Last night, I hit the streets of San Francisco and stopped off at a few favorite watering holes, looking for interesting women and/or interesting conversation. The female crowd was a bit weak. I suspect many had headed off to Halloween parties, something I don’t do. But I did have an interesting conversation with a salesman who sold night vision goggles to police SWAT teams.
When he told me what he sold, I did not tell him of my libertarian leanings. I considered it more of a fact finding conversation. I asked him, if he felt the police were becoming more militarized. He said, “No.” He was in San Francisco for a SWAT Team conference. He said most of the training was aimed at battling terrorism. But then he added, “You know, the greater San Francisco area has more SWAT teams than any other part of the country.”
He considered San Jose to the south and Berkeley to the east as part of the greater San Francisco area. He told me that the University of California, Berkeley has its own SWAT team and then he said, “Even Pittsburg, California has a SWAT team, what the hell is Pittsburg, California and why do they need a SWAT team?”
I asked him what other cities had strong SWAT teams presence. He told me the names you would expect, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles. Just to jilt the conversation a bit, I asked him about Miami. He said, “Nothing registers on the radar, the same with Atlanta, not much going on.”
The SWAT team conference he was attending was a regional event. There were 36 SWAT teams attending, 30 from the San Francisco region and a few outliers, including a SWAT team from Israel.
He looked at me and said, “You know those Israelis are very serious stone cold killers.”
He told me that even during breaks when some of the SWAT members would take a break and perhaps go out for a cigarette, he said the Israelis stayed serious.
On Saturday, during the day, they had a mock terrorist kidnap situation where terrorists had kidnapped the young daughter of a diplomat. He said that each of the 36 SWAT teams had a chance to rescue the girl. He told me that most of the teams were able to rescue the girl safely, while only killing one or two of the terrorists and capturing the others.
He told me that when the Israelis went in, they killed all the terrorists, even a terrorist who was in the attic with his children. They also killed the children. During a debriefing, after all the teams went through the mock kidnapping, they asked the Israelis why the killed the children in the attic. They replied, “They will likely be future terrorists, it’s best to kill them early.”
I also learned a bit about night vision goggles. Because they need to draw light from the moon and stars, they don’t function when there is cloud cover, and they are less functional on moonless nights. Also, they don’t work inside, if there is no light source to draw from.
Reprinted with permission from Economic Policy Journal.