Michigan Considering SWAT Transparency Bill

Rep. Tom McMillin, a very conservative Republican, has submitted a bill that would bring greater transparency to the use of SWAT teams in the state of Michigan. The bill would force law enforcement agencies to detail how and why they have used SWAT teams in every instance:

Introduced by Rep. Tom McMillin (R) on June 30, 2011, to require law enforcement agencies with SWAT teams to file reports every six months disclosing the number of times the SWAT team was deployed, where, the reason, the legal authority for the raid, the result, the number of arrests made if any, the type of evidence and property seized, whether a forcible entry was made, whether a weapon was discharged by a SWAT team member, and whether a person or pet was injured or killed by a SWAT team member.

The bill has just been referred to the House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee, which I think McMillin chairs. On most issues, McMillin is absolutely on the wrong side. He’s a strongly anti-gay, anti-choice, social conservative. But on transparency issues, he’s great. He even invited one of my reporters, Todd Heywood, to testify in front of his committee about the ways state agencies evade FOIA laws and how the law should be updated to help reporters get information they need.

It’s another reminder that people are not entirely summed up by the labels we put on them. Sometimes people are absolutely wrong about one thing, or most things, and still get it right on something important. And we should be ready and willing to work with them to achieve common goals.

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  • anandine

    On CSPAN, I once saw Bob Barr and Barney Frank speak one after the other agreeing on an issue (asset forfeiture). Had I been a believing person, I might have expected the earth to open up and swallow Congress.

  • Police departments should cost-justify all their SWAT teams. How often are they used, and for what? All that gear is expensive and if they’re just rapelling down from their black helicopters to rescue Mrs Jones’ cat, the taxpayers might want to know that.

    Go for the money; it’s the jugular.

  • robb

    by more transparent, i bet they really mean even more invisible to oversight.

  • Shawn Smith

    … if they’re just rapelling down from their black helicopters to rescue Mrs Jones’ cat, …

    No, they’re repelling down in order to have a better chance to shoot the family dog. A dog that’s probably a cocker spaniel, pomeranian, pug, or chihuahua. And that’s in a locked kennel.

  • Trebuchet

    The cynic in me wonders if he’s not trying to inhibit the use of SWAT teams against right-wing militias, something Michigan has been known for.

  • Didaktylos

    I must admit that whenever I hear the term “SWAT Teams”, I want to ask: “Are they any good at killing flies?”