By the numbers: Why and when the Iowa City Police Department deploys its SWAT team

Photo by Alan Light
The ICPD deployed its SWAT team seven times in the past year. — photo by Alan Light

The Iowa City Police Department used its special response team just a handful of times over the course of a year, usually in situations where a weapon was thought to be present.

Special response officers — commonly called a SWAT team — undergo special training for particularly tricky situations and carry heavier equipment than officers on regular duty, such as ballistic coverings, tactical weapons and chemical munitions. Such policing has received closer scrutiny in recent months, especially following cops’ extreme crowd-control tactics this summer in Ferguson, Missouri in response to demonstrations following an officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teen.

Records disclosed by the Iowa City Police Department in response to an information request show from June 2013 through this past May, Iowa City used its special response team seven times. The missions include taking a few barricaded suspects into custody, searching for a handgun, and three drug searches. Details about the cases are sparse and two of the seven cases don’t indicate that the suspect had a firearm, though officers said some of the information “predicate to (special response team) usage” cannot be released. The police department has a broad list of criteria for when a special response team can be used, including high-risk warrants, which appears to cover these incidents.

An American Civil Liberties Union report earlier this year called the growth of such military-style policing is “excessive.” Among SWAT, or special response, deployments studied by the ACLU, 79 percent were to search homes, rather than address an urgent threat.

ICPD Special Response Team deployments: June 2013 – May 2014

3-25-2014 — XXXX S. Riverside Drive (Alexis Park Inn) – Arrest warrant for barricaded subject who refused to exit the premises in a safe manner.
-Assisted the US Marshalls service in taking into custody a subject wanted several arrest warrants including
1. a federal arrest warrant for methamphetamine manufacturing
2. A nationwide department of corrections warrant for escape
3. A Johnson County Sheriffs Office warrant for possession of weapons

12-17-2013 — XXX Miller Avenue – Search warrant for handgun involved in shooting incident.
-Service of warrant for suspect who displayed a pistol outside of the window and later posted threats on social media
-No charges

12-03-2013 — XXXX Whispering Meadow Dr. – Search warrant for drugs.
– Federal indictments for conspiracy to distribute heroin with additional federal firearms charges pending

11-17-2013 — XXXX Hollywood Blvd. – Search warrant for drugs.
– Two separate individuals each charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and keeping a drug house

10-31-2013 — XXXX Pine Street – Search warrant for drugs.
– Possession of a controlled substance

07-07-2013 — XXXX Taylor Drive – Barricaded subject – Search warrant for a suspect who had stolen a vehicle and threatened others with a handgun.
– Theft in the second degree
– Assault with a Dangerous Weapon (handgun)

06-21-2013 — XXXX Bluffwood Lane – Barricaded subject – Search warrant for suspect in domestic abuse assault case involving a firearm where the suspect barricaded himself in the residence and refused to allow other occupants to leave under the threat of a firearm.
– Assault with a dangerous weapon

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