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ACLU claims racial disparity on Allentown's use of SWAT team

By Rosa Duarte, Reporter, RDuarte@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 25 2014 09:08:27 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 25 2014 10:09:31 PM CDT

According to a recent nationwide report by the ACLU, SWAT teams are not only being used unnecessarily but minorities are being impacted by such raids at a much higher rate than their white counterparts.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

According to a recent nationwide report by the ACLU, SWAT teams are not only being used unnecessarily but minorities are being impacted by such raids at a much higher rate than their white counterparts.

For its report, titled 'War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing', the ACLU reviewed 800 SWAT team raids in 20 states across the country during 2011 and 2012.

'We filed a number of right to know requests with entities across the state and got back varying levels of documents. Some places like the city of Pittsburgh refused to provide any information and some places like Allentown actually provided a lot of information,' said Sara Rose a staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Turns out the Allentown Police Department was the only law enforcement agency out of 37 in the state that shared it's actual incident reports with the organization.

Because of that, the ACLU was able to take an in-depth look at the department's use of its emergency response team and what researchers found was a combination of good and bad news.

According to the report, minorities in Allentown, specifically African Americans, are more likely to be impacted by SWAT team raids.

With Latinos making up 43 percent of the population, they were the subject of close to 54% of the raids between 2011 and 2012.

However African Americans who only make up 13 percent of the population were subjected to 43% of the raids, a consequence of racial disparity according to the ACLU.

“I think it has more to do with the neighborhoods people live in because those tend to be pretty segregated and where they decide to deploy these tactics are often more likely to be in black or Hispanic neighborhoods,” said Rose.

Rose adds if other agencies had provided the same level of information as the APD similar results would've been found.

As for the good news, Rose commends the Allentown Police Department for complying with the Right to Know law and being forth coming with information.

“That actually makes them one of the better municipalities because they are being transparent,” said Rose.

Allentown Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald says he wants to read through the entire report before giving a formal response.

A similar request was submitted to the Lehigh County Municipal Emergency Response Team but it was denied by the District Attorney's office.

The case has been appealed by the ACLU and is now awaiting a decision by the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas.

For the report click here https://www.aclu.org/war-comes-home-excessive-militarization-american-policing