The Asheville Citizen-Times had an informative article out last week on police use of military equipment in Western North Carolina. As a practical matter, how police use ex-military equipment largely falls into two categories: SWAT teams and crowd/riot control. And while SWAT teams respond to active-shooter and hostage situations, they are most often used to serve search and arrest warrants. The Asheville Police Department has seen its use of its SWAT team to serve warrants drop dramatically in past few years:

City police reduced the number of Emergency Response Team deployments by 73 percent since 2011. […]

Deputy Chief Wade Wood said city police started using a threat assessment form around 2011-12 that has, in part, caused deployments to drop.

The three-page form is a checklist that helps police determine whether a tactical operation is needed to handle an arrest or search warrant.

It assigns points to questions including whether the suspect has police or military training, is mentally unstable or on probation or parole. It also looks at whether the offense in question involved a weapon and whether anyone was injured.

And it looks at whether the location where the warrant will be served is fortified or whether police would encounter surveillance and lookouts.

At the end, an officer adds up the points and if they reach a certain number, a tactical operation is planned.

The APD’s form sounds like a much better way of determining whether a SWAT is needed rather than just relying upon some officer’s judgment as it requires that multiple factors be considered. More jurisdictions should use such a mechanism in determining SWAT team usage.