

The San Diego Police Department’s own Lt. Ken Hubbs is currently serving as president of the group. Membership in CATO is open to current and honorably retired sworn police personnel, active or reserve duty US military, and support services personnel for law enforcement agencies.  Their statement of Goals, as listed on their website is as follows:

To Increase the Professionalism and Proficiency of Special Weapons Teams and Members across the State. To provide a forum for the exchange of current and relevant issues and information; maintain a secure online Web site; provide and/or sponsor superior training and conference programs; maintain a liaison with tactical teams across the nation; stimulate the research and development of innovative techniques, methods of operation and equipment; provide training assistance and support; and become the largest non-profit organization in the state dedicated exclusively to personnel in all levels of tactical operations.

The use of paramilitary police units began in Los Angeles in the 1960s and spread nationwide through the1970s. Until the 1980s, SWAT teams and other paramilitary units were used mostly in volatile, high-risk situations such as bank robberies or hostage situations.  America’s War on Drugs spurred a significant rise in the use of SWAT teams, to the point where, in some jurisdictions, drug warrants are exclusively served by SWAT teams or similar paramilitary units.

The rise of the Occupy movement over the past few months has given police departments around the country new uses for the tactics and equipment typically reserved for SWAT raids, including tear gas, pepper spray and surveillance equipment.  One Florida department went so far as to deploy what some have been calling a “tank” to a park in downtown Tampa.  The “Amphibious Rescue Vehicle” which is designed for transporting personnel in extreme conditions.  It is bullet resistant and “virtually unstoppable,” can drive through five feet of water, handle winds up to 130 miles per hour, carry 13 passengers, and reach 60 miles per hour.  The unit, dubbed Rescue 2 is billed to be used for “search and rescue during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.” It is also equipped with “a raised platform that has a rotatable 360 degree platform” for mounting weapons as needed.

Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper characterizes the modern day situation quite succinctly: “Everyday policing is characterized by a SWAT mentality, every other 911 call a military mission. What emerges is a picture of a vital public-safety institution perpetually at war with its own people.”

That “war with its own people” is at the heart of what CATO is doing this week at San Diego’s Manchester Hyatt.  There’s been a big push since the end of the Cold War by the big defense, security and IT companies (many of which are based in this region) to sell things like video surveillance systems, geographic mapping systems, and—the latest must have– drone systems, like those that have been used in the assassination raids in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and elsewhere, for use in domestic policing technology. It’s basically a really big, booming market, particularly in a world where surveillance and security is being integrated into buildings, into cities, into transport systems, on the back of the war on terror and, now, the Occupy movement.

Aside from the panels on crowd control and “SWAT K9 Incident debriefs” the purpose of this week’s convention is two-fold: to proved a secure space where lots of shiny new toys can be displayed for sale, and  to re-enforce the “us vs. them mentality in law enforcement philosophy.

There will be no shortage of goodies for the Tactical Officers Association to look over at this year’s “Tactical Vendor Show” on Monday and Tuesday.  One of the many locally based vendors is Pepperball Technologies. From their “Our History” section of the website:

PepperBall Technologies, Inc. (PTI) was originally formed in 1996 as an engineering project group of Jaycor, a defense contractor for over 30 years. Jaycor entered the defense sciences marketplace in the late 1970’s and was involved in numerous U.S. Government sponsored projects including: the development of guidelines for the employment of non-lethal technology in operations other than war, product development for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that culminated in Jaycor’s wireless electro-magnetic device projectile, and Board level participation at the National Institute of Justice Office of Law Enforcement Technology. Tasked with developing non-lethal weapon alternatives for government agencies and commercial markets, a task force developed PepperBall® as its first product for commercialization. A business division was formed in 1998 to bring this product to market.

Perhaps one of local drone makers will display a sanitized version of the military’s hummingbird drone.  It looks like a real hummingbird with quickly flapping wings, and just like the real bird, can hover in mid-air and fly backwards.  The tiny bird-like drone has a camera and transmitter and a wingspan of just 17 centimeters.  It’s perfect for getting evidence against Occupy protestors for those hard-to-convict crimes like loitering or littering.  Although it’s been touted in the media as the “latest” technology, similar versions have been used in the intelligence community going back more than a decade.  Several foreign governments have been known to warn their diplomatic personnel to be on the lookout for such devices.

The militarization of the police and the use of such tools and tactics against the general public depends of the continuation of the “blue wall” mind-set, one where law enforcement officers are asked to conceive of themselves as being somehow separate and better than the population they serve.  This outlook predates the militarization movement, and was used as a training tool to aid officers in being able to overcome reluctance in using force or deadly force against citizens.  In recent times modern police managers have recognized the inherent dangers (vigilantism, corruption) in such a mind-set, but it continues to prevail in so-called elite units within police departments.

In the face of national efforts by conservative politicians to discredit and defame public workers and their unions, the “blue wall” mentality is being used to drive a wedge between law enforcement officers and other public employees.  Police pension funds have been spared (somewhat) and the tactic of decrying “overpaid” public employees is rarely rolled out against law enforcement officers.  But once they’re through using the cops to break up picket lines, the meme of privatization being necessitated by excessive expenses will also be applied to policemen and women.

The Occupy movement has provided us all with a clear cut case that demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt the militarization of policing in the U.S.  The issues this raises go to the core of what democracy means. We have a major economic crisis in this country that was brought on by the greedy and irresponsible behavior of big banks. No banker has been arrested, and certainly none have been pepper sprayed. Arrests and chemical assault is for those trying to defend their homes, their jobs, and their schools.

Based on what I have read is standard battlefield procedure in Afghanistan, it seems as though cops now have a lower standard for use of force that the military does. And this week those “Tactical Officers” will be meeting in San Diego. I expect that Doug Manchester (Former Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego Hotel Owner and soon-to-be Local Media Overlord) will offer special tours so officers from out of town can see the local Occupy actions first hand.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh November 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

breaking news: From OccupySD. Somebody donated three cases of sweet potatoes. The cops are freaking out because they “can be used as weapons”. Ya just can’t make shit up this crazy…


imominous November 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

Hands and feet can be “used as weapons.” I am using my hands as weapons of mass instruction right now!


C-Dog November 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm

What is this – a food fight? Pepper spray against sweet potatoes?

I think Jell-O would be a better weapon. A few gallons of still-liquid gelatin can make the polished cement commonly seen in civic plazas pretty slippery, to even the most booted heel. Be a shame if some were accidentally spilled just before the police charge with their batons.


Eva November 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm

hahahahaha! Cartoon tactics never fail! We will be the bugs bunnies and road runners. They will be Yosemite Sams, Coyotes, and comically enraged!


Martha November 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

EXCELLENT background and reporting, Thank You!


Terrie Best November 28, 2011 at 10:17 am

Thank you Doug. This is a topic that is so scary and sad. The divide between the police and the citizens has increased until the idea of the kindly policeman walking the beat is a mere cartoon now and not based in reality.

I blame the drug war. Our local police are being high-jacked by the feds to fight their war on drugs. While doing so, they’ve managed to vilify us all to our own.

I always enjoy your articles.


Guy November 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

F*ck the police.


malcolm kyle November 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

The ‘merry-go-round’ of Prohibition has fallen clean off it’s axle and trans-mutated into a veritable ‘house-of-horrors’

* It has created mega-violence, as in inner-city drive-by shootings or even bombs and mass killings in places like Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala etc.
* It’s impeding the medical use of marijuana for the sick or dying.
* It’s keeping an ever growing group of criminals extremely rich (it’s a $400 billion industry)
* It’s saddled us with enormous enforcement costs – $50 billion a year, including approx. $12 billion just to enforce marijuana laws.
* It’s ruined families, even whole communities, by sending breadwinners to prison leaving their children dependent on the state. – Plus an estimated $40,000 loss to the community per prisoner.

In addition to the societal cost of prohibition, it has a long history of driving the spread of harder drugs.

* Poppies to morphine to heroine to krokodil
* Coca to cocaine to crack
* Ephedra to ephredrine to speed to methamphetamine
* Marijuana to skunk to dangerous synthetic concoctions such as ‘spice’ or ‘bath salts’
* Mushrooms to ecstasy to 2CB/designers

At every step the reasons for the rise in popularity of the new form of the drug are one or more of the following:

* It may easier to smuggle.
* It may be more addictive, thus compelling the buyer to return more frequently.
* It may be cheaper to produce therefore yielding more profit.
* Like a game of “whack a mole” a shutdown of producers in one area may give rise to business opportunities for another set of producers with a similar product.

Prohibition’s distortion of the immutable laws of supply and demand subsidizes organized crime, foreign terrorists, corrupt cops & politicians and feeds the prejudices of self-appointed culture warriors. So called Tough-On-Drugs politicians have happily built careers on confusing drug prohibition’s collateral damage with the substances that they claim to be fighting, while the big losers in this battle are everybody else, especially taxpayers. How come so many of us have been deluded into believing that big government is the appropriate response to non-traditional consensual vices?

Imagine if we were to chop down every single tree on the planet as a response to our failure to prevent tree-climbing accidents. That’s what our misguided drug policy looks like.

Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!


john q public November 28, 2011 at 11:33 am

Mr. Kyle,

All great points. I don’t know if cops are worried about losing their jobs, their kids turning in to “druggies” or the gangs taking over the world after all drugs are made legal.

Truth be told, they will lose their jobs if they keep shooting people with rubber bullets, their kids will take drugs if they want to and now can buy them from anyone on any corner selling. There will NEVER be enough security to watch every person and when there is we will live in a world we do not want to. Lastly, gangs are already making devastating gains with the aforementioned $400B industry, so wouldn’t the economic terrorism we use against nations work equally effectively against the cartels?

this shit ain’t rocket science, but when a bunch of people are going to lose money in the short term, they tend to avoid it at all costs whether or not the end is worth the means or not.

I think the police themselves are really the best place to start. there are enough of them to put pressure against the “man” and they live with the people and have families and theoretically should want to follow the will of the people.

why cant the world be a simpler place. kids start off so friendly and sweet and then turn into crack-heads and murders? really? I don’t think life works like that. I have been around millionaires and meth-heads and both have given me great advice (the meth-head said NEVER DO METH and the millionaire said MONEY DOESN”T BUY HAPPINESS). So if all the meth-heads and millionaires of the world shared their advice would the world be such a bad place?

your fat friends will make you fat
your drunk friends will make you drink
your high friends will give you pot
your crack-head friends will get you into shit
your heroin friends will give you hiv
your meth-head friends will end up in jail or dead so they can’t affect you that long…sadly enough

good people help you become a good person and bad people tend to rub off in little ways that come out at the worst times.

i hope the will of humanity combined with the internet will save this planet. if not, we will probably find out soon enough. damn, i was hoping to be able to bitch about being 80 in 50 years from now..

there is one thing the world will never be able to “police”…

the human spirit


C-Dog November 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I wonder why the police need all that equipment? The protesters aren’t doing anything except waiting to present themselves for pepper spraying. If the public actually decided to get serious about protesting, all of these outrageously expensive police systems could easily be defeated.


top cat November 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Really? There’s a police convention and you guys think it has something to do with the occupy nitwits? I think the SWAT teams have better things to do with their time than confront a bunch of homeless ding dongs


doug porter November 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm

you ever notice how all these comment trollers are named after some variety of feline. my cat says “occupy” and notes that Real Human Beings don’t call homeless people ding dongs. She thinks top cat, ob cat, etc, etc are all really dogs.


Joe Howard Crews November 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm

After viewing the police disturbances at Occupy sites on Thanksgiving Day, and the customer riots at WalMart on Black Friday, I suggest the following message on a protest sign for the Hyatt: “SWATs needed at WalMart – not OCCUPY”


doug porter November 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm

The last thing the powers that be want the police to do is actually ARREST Occupiers on charges relating to civil disobedience. All those trials and juries would just be too disruptive. Hence the need to treat acts of civil disobedience as acts of violence requiring non-lethal weapons. And the charges against Occupiers are almost always something other than trespassing or anything that could be construed as civil disobedience.
Liberally applied pepper spray is much easier than explaining to people why the government facilitates illegal activities by banks and corporations.


local November 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

The tank you mentioned was NOT deployed to the park. It actually drove by the park on its way to a local school for the “GREAT AMERICAN TEACH IN” that occurs every year.


Steve Ruiz November 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Doug you sound upset and pissed off ,and you blaming the law as the boogie man!


doug porter November 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

yes. it’s true. many of us are pissed off at the highjacking of America.


mr.rick November 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Conffonting the so called “ding dongs” is just a way to try out tactics and toys with the least amount of risk possible. If it was just a matter of getting these people out of the Zones of Occupation, they would just issue a bunch of bogus tickets with the same court dates. While every one was at the court house they would just roll-up the tents and stuff. This is just Nixon’s war on drugs taken to it’s absurd extreme. Occupy the Hell out of it!


doug porter November 29, 2011 at 11:01 am

it completely slipped my mind that Doug Manchester had sold the hotel until it was pointed out to me via a letter to the editor here:

“Please note that Doug Manchester no longer owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. So a correction is needed for “I expect that Doug Manchester (Hotel Owner and soon-to-be Local Media Overlord) will offer special tours so officers from out of town can see the local Occupy actions first hand.””

I guess the whole thing with keeping the Manchester name as a moniker for the hotel just threw me off. So forget about the tours.


King of the World November 30, 2011 at 7:32 am

Great article. American Police are now tools of the state to control the masses. The weapons are lethal. The policies are Gestapo. It is time for citizens to disrupt and interfere with the Gestapo in blue. I live in Texas and know people here will shoot back when the pressure gets too great. Check into the sinister software developers that are destroying privacy and cataloging every move, call, purchase, trip and contact you make. One is called Palantir. Based in the bay area. Their software is a greater threat to Liberty than these swine SWAT teams. Every one of us has a duty to resist these automatic weapons, riot gear covered thugs. Fight back people before you are rounded up, tatooed and gassed.


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