SWAT Used to Investigate Possible Underage Drinking

The overwhelming majority of the 50,000 SWAT team raids conducted every year are to serve arrest or search warrants. Many of those warrants are for nonviolent crimes.  A Columbia Missouri SWAT team demonstrated this fact when they raided a family home all to find less than a few grams of cannabis.  Columbia Missouri’s ridiculous use of SWAT pales in comparison to New Haven, Connecticut Police Department’s decision to use SWAT to raid a nightclub for the always dangerous and high-risk job of checking ID’s. Apparently, suspected underage drinking is worthy of paramilitary tactics and assault rifles. Overkill is an understatement.

The raid, which occurred earlier this month, took place at a downtown club called Elevate where a private dance party was taking place. According to Police Chief Frank Limon, the use of SWAT was necessary because, allegedly, Elevate was over its 150 person capacity. A police statement about the matter stated that “Elevate presented such a risk that it was necessary to respond with a strong police presence that involved members of the SWAT team as support to the limited bar detail that was already in place.”

If a club is dangerously overcrowded, how does it make sense to barge in with guns blazing possibly setting off a panic that could lead to a stampede as people try to escape the crazed gun-toting thugs? If the club is dangerously overcrowded, how does it make sense to effectively hold its patrons hostage for an hour refusing to let any of them leave the purported overcapacity deathtrap?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to talk to the owner, turn on the lights, and help organize an orderly emptying of the club? Of course, sensible action wouldn’t give the cops a chance to use their paramilitary toys or the chance to shove, punch, and curse at some Yalies.

As would be expected when bullies show up at a party, things quickly turned ugly. A Yale student, Jordan Jefferson, was beaten and tasered several times, landing him in a local hospital when he tried to record officers actions on his cell phone and when he had to audacity to show disrespect for the thugs who were disrupting his night out. In a police report that reeks of testilying, officers stated that the incident began when Jefferson ignored their orders to turn off his cell phone. According to Fox News Connecticut:

The reports claims Jefferson was “disregarding the Lieutenant” and “laughing and smirking at the crowd” after he was told to put down his phone. He was arrested for interfering with an officer, the report states.

New Haven police officials have since clarified that using a cell phone to record police actions is legal.

“Absolutely they have a right to use their cell phones,” Police Chief Frank Limon told the Hartford Courant. “In no way are we saying that people don’t have a right to videotape police officers while they are conducting any type of contact with the public.”

“Jefferson kept looking away and rolling his eyes, Jefferson was smirking and laughing at the lieutenant,” the report states. He was placed next to Fuhrer, away from the crowd, where the report states that he continued to make disrespectful comments about the police.

When an officer returned to Jefferson and told him to stand up, “I saw him immediately clench his fists,” wrote Officer M. Abbate. “Jefferson stiffened up and tried to push me away … I felt Jefferson was going to fight.”

At that point, Abbate and another officer tried to handcuff Jefferson, a fight ensued and Jefferson was tased, the report states. Jefferson struck a number of officers, the report states.

So if the Police Chief agrees that Jefferson had the right to use his cell phone then wasn’t his initial arrest a false one? It is always ill advised to resist even a false arrest, but how can anyone fault a young man for objecting to his own kidnapping?

Jefferson was charged with assault on police (which is usually what you are charged with when you are on the receiving end of a police beat down) along interfering with police, inciting riot and disorderly conduct.

The aftermath of Jefferson’s arrest was caught on a short video made by another student at the party. The video doesn’t show any of the beat down, but it does show officers taunting other students.  They can be heard shouting “Anybody else?” and “Who’s next?” Despite this obvious provocation, it was Jefferson that was charged with “inciting riot,” not the thugs verbally picking a fight with a room full of people.

SWAT was designed for high-risk operations like bank robberies or hostage situations. Using SWAT to investigate possible underage drinking is beyond excessive. It is irresponsible and dangerous. I guess we can be thankful that no one was killed during this SWAT raid. Many times that is not the case with these types of adrenaline inducing, urban warfare-like raids.


Paula Parmeley Carter

Paula is a Staff Writer at CopBlock. She advocates ending the monopoly on policing and protection services. When not writing at CopBlock she enjoys being a wife and mother, reading and drinking good beer.