A. Barton Hinkle on More Fergusons to Come


Militarized police

It's hard to see any good in the death of Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, or in the ensuing civil disturbances. But the episode may have two small silver linings. The first is a national conscience-elevating about the peril faced by young black men. The second is an awakening to the danger posed by militarized police forces—an issue that, before Ferguson, was mostly discussed only in libertarian and civil-libertarian circles.

Has a profusion of drug lords and terrorist masterminds across the U.S. driven that militarization? Not exactly, writes A. Barton Hinkle. One review of cases from 2011-2012 in which SWAT teams were dispatched found that in 79 percent of them, the teams were deployed simply to execute a search warrant. And as The New York Times reported in June: "Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of 'barbering without a license.'"