Human trafficking and citizen armed rescue teams

Are private entities allowed to plan and execute a covert rescue operation with armed team members?  Photo: SWAT Team (AP)

WASHINGTON, November 20, 2013 – Many organizations working to curb human trafficking receive inquiries from potential volunteers whose primary desire is to kick in doors and rescue human trafficking victims. However, once a potential volunteer learns that the organization does not have a covert SWAT team that responds around the world to rescue victims, they seem shocked and in disbelief.

The concept of private entities using proactive armed covert SWAT teams that rescue human trafficking victims is fueled by Hollywood and yes, non-governmental organizations. There are some non-governmental organizations who play DVDs at anti-human trafficking events indicating their organization uses SWAT teams equipped with military/police tactical gear utilizing assault rifles and handguns to make entry into a house to secure a human trafficking victim.

Signs at their booth read, “Join our operational team and rescue human trafficking victims.” There are non-profit and non-governmental organizations that use pictures on their websites portraying the use of armed SWAT teams and some even indicate their activities are unhindered by the bureaucracy of governments. These organizations no doubt are misrepresenting themselves to the public and to their constituents.

If anyone believes that a law enforcement agency or any government in the world would allow a  private entity to plan and execute a covert rescue operation with armed team members in their backyard needs a reality check. In fact, there is no law enforcement agency in the world that would tolerate this illegal action by private citizens in its jurisdiction.

The idea that a law enforcement agency or any government would allow a private SWAT team to conduct armed rescue operations is just preposterous.  

Every country considers its borders  sovereign and sacred. Every country operates within a set of laws that are designed to protect and aid their citizens. Armed action by any private entity to illegally enter another’s premise without legal authority is in violation of numerous international laws and no doubt the rescue team members would be arrested or become suspects in a criminal investigation.   

In fact, laws preclude private citizens from engaging in physical force against property or against another and federal law makes it illegal to conspire to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country.  Therefore private citizens in the United States planning an armed rescue in a foreign country would be in violation of  U.S. law and the laws of other countries as well.

There are organizations that regularly aid in the rescue of human trafficking victims like International Justice Missions (IJM), The A21 Campaign, Polaris, and Disrupt Human Trafficking. These organizations do not have armed intervention teams but they work closely with the police, governmental agencies, diplomatic agencies, and the courts to facilitate the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims. Their instruments are not guns but power and influence through diplomatic channels; the sharing of information and intelligence; economic and financial support of victims; utilization of the courts; and in their close relationship with law enforcement.

 


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William Spruce

William Spruce is the President of Disrupt Human Trafficking a non-profit organization assisting and training law enforcement in investigating the crime of human trafficking. He spent 21 years serving the Department of Justice (ATF) with his final assignment as Deputy Director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia where he had oversight of operations involving intelligence, forensic evidence recovery, technical exploitation, and domestic/international terrorism investigations.  Mr. Spruce is a former Dallas Police Officer and proudly served his country in the US Marine Corps

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