Rise of the Warrior Cop Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?

This is a very surprising essay in a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal:

I’m glad people are talking about it. Considering how much time the police spend with addicts, the mentally ill, the homeless or the emotionally disturbed the hardassed badge heavy approach is very alienating.

I assumed this issue was getting better, but the war on terror opened the door to more aggressive tactics. Violent crimes rates have been going down for decades while official militarization seems to have increased.

I wonder how many SWAT raids occur now as opposed to 2005. However if there are tens of thousands of raids a year and of them only a few dozen are wholly inappropriate with maybe less than 5 unfair deaths a year, that isn’t a terrible ratio.

Depends on if it is your SO or child that is killed.

Or your house that is trashed.

YMMV

What if it was a cop who did the killing or the trashing (say, hunting for bogus evidence)?

It would be even more interesting if you had told us your personal take on this. Maybe you’ll you’ll be back to address this, but I won’t hold my breath.

Only to people who don’t understand journalism and buy into the left-wing anti-WSJ hype. Sure, they’re more capitalist than, say, the NYT, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re concerned about a police state any more than a leftist would be. After all, look who holds the leash right now.

Police states are not inherently right or left - they are inherently “whoever is in power at the time”.

IMHO, conservatives ought to be more concerned about a police state than others. But they are not because they believe the liberals (read radicals) are in power and must be put down.

Just my HO.

I’m not certain, but I don’t recall any police state being under the control of the opposition party anytime… well, ever. So you statement makes no sense. If liberals are in power and need to be put down - who, exactly, will do it? Not the apparatus of the police state.

Unless you are saying Conservatives are just biding their time, letting the police take more and more power, so that when they DO return to power, they’ll have what they need to take out those in power…

No, sorry, not following you.

It also takes more to be a “police state” than “the police wear scary looking tactical gear” IMHO.

A number of people were making a fuss over the Boston police rolling around in APCs and wearing all their military style tactical gear during the marathon bombings. Isn’t a mad bomber attack the very sort of thing you want to deploy that stuff for?

I’m sure having a SWAT team would have seemed absurd to Newton, CT a year ago.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the police having the equipment and training to deal with these sort of threats. But it is important to have proper oversight in how they are used.

Historically, people with extremist views on religion or government, intolerance towards other races, religions and sexual preferences, a quickness to outrage and anger, and a need to stockpile lots of weapons against some nebulous “they” tend to be the ones with a propensity towards police states.

I might as well chime in. I thought it was ok to have ‘A’ SWAT team in the immediate aftermath. (Although I would expect a bomber would take off immediately afterwards but you never know, it might have been a team of terrorists.) However what I thought was nuts was when they were trying to catch the bomber the following Friday. At that point they knew what they were dealing with and they had thousands of police, a good portion of them playing soldier, trying to catch one guy with some home made bombs and a pistol and they shut down Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown. (Not sure what other cities were shut down.) Oh and they couldn’t find him. That was just ridiculous.

The problem isn’t the gear. The problem is treating routine police activity - which includes the occasional arrest - as if it were combat ops.

I’ve noticed on The First 48 cities just automatically call The Fugitive Apprehension Squad(or whatever that local force calls it) to bring their main suspect in for questioning. One city used the US Marshals. I’m not sure why they’d be used to pick up a suspect for the local police.

It’s like they automatically call in the big guns for a main suspect they just identified a few hours earlier. Just sending a patrol car and knocking on the suspect’s door doesn’t even occur to them anymore.

Usually it’s a suspect they’re close to arresting. They’ll question them one last time and then make the arrest.

The War on Drugs and the War on Terror have spawned a domestic army to fight those wars, and of course they use military equipment, these are WARS dammit! And who is the enemy? We have met him. He is us.

I had no idea that the Feds were so involved in local arrests. I can’t recall which city on The First 48 used the US Marshals. But I know it was a big city. Their local cops just passed off the felony arrests to the Feds.
http://www.usmarshals.gov/investigations/taskfrcs/tskforcs.htm

Assuming it’s true, I find this part mind-blowing:

I wasn’t even aware that police even arrest people for betting on sports with buddies. Let alone launch investigations into it. Let alone call in SWAT.

The criminal justice system has become an industry like any other. The cops make money from drug busts, since they can confiscate cars, homes and bank accounts, so there are lots of drug busts. There is money to be made from the feds by signing up for the War on Drugs, the War on Terror and the (undeclared) Wars on Poor People and Brown People. The feds give out the freebie guns, vests and cool vehicles and the local cops use them. The arrested people go to private prisons where they are slave laborers for large corporations.

The militarization of the police is just part of the overall trend.

Very disturbing trend…and it all started when the Feds started giving out “grant” money to localities…so that these “SWAT” units became common. Very worrying, as in addition to our 4th Amendment rights being violated, the number of mistakes is increasing. A few years ago, a SWAT unit raided the wrong house-a grandfather inside had a heart attack and died. The police reaction? “sorry”. No, these units need to be strictly controlled, and their use carefully monitored. I think we need a second revolution.

This is the problem. Newton may have one event in 20 years that necessitates SWAT team involvement. However, once you have a SWAT team, it seems like a waste to never use it. They’re trained, equipped and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Why have Joe the Beat Cop knock on a door when you can have the SWAT team knock it down instead?

To me, the biggest thing that strikes me as embodying the militarized police mindset is when cops talk about “civilians.”

Uh… they’re not military, they’re not warriors. They’re civilians too. They don’t need to have shaved heads and cop mustaches and look so different from everybody else that it’s obvious that they’re cops when they’re not in uniform.

They should be focusing more on integrating into the communities they police, instead of setting themselves apart from them. I mean I’ve had or heard about enough sketchy-assed encounters with cops who rough people up for non-violent stuff, or come with guns drawn for other silly non-violent or not even criminal actions that I, as a law-abiding white guy in the suburbs, am much more apprehensive about dealing with the police than anyone should have to be.

Anecdotal point:

I got pulled over a few weeks ago for having my state inspection sticker on my pickup out of date.

Did the Dallas PD cops really need one cop talking to me, and the other on the passenger side of my truck- hand on pistol?

Like I said, I’m a 40 year old, white family man who’s never been arrested, and whose most serious run in with the cops was a ticket for running a red light once.

I don’t think I warrant 2 cops, one with a hand on his gun when my damned inspection sticker is out of date! Talk about making me nervous.