Is America really becoming an unaccountable police state or is that hyperbole

So, one thing I keep hearing online from various people is that the US is either currently or becoming a police state full of civil rights violations, violent/unaccountable law enforcement and a lack of accountability and transparency.

Compared to the US in recent (last 20 years) or longer history, and compared to other nations of the present, is any of this true?

To me a police state has a lot more abuse and corruption where the government uses its abuses to serve the interests of the ruling class (which generally isn’t true). I don’t know if I’d call us even a proto-police state.

After 9/11 there have been more efforts to eavesdrop on people, and the police are probably becoming more militarized and paramilitary. But I don’t know how that compares to other nations, or if the US has always been that way.

Do people who have spent time both here and in other countries, or who have observed the country for decades find any of this true?

Compared to other wealthy countries or the US in recent history, is our judicial system less accountable? Is our law enforcement more aggressive? Does the government violate civil rights more? Is transparency and accountability less common here?

The Bush and Obama justice departments and judicial appointments have certainly tended to go towards a police state in my opinion. Very little skepticism between branches. Way too much deference to government and little to people.

Judicial accountability took a hit after 9/11. But we still have more accountability than is typically found throughout history. This is probably true in all modern democracies. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, especially since it’s not a problem limited to the judiciary and the DOJ.

The answer is no.

Moreover, comparing present day America to police states is grossly insulting to people who actually grew up in them.

That doesn’t mean one approves of everything that’s going on.

Similarly, many Americans would probably be really disturbed by the plethora of CCTV cameras all over London, but that hardly means that London is turning into Big Brother, though were I British I’d be more than a little disturbed by their presence.

The U.S. is a long way from a true police state; but unfortunately it is going in the wrong direction. Perhaps some of the elder members here can comment as to their experience. But my feeling is that there was an increasing liberalization, political freedom from the immediately post World War II era (the Red Menace from Communist Russia) to the 1970s or so, rough stability for a couple decades, then a very strong turn toward repressiveness in the 21st century. If you were to look I think you would find that the supposedly liberal Obama is a much stronger supporter of police state type legislation than the very conservative Ronald Reagan was.

Everyone complains about CCTVs until someone sets off a bomb during a marathon.

Some people also seemed to take issue with cops having armored cars and wearing military style body armor.

Personally, I want my police to be prepared to respond to any level of threat. If I get kidnapped by terrorists, I want to FBI HRT and SWAT fast-roping out of a Blackhawk tossing flash banks and killing bad guys with laser-sighted MP5s.

Granted, giving every single police force a half-million dollar Cougar 6x6 MRAP truck might be a bit extravegant.

The point is, our police aren’t held more “accountable” by taking away equipment that they need to respond to various threats. Even if that equipment looks like scary shit a dystopian paramilitary secret police force from the not too distant future might use. They are held accountable by making them accountable.

This is the way it seems to me. Of course, there may be a big difference between a police state and a tyrant state, we’ll just have to see.

I’d say that the worst that could be said of Obama is that he didn’t immediately press for repeal of various infringements that came under GWB. He has certainly not expanded these; he’s making less use of them than Bush did.

The IRS scandal, for instance, is fairly minor compared to the IRS under Bush, taking away the tax-exempt status of churches whose pastors delivered sermons on peace. This was taken (absurd!) as an anti-war statement, and thus excessively political.

We aren’t as free as we were under Clinton, but we’re a little ahead of where we were under Bush the younger.

I’m with this…WTF is anybody’s problem with public cameras??? Anybody on earth can see what you are doing ‘in public’, the cameras just make a record of an event.

And, I don’t care if the cops are wearing KGB/Spetsnaz uniforms or futuristic black Darth Vader outfits, if they keep me from getting robbed or get a killer off the street.

Totally incorrect. It is the very definition of the terrors of a government out of control when TPTB use the government resources to target the opposition party.

Just insulting to the people who grew up in a police state? How about the adults that suffered in a police state? Or died there?

I say fuck those assholes that allowed themselves to be enslaved by tyrants. This is the USA, and I’d rather die than have some poo flinging internet monkey ask me to tone it down 'cuz it would offend victims of tyranny who will never hear about it. I’d like to avoid the slide to tyranny here. And if a few precious snowflakes are put out by the warnings being a bit hyperbolic, well then so be it. Joke 'em if they can’t take a protest. We didn’t get our independence by being polite to a bunch of wig wearing German speaking British monarchs. And how do these people in a police state know that they are being insulted? The good old USofA has committed just about every crime there is at one time or another, including genocide. Genocide against Indians, slavery against black people, medical experimentation on the mentally ill, sterilization and eugenics, murdering union organizers, etc.

Groups were investigated to see if they qualified for tax-exempt status; part of which is that they be primarily non-political. If they truly were the “opposition party”, that would make them pretty damn political.

Yes, you’re insulting them as well. My father was born and raised in one, though obviously he no longer lives there.

This of course is one of the stupider comments I’ve read on the site recently. You might as well say “fuck those black morons who allowed themselves to be made into slaves” or “fuck those Jewish idiots who allowed themselves to get sent to the gas chambers.”

While that is one of the more creative insults I’ve been called, I don’t fling poo and I’m not insulted by a stranger on the internet calling me a monkey. And to be honest, you probably wouldn’t offend them so much as to provoke gales of laughter at your rather foolish comparison of the current state you live under to there’s.

I also didn’t tell you to “tone it down”, I merely said you were insulting them.

You apparently decided to rather grossly overreact to a simple comment.

Leaving aside the jingoistic stupidity of such a comment that is causing history teachers all over America to mutter over and over, “I’ve failed, I’ve failed” while pounding their heads against a wall, life in the American colonies in the 18th Century wasn’t remotely comparable to life in a police state.

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there were any real police states until the 20th Century.

I’m not sure what the point of this statement is. You might as well have typed up a paragraph comparing the maple syrup made in Vermont to that made in Canada and would have been about as relevant.

If we’re comparing the US to other countries, I’d say we’re more like a police state than some (perhaps Canada, for one example) and less like a police state than many. We certainly have characteristics common to or heading in the direction of a police state. Recent examples include:

  1. Violations of press freedoms, and the dipping of toes into criminalization of reporters
  2. Unprecedented prosecution of whistle blowers
  3. Stop & frisk laws in some areas, and arrests of some citizens for video recording police actions
  4. Killing of US citizens abroad without due process
  5. A special prison outside US borders
  6. Police raids on peaceful protest gatherings like the Occupy movement

I’m sure we can come up with more. Obviously there are many more examples of how we’re not a police state, and hopefully those aren’t further eroded.

If you give them that stuff they’re going to use it. SWAT teams used to be intended for extreme situations but now they’re routinely used to serve search warrants. They break into people’s homes at night, shoot dogs, terrorize children, and shoot people by mistake or by shooting homeowners who have armed themselves in self-defense against the unknown intruders. Flash-bang grenades cause hearing damage, burns, fires and occasional deaths.

I didn’t think about the persecution of whistle blowers or the abuse of state secret privilege either for that matter.
the problem with a hyperaggressive, paramilitary police is much of what the police do requires them to defuse tense situations among the homeless, mentally ill, addicted or abused. most cops go their whole careers without firing their gun on duty. I’m not a cop, but not every situation calls for military responses. most don’t. you need SWAT and paramilitary tactics sometimes, but mostly not.

This is deeply, thoroughly silly. Don’t call other posters poo flinging monkeys, please. You can consider this a request to tone it down.

I think we can stop right there. Why would any of us want to debate some unsupported chatter that you hear “online from various people”? Most of what people talk about “online” is garbage.

Of the modern liberal democracies, I daresay the U.S. is one of the most likely to go police state, but they have not as yet.

When I hear those type of arguments, I just assume the people making them know little about U.S. history. Nothing going on now can compare to the state-enforced Jim Crow system, no one in our national security apparatus has as much power now as J. Edgar Hoover had, nothing going on matches the suspension of habeas corpus, the alien and sedition acts, the red scare, HUAC, etc. Of course there are things we can legitimately complain about now, but I’d argue that we’re much freer now than we’ve ever been in this country.