The statistics compiled on police raids give a broad picture of how the tactic is used in Maryland. Of the 806 raids conducted in the six-month period, more than 94 percent stemmed from search or arrest warrants. Most of the others came as the result of a barricade situation.
As Radley Balko notes, Maryland is the first state in the nation to require that cities report how their SWAT teams are used. In one county, over half of the SWAT deployments were for misdemeanors and non-serious felonies.
In my post yesterday, I wondered why the Rochester SWAT team had fired only one shot in 30 years. I found this old story that indicates a couple of reasons. First, Rochester’s team is made up of on-call members of the police force — it’s not a standing unit. It was recently renamed the “Emergency Task Force”. Since “emergency” being the opposite of “routine”, I assume the point is that the group is to be used for extraordinary situations, not serving misdemeanor warrants.
A lot of the paramilitary hardware used by SWAT teams was purchased with post-9/11 Homeland Security grants. There’s no reason the federal government couldn’t impose national standards for equipping, usage and reporting on police departments who get money for their SWAT teams.