Home / News / How SWAT Team Expos Are Militarizing Police Departments Across the Country

How SWAT Team Expos Are Militarizing Police Departments Across the Country

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Last week, the Florida SWAT Association hosted the “35th Annual SWAT Round-Up International Competition and Vendor Trade Show” in Orlando. The eventuality brought together law coercion and military crew from around the universe to contest against any other, sight in new strategy and technologies, and buy new weapons from arms dealers. At a time when Florida residents are acutely wakeful of the need for meridian disaster and emergency preparedness, this use of resources to serve enhance policing strategy is not only wasteful, but demonstrates the increasingly dangerous energy of invulnerability attention “solutions.”

As a inhabitant organizer for the War Resisters League’s “No SWAT Zone” campaign, we know firsthand that communities around the country are endangered about the dangerous outcome such police militarization gatherings have on all policing. Last week’s SWAT Round-Up report enclosed foe days between participating SWAT teams, businessman expos featuring ballistic weapons for purchase, workshops and foe exercises. Weapons exhibitors included teargas hulk The Safariland Group, Smith and Wesson guns, and Lenco armored vehicles. Also benefaction were companies that self-identify as “philosophy” or “lifestyle” brands, aiming “to better the multitude first and foremost.” Among them is SWAT LIFE: Brothers for Adversity, a company that celebrates and promotes soldier mentalities. Civilian and hiking companies such as VISTA outdoors, Timberland and Benchmade Knife Company were also benefaction at the expo, exemplifying the seeping of militarism into bland life.  

Most discussion and foe participants hailed from police departments in southern and executive Florida, but they also came from opposite the state and country. Last year’s SWAT Round-Up featured inhabitant winners from Texas to California. Alameda County Sheriff Marcus Cox won the eminence of 12th best “Super SWAT” cop. SWAT officers from Hungary, Brazil, Sweden and Jamaica also competed last year—a sign that these U.S.-based trainings and expos promote the sell of strategy and arms opposite inhabitant borders. This year, representatives from the United Arab Emirates attended, in sequence to “see how other people are doing,” in the difference of Col. Masoud Alhammad.


SWAT Round-Up also offering educational trainings—most of which fundamentally enhance police interactions around militarized equipment, technologies and mentalities. Of the 13 workshops advertised for the week, not one featured de-escalation strategy for responding officers. One workshop, “What SWAT Must Do Today,” focused on repairs control, promotion itself as training officers in “how to tarry the media, the U.S. Department of Justice-Civil Rights territory and your internal critics.”

SWAT Round-Up did not return a ask for comment.

From years of organizing against SWAT trainings and weapons expos like SWAT Round-Up opposite the country, we have seen time and again that such trainings rest heavily on informative norms of hypermasculinity and white-supremacy. Trainings imitate terrain mentalities, either it’s extremist stereotypes used in training curricula, an “us contra them” account about cops and civilians, or the thought that military weapons are the go-to solution for difficult situations like mental health crises.

As police budgets boost nationally, and the 1033 military-weapons send program that was before blocked by Obama is backed under Trump, this country is experiencing an boost in domestic militarization. This growth is interconnected with a steep uptick in the energy of U.S. bombings in an expanding series of countries, from Yemen to Afghanistan. SWAT trainings and fight weapons expos such as SWAT Round-Up occur opposite the country all year long, mostly hosted by statewide or inhabitant Tactical Officer Associations.

Additionally, tactical trainings are mostly saved by Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) extend program, a $630 million extend for the sovereign year of 2018. In 2017, UASI allocated $5.3 million to Miami and Fort Lauderdale and $2.8 million to Tampa Bay for training and infrastructure in counter-terrorism efforts.

One training federally saved by the UASI program is Urban Shield—one of the largest SWAT training exercises in the world—hosted every year in the Bay Area. UASI’s appropriation requires a “nexus to terrorism,” definition that police forces participating in UASI programs acquire rarely militarized weapons, strategy and technologies that are geared toward counterterrorism—but are radically used in bland policing against Black, Latinx and bad communities.

As Mohamed Shehk, a member of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition in the Bay Area, put it to In These Times, “The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office hosts Urban Shield, and countless Bay Area jurisdictions participate. Many of these cities and counties, including Alameda County, San Francisco, and Berkeley have committed themselves to be ‘sanctuaries’ in insurgency to the new administration—a joining that is done radically incomprehensible when they concurrently attend in Urban Shield, a program that mirrors Trump’s own law-and-order, xenophobic and quarrelsome prophesy for society.”

Instead of solutions to, or credentials for, the many crises we face, we continue to see resources poured into police militarization opposite the country, making escalated policing the only apparatus for emergencies, instead of firefighters, mental health workers and service agencies. SWAT trainings and expos like SWAT Round-Up help drive the soldier genius underlying police murders and aggression, and they enhance the energy of the global arms trade in the internal communities. Floridians have an event to join with people opposite the country in speaking out against this phenomenon—and to direct resources be put where they are many needed: schools, affordable housing, mental health resources and meridian change preparation.

As War Resisters League member Ana Conner of Polk County puts it, “The only way to stop prioritizing fight profiteering over human needs is to build energy opposite communities confronting militarism, either that looks like police with tanks or an occupying army. Shifting resources divided from SWAT competitions and towards charge preparedness is a good place to start.” 


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