Pubdate: Sun, 21 Jan 2001
Source: Modesto Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Modesto Bee
Author: Norman Vanspronsen


The official report on the Sepulveda tragedy is about what we may expect. 
City and law enforcement bureaucrats will try to decoy us by endlessly 
discussing the trivia of the invasion of the Sepulvedas' home and the 
resulting death of a family member. Analyzing an officer's hand movements 
or the position of other equipment on his body is not central to the 
incident. The officer's intentions seem above reproof; he has had years of 
experience on the force and on the SWAT team.

The question officials resist answering is "Why were armed officers in the 
home in the first place?" The first letter in the acronym SWAT stands for 
"special." This arrest didn't require "special weapons" or even "special 
tactics." It would have been routine in the extreme. Sepulveda could have 
been arrested two hours later at his place of business while his children 
were in school.

Every administrator experiences the inherent pressure to overuse whatever 
resource he has at his disposal. If a system or resource lies unused, its 
funding may be restricted or it may wither away completely. Who hasn't, on 
purchasing his first riding lawn mower, decided to mow a larger area around 
his driveway? An old adage has it that "to a kid with a new hammer, 
everything looks like a nail."

Law enforcement administrators are not immune to the same forces. Every 
time we use a very dangerous weapon, there is always a chance of an 
accident, and a SWAT team represents a massive amount of force. It follows 
that the more we use that force, the more accidents will occur.

The fault in this death lies squarely at the feet of high-ranking 
administrators across the several law enforcement bodies involved, not in 
the hands of the officers who carry out orders as best they can.


Modesto, Jan. 12
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