Radley Balko Discusses Militarization of Police Force

"The police have become more militarized, more soldier-like in the last generation or two," explains journalist and author Radley Balko. "It applies to the weapons they are using, the uniforms they wear...to the tactics they use, to what I think is the most pervasive problem which is the mindset that police officers take to the job."

Balko, author of the new book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, sat down with ReasonTV to discuss the book, the growth and development of SWAT forces, and how the drug war has fostered an "us against them" mentality within police departments. 

Balko is a senior writer and investigative reporter at the Huffington Post. His work primarily focuses on the drug war and police abuse. Previously, Balko worked as a senior editor for Reason Magazine

About 12 minutes.

Camera by Todd Krainin and Amanda Winkler. Edited by Winkler. 

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  • Almanian!||

    BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO!

    **WHACK!!!**

    ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow

  • Pro Libertate||

    He fuels your pain.

  • Almanian!||

    Ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.

    PS Nice

  • Pro Libertate||

    Might be even more appropriate for our current president. He fuels your pain, too.

  • Ted S.||

    Ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.

    Um, um, um, um, um, um

  • some guy||

    sssssssssss, aaaaaaaahhhhhhh
    sssssssssss, aaaaaaaahhhhhhh
    sssssssssss, aaaaaaaahhhhhhh
    ....
    ssssssssssssssssssssssss, aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Ted S.||

    BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO!

    LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY! LUCY!

  • Brett L||

    I actually see this as more:
    BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! LUCY! LUCY!

    to the Badger-Mushroom tune.

  • Ted S.||

    Incomplete without a link.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    fuck you both...now that shitty ear worm is edited to include BALKO LUCY!

    DAMNIT

  • Paul.||

    BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO! BALKO!

    Mushroom mushroom!

  • Pro Libertate||

    See, here's the real Occupy America movement.

    I guess we should be thankful our local and state police forces have never been nationalized. At least, not yet. Because if they had, we'd be totally done right now.

  • anon||

    I guess we should be thankful our local and state police forces have never been nationalized. At least, not yet. Because if they had, we'd be totally done right now.

    Uh, what do you think the TSA is going to turn into?

    I blame roads.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, the growth of federal law enforcement is another troubling angle.

  • sarcasmic||

    I haven't figured out what part of the Constitution gives the federal government general police power. Is it the Commerce Clause? The Necessary and Proper clause? General Welfare?
    .
    .
    .
    Oh yeah. It's the Fuck You That's Why clause.

  • some guy||

    Open-ended question: Why do you love the terrorists so much?

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's a tax.

  • Radioactive||

    Do you have something to hide? hmmmm?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    TSA? Turn into a National Police force? That would be like having an entire Federal Force of Sgt. Schultz clones.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    No, unfortunately, more like a Federal Force of Barney Fife clones. Fully armed. Without Andy to keep in from going off the rails.

  • entropy||

    VIPR, coming to a roadblock checkpoint near you.

  • Wyrd Wulf||

    They have. It's called "the war on drugs", and it funnels federal money to local police. In fact, that's probably one reason we have a "war on drugs". It's certainly not because bureaucrats "wuv" us and want to protect us from the big bad drugs. Gimme a break!

  • kinnath||

    Is there any way, at this point, where the US does not slide into a totalitarian police state?

    I think it will take another full generation before we get to the point where black Ladas haul people away in the middle of the night. I'll be dead or nearly dead by then, but kids and grandkids and great-grandkids are fucked.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's possible, but the opportunity to rein things in is slipping away. Maybe it's even gone. I'm totally amazed that people are just watching all of this happen, with no fear for what it could mean.

  • Outlaw||

    It's gone.

    Now it's just the awkward waiting period.

    Relevant:

    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  • kinnath||

    At least we have a significant portion of the population that is still well armed.

  • sarcasmic||

    At least we have a significant portion of the population that is still well armed.

    For now. A couple more school shootings and people will demand confiscation.

  • Boba Fudd||

    Only sensible confiscation. Don't you have any sense, Sarc?

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    In this era of widespread liberalization of gun rights? And what is likely to be a revolution in home 3D printing/CNC over the next generation?

  • Outlaw||

    Arms don't count for shit if you don't have the will to use them.

  • Andrew S.||

    Calling for violence! This is why the YouTube commenters don't take libertarians seriously!

    (really. Look at the comments to this video on youtube)

  • kinnath||

    Well, I think the only hope for a free America is guns and digital currency.

  • Paul.||

    What about digital guns?

  • kinnath||

    As opposed to analog guns?

  • Paul.||

    As opposed to analog guns?

    3d printed gun... plans!

  • ||

    Who is calling for violence?

  • Invisible Finger||

    The state.

  • ||

    I hate those guys! They stand for everything we are against! And are against everything we stand for!

  • Radioactive||

    moi...

  • sarcasmic||

    A call to be prepared to react to the initiation of violence is not a call for violence. Not that the Tonys of the world understand the distinction between initiating violence and defending yourself from violence.

  • Boba Fudd||

    Sarcasmic, you should check out the YouTube comments. One of the posters calls you out specifically. What follows is a confused conversation in which the kiddies try to discern if you are being sarcastic. Priceless. If you do visit, please play nice. There is a chance some of them might heed Balko's warning.

  • anon||

    Wow, that guy really hates libertarians.

  • bmp1701||

    A call to be prepared to react to the initiation of violence is not a call for violence.

    But it is immoral to respond to violence when that violence is supported by at least 51% of voters.

  • Whahappan?||

    THIS IS WHAT TONY REALLY THINKS!

  • kinnath||

    It's worse than that. Half the population is cheering the administration's assault on economic freedom, and the other half is cheering the administration's assault on personal freedom.

    Way too many people are sheep desperately seeking a shepherd to care for them.

  • Almanian!||

    So sheepfuckees then.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    AAW will be pleased

  • JW||

    Is there any way, at this point, where the US does not slide into a totalitarian police state?

    I don't see it not happening at this point. Like you, it will take a while, but the genie is out of the bottle and is already beating people.

  • kinnath||

    I grew up with the drills where we were supposed to climb under our desks at school and somehow that was going to protect us from nuclear weapons.

    Later, I got to see the Berlin wall come down, and I got to walk the streets of Moscow after the Soviet Union died.

    Then a handful of ragheads killed 3,000 people and a great nation shit it's pants.

    I knew America was dead when I watched the second tower come down. I was never worried about terrorists doing bad things to us, but the opportunity that it offered to people in positions of power and money was just too great to overcome.

  • grey||

    Has it been mentioned that the Drug War was an essential part of growing the police state? The excuse to grow the military police state often seems fueled from some sort of Moral or Social Justice type inspiration. First they take away the ones I don't like, then the one's I don't know, then...

  • Gray Ghost||

    Is there any way, at this point, where the US does not slide into a totalitarian police state?

    I think it will take another full generation before we get to the point where black Ladas haul people away in the middle of the night.

    I don't think it will take that long at all. We already do it for people caught up in the War on Some Drugs. For the rest of us, I see it happening with the next, really big, mass casualty event. (Dipshits with pressure cookers need not apply. I could see it with another OKC-type bombing though.) This country will absolutely lose the rest of its mind.

    Most people don't realize how fast things can truly change for a society. Ask a Jew in Berlin, circa 1928, whether they foresaw Kristallnacht ten years later. Or an East German or Soviet in 1979 how long the Communist Party was going to last.

    There's a really funny story that I can't find the link to, about a German in 1909 who's asked to predict the future 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, and 60 years down the road. Each prediction leads to his audience assuming one conclusion for German society, which the next prediction totally demolishes. They lock him up after he predicts people walking on the Moon.

  • Calidissident||

    I don't necessarily know if we'll turn into a Nazi Germany style police state, but I think the government has definitely acquired the power to do so. The question is will they ever have the need to go forward? As long as they don't overtly hassle the average person too noticeably, I don't think the American public will do anything about it. If they try to go full 1984, there would be some serious opposition. Why do that when you don't need to?

  • Gray Ghost||

    If they try to go 1984 now, there'll be opposition. If they continue on the same trendline for the next 10 years, can you be so certain then? Think back to 1995 or so. If the revelations of the last few years: rapescanners, the NSA recording every phone call in the U.S. without a warrant, droning an American citizen w/o trial, prosecuting journalists for espionage---were in 1995 instead, what do you think the reaction would have been? And now, it's crickets.

    As to 'will they have the need to go forward', with very few exceptions, this shit only goes one way. Will they have a need to use RICO on anyone who isn't a mobster? Or confiscate cash from anyone other than a drug kingpin? They'll find a reason. All bureaucracies do.

  • Calidissident||

    "Will they have a need to use RICO on anyone who isn't a mobster? Or confiscate cash from anyone other than a drug kingpin? They'll find a reason."

    I'm not saying they aren't going to do those things. I'm saying there's a good chance that they do those things selectively enough that the average person isn't affected enough to really care about it.

    "rapescanners, the NSA recording every phone call in the U.S. without a warrant, droning an American citizen w/o trial, prosecuting journalists for espionage---were in 1995 instead, what do you think the reaction would have been? And now, it's crickets."

    I agree with your points, but my point is that those things don't have a big enough effect on average people to elicit a sufficient backlash against them. People assume that as long as they're not a terrorist, there's no reason to fear the government collecting phone records or assassinating anyone who didn't deserve it.

  • Cyto||

    When I was a kid the phrase "national ID card" was a reasonably common boogie-man word. Massive majorities of the country were concerned enough about privacy that trying to label something as a "national ID card" was a common political tactic.

    I'm not sure that there is anything in our current administration's policies that wouldn't have gotten every politician in DC tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Not just the massive monitoring of phone records, but seemingly innocuous things like the TSA.

    We used to have stereotypical characters demanding "show me your papers" in movies and on TV as a constant reminder of the difference between us and those authoritarian societies. Now we have "border" inspections 100 miles inland manned by red-blooded American versions of Sgt. Shultz.

    I can guarantee that if you had dared to push a bill in 1975 that would require you to disclose your health insurance on your tax form and share your medical records in a national database not only would you fail in your re-election campaign, there's a very good chance that you'd be recalled, whether sporting an (R) or a (D) after one's name.

    You can also take it to the bank that if Nixon, Ford or Carter had tried to collect records of every phone call placed in America they would have been impeached and convicted. Everyone would have recognized this as a blatant violation of the constitution. Nobody on either side of the isle would have stood behind that one.

  • ||

    I don't think it will take that long at all. We already do it for people caught up in the War on Some Drugs.

    And for some people who don't pay state-determined "child support".

    And for some people who don't "protect" their children according to state-determined standards.

    And for some people who don't engage in courting at higher institutions of learning according to state-determined standards -- and the 'victim' has some motive or incentive to complain.

    And for some people who utter words or present images which express sentiments which are not state-approved.

    And for some people who travel within 100 (?) miles of the Mexican border.

    And for some people who travel on airplanes.

    And for some people who exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.

    And for some people regarding their property rights.

    It's a combination of 1984 and Brave New World; it's death by a thousand cuts.

  • Paul.||

    Nothing stopping us from being a warm, touchy-feely totalitarian state. One that gives you free healthcare, lets you go to the movies, shop for the finest goods, but cracks your fucking skull wide open the minute you step out of line.

    Or, are we already there?

  • Boba Fudd||

    Maybe life as an Eloi won't be that bad?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Fuck that shit. I understand technology, am comfortable living without sunlight, and do not wish to give up eating meat.

  • plumbertom||

    Transcripts, people.
    What is it?
    Do you assume that those of us that are hearing impaired have no interest?

  • Outlaw||

    What?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    My wife gets this joke about once a week.

  • Ted S.||

    Transcripts are also less memory intensive.

    (I'd also like to know the size of large files before clicking on the link.)

  • gaoxiaen||

    Let me give you some advice. Don't click on the 10-hour version of the Badger-Mushroom Song.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    I just bought Balko's book today. Looking forward to getting started on it.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I think that federal law should be passed in all 50 states:

    If the piggies raid the house, every cop can be held personally liable.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Let me give you some advice. Click on the 10-hour version of the Badger-Mushroom Song.

  • Harvard||

    You will know when Liberty finally sunsets. Ammo primer shortages. The one single component that is the most dangerous, hazardous and difficult to make for any but the truly professional. Few manufacturers, currently under heavy regulation by EPA and other Fed agencies, would have production severely curtailed while supplies are used up, then shut down in a relatively short time. Ergo; you can have your rights and your arms but to what end. There is currently zero options for firearm performance without the ammo primer, and zero defense against tyranny without the firearm.

  • ant1sthenes||

    The state has to get its shit from somewhere. And people who want to hurt the state can get it from the same place.

    Besides, the sort of people who are coming up with 3d-printed guns can come up with a low-quality workaround. It just needs to be good enough to get you to the point where you can loot some real guns. Granted, you'd better have superior numbers or some excellent tactics.

  • VicRattlehead||

    Well as it takes an average person 2.6 seconds to react and draw their weapon a man wielding a knife can close a gap of 10 feet in less than 1 guns are just an easier means of resistance but a proper ambush doesn't need guns it only needs to inflict 35% casualties for a bureaucrat who runs the show to give a retreat order. i remember a little town in poland which the Nazis with tanks and fully armed soldiers were held off for 94 days by 3 men 2 children and 2 women with only 2 hunting shotguns and whatever melee weapons they could find. given proper tactics superior numbers and force mean nothing. but we wont get that opportunity this is going to be a slow slow slow voluntary death, comprising of economic instability and fear your neighbor mentality, meanwhile the Nazi Surveillance Acolytes blackmails all elected officials to force compliance as journalists mysteriously keep dying or being jailed for treason, as drug lords are deemed too dangerous for frontal assaults and they drone strike em while you watch the pre-planned "truth" from your "vid-screen" in your 10 x 10 concrete cell you refer to as your home while they record your reactions with fMRI and snatch you up if you show signs of waking consiousness. this is the end game there will be no explosive initiation of violence from them it has already been initiated for the last 60 years mired in a failed drug war, they will always maintain we are the aggressors and dangerous to our neighbors until they turn us all in

  • MappRapp||

    Really? Wow who comes up with all that nonsense?

    www.Mega-Anon.tk

  • Eeyore Rifkin||

    John Wrana, murdered by police in Park Forest, IL. A 95-year-old man shot with a beanbag gun, he died of internal bleeding. His crime? Refusing to take his medicine.

    The mentality is criminally insane.

  • VicRattlehead||

    precincts should not be held liable for the first 10K in damages the offending officer should be forced to come up with the amount it will make them think twice before their authority boner induced murderous rampages

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