But it’s far from clear that the state really needs more strike forces with which to hit people. Mississippi already has several federally funded multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces. The Mississippi Highway Patrol, which serves the entire state, has a SWAT team and a Special Operations Group consisting of 80 police officers for incidents for which the SWAT team isn’t sufficient. Most sheriff’s departments in the state have SWAT teams, as does just about every town with more than a half dozen stoplights, including Clinton, Pearl, Tupelo and Horn Lake. Even the Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Control agency has its own SWAT team. If you’re lucky, even your town’s mayor might strap on a gun and join the occasional SWAT raid.
So if you live in Olive Branch or Southaven, you’re covered not only by your town’s own SWAT team, but also the county SWAT team, the state police SWAT team, a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force, a fugitive unit, the state Alcohol Beverage Control SWAT team and federal SWAT teams from the field offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (at least — possibly others). And, now, if all of those haven’t already protected and served the heck out of you, you could soon get one of the attorney general’s SWAT teams, too.
It isn’t exactly clear why the governor feels such a sense of urgency. The state’s crime rate is above the national average, but violent crime in Mississippi has been falling for about 20 years, as it has just about everywhere else in the country. There’s also the matter of cost. Does the poorest state in America really need three more SWAT teams that the attorney general can sling about as he pleases? Well, Mississippi legislators came up with a solution for that, too. Asset forfeiture. From the Jackson Free Press:
Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, had a similar concern about adding another layer of law enforcement. Wiggins offered an amendment so that the strike force could also benefit from seizures. Currently, seizures of cash and property purchased with cash made illegally represent a valuable revenue stream for law enforcement organizations.Wiggins’ amendment was successful, and the bill passed by unanimous voice vote out of committee.
Before we get too hard on Mississippi, giving prosecutors their own SWAT teams may become a trend. The attorney general of Utah, for example, already has its own “strike force.” A couple years ago, the strike force was honored for a series of raids it conducted on people suspected of violating copyright law. There’s a district attorney in New Jersey who is currently agitating for his own SWAT team, too.