In Overkill, a report published by the Cato Institute, Radley Balko argues that SWAT teams are now routinely used in inappropriate situations. Earlier this year, for example, the Washington Post reported that SWAT "serves nearly all of the warrants [in Fairfax County] after an investigation has found probable cause to seize evidence -- whether it is bloody clothes, weapons or documents." Tom Jackman, "SWAT Tactics at Issue After Fairfax Shooting," Washington Post B01 (Jan. 27, 2006) (emphasis added).
Apparently, there are little data on the costs associated with SWAT raids, whether in the form of property damage or loss of life. These costs go up when the raids are carried out with no-knock warrants, since the resulting confusion increases the likelihood of mistakes, e.g., innocent homeowners thinking the police are criminal intruders and grabbing for a gun. (Example?) As a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Hudson v. Michigan, we may have even more of these raids, so it is important to know the risks and consequences, even if the data are far from comprehensive.
Balko, who was cited by Justice Breyer in his Hudson dissent, compiles all the media reports of troubling SWAT raids he can find. (Examples of these raids often show up on his blog.) Because Balko relies on media reports, his 289 examples from 1985 to 2006 are surely only a subset of the relevant ones. These examples are fully cataloged on the Cato website with an interactive map here. You can highlight all the examples at once on a map of the U.S. or select only certain types of examples. You can also generate a description of the examples by state, year, and type.