Militarization of Police

Fight Against Militarized Police Is a Culture War Worth Having

Ferguson shows us that "protect and serve" is long gone. Can we get it back?

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Asked "whether it's proper to militarize the nation's city police forces,"President Obama opined last week that "one of the great things about the United States has been our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement."

But the images coming out of Ferguson, Mo., recently — body-armored, camo-clad "peace officers" with sniper rifles and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles — have a lot of Americans wondering whether that has become a meaningless distinction.

Still, Obama continued, "We don't want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions."

He got that right, at least. America was born amid fear and loathing of standing armies at home. "It was easy to foresee the consequences [that] followed upon sending troops into America to enforce obedience to acts of the British Parliament," John Hancock proclaimed in his 1774 address commemorating the Boston Massacre: "cruelty and haughtiness … citizens hourly exposed to shameful insults." Thomas Jefferson worried that a peacetime military force would "overawe the public sentiment" and harm the republican character of our government.

If we share the Founders' concern about domestic militarization, maybe we should stop subsidizing it. That's what Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., hopes to do with the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, a bill that has drawn interest from Republicans such as Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Sen.Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Johnson's bill takes aim at the Pentagon's 1033 Program, which allows local police departments to acquire "free 'military-grade' weapons and equipment that could be used inappropriately during policing efforts in which citizens and taxpayers could be harmed."

But the bill doesn't touch the Homeland Security grants that bought St. Louis County its BearCat armored vehicle and that have lately become an even bigger driver of police paramilitarization. Any serious demilitarization effort will have to deal with Homeland Security Department programs arming local law enforcers with MRAPs and drones.

Reformers should expect vigorous pushback from the martial-law-and-order brigade in Congress.

In one of politics' little ironies, leading terror-war hawk Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., was once the Irish Republican Army's biggest supporter in Congress. (As Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once cracked, "The only Republican organization I have ever noticed Mr. King represents is the Irish Republican Army.")

Today, as a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, King is leading the fight to make small-town America look like Belfast during the Troubles. Over the weekend, he told the New York Times there was "no evidence that giving the police heavy weaponry and equipment worsened the situation in Ferguson."

True enough, nobody got run over by a BearCat in Ferguson, and the press and protesters had more trouble with tear gas than sniper rifles. But one of the main fears about armoring-up local law enforcement is that it will encourage a warrior mindset among peace officers whose true mission is to protect and serve.

Joseph D. McNamara, former police chief of Kansas City, Mo., observes that "the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on 'officer safety' and paramilitary training pervades today's policing."

That's as it should be, some law enforcement officers insist: In a 2013 PoliceOne.com article, SWAT commander Glenn French writes: "We trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector." As a former LAPD officer explained in the Washington Post last Tuesday, "If you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you."

How's that for "cruelty and haughtiness": Respect my authority — or get "served"? This is one culture war worth fighting.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner. 

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53 responses to “Fight Against Militarized Police Is a Culture War Worth Having

  1. body-armored, camo-clad “peace officers” with sniper rifles and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles

    we’re totally free, yo.

  2. I’d say there is one major difference between the military and the police. People in the military actually respect the citizens they serve, whereas the cops see us as their servants.

    1. Servant might be a step up. They mostly see us as the enemy.

    2. Indeed – see also MacArthur’s “not for your professional participation or military solution.” I wish the blue posse could be professional and detached from OBEY ME.

      1. see also MacArthur’s…

        Just went and looked up the speech; that’s the most powerful thing I’ve read in months. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Obuma may finally have gotten one right. Wow!

    1. Words are wind.

      1. What I was fishing for was “even a broken clock is right twice each day”.

        1. You know nothing Ground Truth

        2. not dgital clocks

          1. Yep, if Obama were a clock he would read 27:82.

      2. Words are wind.

        And so is a tornado.

    2. He’s speaking to the moment, unless he sees political gain there will be no actionable event occurring from his office. Time for another minimum wage speech.

  4. OT:

    ‘Modern Icon’ Gigi Hadid goes braless in clingy white T-shirt for provocative fashion shoot

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvs…..shoot.html
    I have no idea who she is, but damn. I mean, damn.

    1. thanks, sarc!

  5. It’s not just the mentality it inspires in police officers. Protestors see “peace officers” in combat armor and camo, pointing AR-15s and sniper rifles at them, they get the impression that they’re picking a fight, and the hotheads respond in kind. At which point, out comes the tear gas!

    1. If the cops are going to act like an occupying army, it’s not surprising that people might start to treat them like an occupying army.

      1. People haven’t really started treating them like an occupying army yet. When that actually happens, watch cops suddenly find another profession in droves. They only want to play the game when it’s only them acting like an army.

      2. I have a totally different reaction to seeing a police officer in a regular cop out fit versus the soldier-cop look.

        My mind registers the soldier cop as an enemy – then the way the Marines taught me to deal with “the enemy” starts running through my mind. Stuff that never occurs to me when I see regular cops – even NJ State Troopers in their crazy outfits.

        1. I do that, too. Probably stems from the gear + adversarial dynamic = cover, field of fire, and points of egress.

          1. I had that hit me a couple of months ago. Walking from the Lowes to my car, a big suv full of cops, all geared up for war, pulls up twenty yards away. As they get out, casually and talking to each other, my mind shifted into battle gear. I’ve never been in combat and my infantry training was over 30 years ago. But I was thinking how I’d have to back up and get some cover – then lay down some fire to keep them out in the parking lot and away from the Lowes.

            1. That, my friend, is what is called a visceral reaction. Exactly what I felt too.

              The people encouraging this trend are too stupid to understand that reaction, particularly from Veterans.

              1. Can I be a bit more pessimistic? The people that are encouraging this trend hope to be exempt from it and control it for their own personal and ideological gain.

                1. It will end badly for them.

              2. Remember, according to HomeSec, you’re a terrorist.

        2. Drake, I know what you mean. Look at those that cover their faces and those that don’t. Terrorists-Covered, Florida Highway Patrol Officer-uncovered, Gangbangers-covered, Cop walking a beat-uncovered, Mexican “police”-covered, US Military Special Forces-uncovered. This simple attribute of an uncovered face speaks volumes.

      3. Indeed. It also means the on duty deaths of police are just casualties of war and not at all a surprise or unusual occurrence.

  6. That’s as it should be, some law enforcement officers insist: In a 2013 PoliceOne.com article, SWAT commander Glenn French writes: “We trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector.”

    And who, pray tell, are you battling against in your little sector of the “battlefield”? Surely not the citizens who pay your salary as an amateur warfighter.

    As a former LAPD officer explained in the Washington Post last Tuesday, “If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.”

    That’s neither reason or justice. That’s naked force and coercion. How, then, is this fine LAPD officer any different from one of ISIS/ISIL goons that we’re supposed to hate?(don’t want your head chopped, just do what I tell you.)

    1. Exactly. I mean how hard is it, to be a pious Muslim?

      1. Really hard; there are all these conflicting and incompatible ideas as to what comprises ‘piety’, and if you guess wrong they saw your head off.

        1. So exactly like having three cops yelling three different sets of commands with summary execution via hail of bullets if you get it wrong.

    2. Agreed, and you’re 1000 times more likely to be shot by cops than seeing ISIS overtake Idaho.

      1. I’ve been making just that point since I was old enough to hear about the New Deal and the hell it brought to the US. Sadly, I think we’ve gone pretty far down that pathway already.

    3. That’s neither reason or justice. That’s naked force and coercion.

      That’s the whole point of being a cop. You do whatever you want. You lie, you cheat, you steal, and you kick the shit out of anyone who doesn’t like it. After all, what are they going to do? Call the cops?

    1. Top groups by fatalities:

      Construction laborers
      Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
      Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
      Electrical power-line installers
      and repairers
      Refuse and recyclable material collectors
      Structural iron and steel workers
      Roofers
      Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
      Fishers and related fishing workers
      Logging workers

      Huh, don’t see cops in there.

      1. I’d wager if we could find an actual man hour comparison cheerleading would be more dangerous than being a police officer.

        http://www.nleomf.org/facts/of…..ties-data/

        Even in these NLE.org statistics, notice how many are traffic rated fatalities? How many of those do you think are police officer’s being aggressive drivers?

  7. The militarization of police is just a symptom. The real problem is too many laws. As it is now every American citizen is a criminal just waiting to get caught. The only way to enforce a law is to give the enforcer the power and authority necessary to enforce it.

    More Laws + More Power = Less Liberty

    Why shouldn’t police see the public as the enemy? If we’re all unwitting criminals then we are, in fact, the enemy.

  8. my best friend’s mother makes $66 /hr on the computer . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her payment was $13283 just working on the computer for a few hours. go…..

    ?????? http://WWW.JOBSAA.COM

    1. Ha! My best friend’s mother makes twice as much in half the time.

      1. While standing on her head and reciting the Spanish alphabet backwards.

  9. “But one of the main fears about armoring-up local law enforcement is that it will encourage a warrior mindset among peace officers whose true mission is to protect and serve.”

    Too late, protect and serve is nearly non-existent, police culture is already a warrior us against them mindset. The populace is “them”. I’d evidence crushing a man’s neck to investigate the sale of under-taxed cigarettes. Police have less in common with being servants of society than they do the imaginary the Borg: Resistance is Futile!

  10. Speaking of the police: who in the hell came up with the idea of reciting the alphabet backwards and every other letter to test if you’re drunk? Most people can’t recite is backwards every other letter drunk or sober.

    1. Can we water board spammers?

  11. Po Plux Plan.

  12. Society is changing, and folks can argue to what degree it is changing for the worse. Large metropolitan areas are increasingly violent due to increased unemployment and drug use. There is a heightened fear of homegrown terrorism as well. Perhaps I can understand a large city like Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington “militarizing” their constabularies to deal with the day to day violence they face. I just can’t understand how smaller towns across this country are getting in on this military hardware acquisition craze, and to top it off they are organizing and training SWAT teams just like the big cities.

    This all pretty much started with the Patriot Act shortly after 9/11/2001. Governments at all levels pretty much got the green light to enter a national arms race to combat terrorism. Now we see these same police departments using military type tactics and gear to pretty much perform all law enforcement functions across the spectrum. Ironically, most Democrats that I know were vehemently against the Patriot Act when it was passed under GW Bush, but they are strangely silent since the current administration has allowed it to not only stay on the books, but expand it exponentially. The police state is here. It may just be a matter of time before it is used to control the population as a whole.

    1. ” Large metropolitan areas are increasingly violent due to increased unemployment and drug use. ”

      I call BS, cite a source.

      “Perhaps I can understand a large city like Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington “militarizing” their constabularies to deal with the day to day violence they face. ”

      Ha,WTF – wake up, THIS attitude is why police militarization is happening. People who make excuses and “only here, but not here” rationalizations for police militarization, opening the slippery slope. Why do these particular cities need police to act like an occupying army and become more violent towards citizens, more than other cities? I would love to see the crime stats you’ve obviously seen, indicating these cities are among the worst, most violent places in America in desperate need of an occupying army who sees the public as the enemy.

      If you think normal places like Seattle and Portland need militarized police – you are part of the problem.

      I really enjoy how the biggest factor for you is size of the town – not the crime rate, not the murders-per-capita, not increasing frequency crime, etc. – just size of the town. In your scenario, what happens when a formerly-violent city gets the crime under control – The police willingly and easily give up all their army gear just like that, right? Or, what happens when a really dangerous small town wants military gear? How exactly would that line be drawn?

    2. (continued)

      The Patriot Act was evil, and so was Bush, and so is Obama – Obama came out on top though, because he gets to make use of the PA powers and expand it with none of the popular blame.

      ” Ironically, most Democrats that I know were vehemently against the Patriot Act when it was passed under GW Bush, but they are strangely silent since the current administration has allowed it to not only stay on the books, but expand it exponentially. ”

      There is absolutely NOTHING ironic, or even surprising, about that. It is completely predictable behavior.

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