The Militarization of Your Local Police

Sunday, November 13, 2011
Local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have increasingly become more militaristic in tactics and look in response to the wars on drugs and terror.
Writing in The Atlantic, Arthur Rizer and Joseph Hartman note “a proliferation in incidents of excessive, military-style force by police S.W.A.T. teams” in recent years as a result of police departments relying more on “black-garbed, body-armored” specialists to carry out “routine domestic police work.” Not that long ago, SWAT units only existed in large cities and were used only in high-risk situations, such as bank robberies as hostage takings. Now they can be found in places as small as Middleburg, Pennsylvania (population: 1,382).
To better deal with potential threats of terrorism, police forces have stocked up on military equipment, “adopted military training, and sought to inculcate a ‘soldier’s mentality’ among their ranks.”
Up until September 11, 2001, the average police officer might have had at his or her disposal a shotgun, maybe even a high-power rifle in addition to their service revolver. Today, it’s become more common to see police armed with assault rifles and dressed in black full-battle uniforms while patrolling airports and other locations. In some cities police arsenals now include bazookas, machine guns and armored vehicles.
Rizer and Hartman do not condemn the use of improved technology to fight crime, but they do point out that the mindset of police is different from the mindset of soldiers. Law enforcement officers are on the streets “to protect and to serve,” and they treat people they apprehend as “suspects.” Soldiers, on the other hand, are trained to view people as either “enemies” or “non-enemies” and to “engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.”
Retired Seattle police chief Norman Stamper, writing at AlterNet, claims “there are more than 50,000 police paramilitary raids in the United States each year—more than 130 every day. Virtually all are for prosecution of drug warrants, the vast majority involving marijuana. Many jurisdictions use SWAT teams for execution of every search warrant for drugs.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
How the War on Terror Has Militarized the Police (by Arthur Rizer and Joseph Hartman, The Atlantic)
New “Less-Lethal” Weapons Spread to Police (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America (by Bradley Balko, Cato Institute) (pdf) 


anonymoose 12 years ago
the "war on drugs" has always been, beneath the ctypto-fascist rhetoric, a war on the constitution and on america's social fabric. its success in these regards is the reason for its amazing persistence, even in the face of growing, widespread public disapproval. ... the use of combat squads to raid the homes of harmless pot smokers is partly theater -- think joseph goebbels -- and partly intended as a warning to the rest not to step out of line. ... and believe me, that line is being redrawn every year, tighter and tighter, around what's left of our individual sovereignty.

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