In the US, and beyond, the term SWAT (special weapons and tactics) has thus far been associated with real-life law enforcement, or Hollywood/TV portrayals and exaggerations thereof. And thus far, it hasn’t been very controversial – pretty much every police force in the world has and operates equivalent units.
But Wired now writes that feuds and pranks appropriating the “SWAT” term but originating in the online gaming community and extending themselves into the real world, are a very real problem.
The essence of the problem seems to be that “bad actors” – i.e., irresponsible people with too much time on their hands – might call the cops on other people they don’t like. How those people and those police officers then behave is pretty much anyone’s guess.
Two years ago, as the report mentions – one such prank ended tragically, when a Los Angeles gamer meant to send special police to another gamer’s house in Kansas, but ended up directing them to an uninvolved person, who eventually got shot and killed.
It’s been a while since then, and no other victims of this type of prank referred to as “swatting” have been harmed in such a way in the real world since. That might suggest that the police have been catching up with the digital age and managing it – but to Wired, the very existence of people willing to commit the crime means that “few officials seem to have any idea what to do about swatting.”
However, the report singles out one constituency – namely, Seattle. There, in the face of this grave danger, the police allow citizens fearing they might for some reason qualify for “swatting” to add themselves to a registry, including their home address.
“The same way you might add a note about a serious allergy, a child with autism, or pets in the house in case of fire,” the article says.
And the local police department is explaining their decision to spend time and resources in this way on being close to such tech media giants as Microsoft and Amazon, and associated gaming communities on Mixer and Twitch.
But there’s actually an “inventor” of the registry – a Seattle police sergeant and “big gamer” Sean Whitcomb, who told the website that he initially came up with this particular solution in order to provide assurance to “a well-known internet celebrity ” – who asked what the police department “could do to ensure they weren’t swatted.”