Get PJ Media on your Apple

Hot Topic: Are Police in America Too Militarized?

It's not just the weapons. It's a state of mind.

by
The Editors

Bio

August 18, 2014 - 1:36 pm

The debate now raging over how much is too much as far as the militarization of America’s police departments is long overdue.

SWAT teams have been outfitted with the latest military-grade weapons and equipment. Small communities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on armored vehicles and other military hardware.

And it’s not only equipment, as the Wall Street Journal recently explained:

Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

Congress is currently considering amending the legislation that makes military hardware available to local police departments.

“Warrior-cops” they may be, but there is a real danger that Congress will go too far in stripping police of the tools they need to protect the public. The issue calls for striking the right balance between protecting the public from an overly militarized police force, and protecting the police from criminals who, themselves, are becoming better armed and equipped.

You’ve heard the arguments from the pundits and politicians. Now it’s your turn. Are police in America too militarized? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Up front - I play for "team blue," but the things I will share I believe are fair representations of events.

I would suggest to you all that, well crafted paragraph of Wall Street Journal prose, about the warrior cop driven by "martial rhetoric" has wandered well off the path of fact. We are (as we always have been) constrained by law and policy. These are constants, that move slowly and I do not believe that anyone can point to some huge shift that has occurred in them nationally. Some may point at "post 911" encroachments on individual rights - however the thin blue line is not the NSA and the CIA. In terms of the everyday practices and conduct of cop work I cannot think of any functional effect on how uniform officers conduct patrol or handle calls.

I have no greater (nor diminished) legal authority to use deadly force than I did 25 years ago when I got hired. It is exactly the same. Since 02 April 89 - my hire date) internal PD policy has not loosened it's control on the amount of force I use, it's constrained it (I can no longer shoot at a moving vehicle). 25 years ago I told a blood covered, psychotic man with a straight razor (as he cut pieces out of his own arm) I had contained in a corner of a basement, "you step this way I will F##king shoot you in the guts until you die." Frankly if the Chief and his staff at the time were to be watching on closed circuit tv, they wouldn't have batted an eyelash. Today any profane language is a sustained complaint 25 years ago there was no "civilian review board" that was an accepted and internal part of the PD's review of police conduct. I would believe (without the research - just a probabilities exercise) the same thing applies to nearly every other cop.

I agree with the higher standard of conduct. If you want to put on your armor and shield and go out to do good works, you need to conduct yourself as a knight. Put another way if you want to be a superhero you can't get angry and drop an F bomb. The standards of conduct are higher now than 25 years ago. The review of behavior more transparent and even involving members of the community.

Back in the "day" I had a pistol, and a light that doubled as an impact tool. That was it. Today I have a tiny little light source, a separate impact tool, a canister of OC spray, and a Taser to bring to on any given problem. JUST LAST NIGHT I supervised a call where our arrested guy was 6 foot 6 and 400 pounds. That's a life very well saved in today's world of LE technology - as the Taser gained INSTANT compliance and in the past the average cop would have no tool but deadly force to stop a perp of that size.

My Dept also accepted some Govt M16A1s. More than a decade ago rifles became an optional weapon and now they are common, but not required gear. Mulling it over for a bit in that more than a decade I can think of one routine patrol call where a rifle was fired. I can recall two shootings with shotguns in my career (I may be missing some. I am working from memory. . . but my point would be that these more powerful tools are in the car, unless it's a call that by it's very nature compels you to carry the tool with you as you go. And that is just UNCOMMON) SLC had two "killings in progress" calls; the LDS Church Library, and the Trolley Square homicides where rifles were fired. Seriously would you NOT want cops to have a tool that increases the average officers ability to effectively engage a target over 15 yards by a factor of 4?

My dept has a tactical team of which I was a member for years. For all those years (90 - 2000) our most common function was "no knock" warrant service. Now - the national standard for warrant service, as advocated by the National Tactical Officers Association and quickly becoming the "norm" as opposed to the rule - is "Surround and call out." No more speed surprise and violence of action. Surround, contact, and call out. Our team hasn't done a "no knock" in years that I know of. Go to the NTOA's page and read up. These are facts, not supposition. No knock warrants are dinosaurs. I DO NOT see that on the news.

I don't have an armored vehicle in my tool bag. But you bet I would take one. Please find me a PD where cops come to "every call" in an MRAP. It's all about the Benjamins. Believe me the Chief isn't paying for the gas. From the cop standpoint what you need is the ability to move around in a place where you can't be shot, and a mass of people can't bust the glass out and gain access to you. So can move across space that a nut with a rifle might control. Or move through an area where a bomb blast might occur. "Oh like that will ever happen". . . yup, just last year in downtown SLC we deployed our tired old donated armored car to move people around a perp with an explosive device. Would I have taken an MRAP that day as opposed to the bank car that AT BEST will stop pistol rounds. Absolutely. Note: We had that armored car for
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Are police in America too militarized?"

Yes, next question
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (30)
All Comments   (30)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Let's back up and look at the larger picture before we address the militarization of the police. The larger problem is the advent of policing powers for virtually every Federal agency in the country. The SWAT Team raid on Gibson Guitar for using allegedly illegal wood in their guitars is a case in point. A federal agency came bursting in, in full military gear, scaring the employees to death, disrupting the whole company, confiscating expensive resources and never, I repeat, never, filed one. single. charge. Not one!

Remove the policing power from these alphabet soup agencies. Respect our pre-existing, God-given right to keep and bear arms. THEN we'll talk about the militarization of the police.

P.S. As an ex-Marine I know a thing or two about the military, and appearances aside, the police don't even come close to acting like Marines or Soldiers.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Mark Twain
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think the real problem is that the citizenry has been demilitarized and their right to defend themselves and carry firearms seriously infringed upon. This trend towards more pervasive common and liberal open and concealed carry laws is a step in the right direction.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not materials that counts”
-Mao Tse-Tung
Those weapons are intended to be used against American citizens. Like most things it does, this administration has not thought this through. The police recieving the weapons are half trained at best. The citizens on the other hand, can muster a LOT more people trained to use them 90+% of the troops that fought in Iraq are now back home and looking for jobs.
ISIL (IN IRAQ) is using mostly captured American weapons. They captrured them from the Iraqi Army but still. They are being manned by Iraqi's trained by Americans. It is normal for trained men to take the weapons from untrained nmen and use them against the former owners.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
PS: The "bayonets" thing. . .I am not aware of any bayonet charge since WW I. Could have happened I guess. There is not reason for a bayonet in LE work. I have NEVER seen or heard of any use of bayonets in LE work. SWAT, crowd control, nothing. And you find NOTHING on google. Indicative of the (with all due respect) spin of this whole argument. Do you want police with bayonets (well no. . . ahem. . them don't exist). Do you want police going to every call in in MRAP (ummmm. . .no. . . well there are no cops that do that). What are police doing with TANKS!!!?? I can't find any PD that has a "tank."
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The establishment is full of fearful people. So they project and think their opponents are as full of fear as they are. They just do not understand that a man with nothing to lose has lost his fear. You cannot intimidate them. They fear bayonets so they think everybody fears them. The truth is they are cowards. They cannot face that fact, which has a lot to do with the problem. When intimidation doesn't work there is no plan B.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
First thing: unless the police are trying to sneak up on a suspect holed up in a cabin in the woods, there is NO reason for police to be wearing camo. Dress up a cop to look like a soldier, he'll act like one.

Next, rather than send APCs to every Mayberry in the country, if Uncle Sam wants to make a contribution to law enforcement let them pay for dashcams in every single vehicle.

Finally, let's start going through the thousands of pages of laws on the books and junk all the ones that protect no one and merely serve as revenue collection/protection devices. Why did 4 cops need to drag Eric Garner to the ground? Because he might have sold somebody a loose cigarette. The fiend! A true menace to society!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Up front - I play for "team blue," but the things I will share I believe are fair representations of events.

I would suggest to you all that, well crafted paragraph of Wall Street Journal prose, about the warrior cop driven by "martial rhetoric" has wandered well off the path of fact. We are (as we always have been) constrained by law and policy. These are constants, that move slowly and I do not believe that anyone can point to some huge shift that has occurred in them nationally. Some may point at "post 911" encroachments on individual rights - however the thin blue line is not the NSA and the CIA. In terms of the everyday practices and conduct of cop work I cannot think of any functional effect on how uniform officers conduct patrol or handle calls.

I have no greater (nor diminished) legal authority to use deadly force than I did 25 years ago when I got hired. It is exactly the same. Since 02 April 89 - my hire date) internal PD policy has not loosened it's control on the amount of force I use, it's constrained it (I can no longer shoot at a moving vehicle). 25 years ago I told a blood covered, psychotic man with a straight razor (as he cut pieces out of his own arm) I had contained in a corner of a basement, "you step this way I will F##king shoot you in the guts until you die." Frankly if the Chief and his staff at the time were to be watching on closed circuit tv, they wouldn't have batted an eyelash. Today any profane language is a sustained complaint 25 years ago there was no "civilian review board" that was an accepted and internal part of the PD's review of police conduct. I would believe (without the research - just a probabilities exercise) the same thing applies to nearly every other cop.

I agree with the higher standard of conduct. If you want to put on your armor and shield and go out to do good works, you need to conduct yourself as a knight. Put another way if you want to be a superhero you can't get angry and drop an F bomb. The standards of conduct are higher now than 25 years ago. The review of behavior more transparent and even involving members of the community.

Back in the "day" I had a pistol, and a light that doubled as an impact tool. That was it. Today I have a tiny little light source, a separate impact tool, a canister of OC spray, and a Taser to bring to on any given problem. JUST LAST NIGHT I supervised a call where our arrested guy was 6 foot 6 and 400 pounds. That's a life very well saved in today's world of LE technology - as the Taser gained INSTANT compliance and in the past the average cop would have no tool but deadly force to stop a perp of that size.

My Dept also accepted some Govt M16A1s. More than a decade ago rifles became an optional weapon and now they are common, but not required gear. Mulling it over for a bit in that more than a decade I can think of one routine patrol call where a rifle was fired. I can recall two shootings with shotguns in my career (I may be missing some. I am working from memory. . . but my point would be that these more powerful tools are in the car, unless it's a call that by it's very nature compels you to carry the tool with you as you go. And that is just UNCOMMON) SLC had two "killings in progress" calls; the LDS Church Library, and the Trolley Square homicides where rifles were fired. Seriously would you NOT want cops to have a tool that increases the average officers ability to effectively engage a target over 15 yards by a factor of 4?

My dept has a tactical team of which I was a member for years. For all those years (90 - 2000) our most common function was "no knock" warrant service. Now - the national standard for warrant service, as advocated by the National Tactical Officers Association and quickly becoming the "norm" as opposed to the rule - is "Surround and call out." No more speed surprise and violence of action. Surround, contact, and call out. Our team hasn't done a "no knock" in years that I know of. Go to the NTOA's page and read up. These are facts, not supposition. No knock warrants are dinosaurs. I DO NOT see that on the news.

I don't have an armored vehicle in my tool bag. But you bet I would take one. Please find me a PD where cops come to "every call" in an MRAP. It's all about the Benjamins. Believe me the Chief isn't paying for the gas. From the cop standpoint what you need is the ability to move around in a place where you can't be shot, and a mass of people can't bust the glass out and gain access to you. So can move across space that a nut with a rifle might control. Or move through an area where a bomb blast might occur. "Oh like that will ever happen". . . yup, just last year in downtown SLC we deployed our tired old donated armored car to move people around a perp with an explosive device. Would I have taken an MRAP that day as opposed to the bank car that AT BEST will stop pistol rounds. Absolutely. Note: We had that armored car for
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice personal post. However, here are some sobering stats:

In 2012, police in the line of duty shot and killed 410 civilians. In Germany, a nation of 80 million and a nation with a no-nonsense police force, the number was 6. As a matter of fact, the total number of rounds fired in the line of duty by the German Polezei in 2011 was 85. In 2011, in one incident alone, Miami Dade Police fired 100 rounds alone at one civilian (who obviously didn't survive to tell the tale).

There is obviously a difference between our law enforcement officers and other nations. In my neck of the woods, a fully decked out SWAT team (or whatever they're called) arrived in full body armor, combat vests, M-4 carbines, shot guns and an armored car to a domestic disturbance call. There is no Thin Blue Line, anymore. It is a fully decked out assault force.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
All I know is that I'm a lot happier when I'm far away from both cops and criminals. That's why I stay out of cities whenever possible.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Use of military-style tactics and equipment has not been limited to just riots and the like. There is an increasing tendency to use to use them, for example, to serve simple warrants for relatively minor crimes. This is how innocent people have been shot when the police roar up to the wrong house, and how children have been half blown up with flash bangs.
This is not a new trend or debate; Robert Farago's "The Truth About Guns" (http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com) blog has been covering it for at least two years.
Even smaller communities without major crime problems have gotten the equipment because it's "free." If they really need it, let them make the case for it, budget for it, and buy it from their own funds. I'll wager we would see very few armored trucks, etc., bought.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The word you want is 'Constabulary'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constabulary

There may be some initial difficulty in convincing the public
to apply a word usually reserved for the governance of
conquered territories to areas of the US, but after a few
_real_ riots, on the scale of those back in the Day in LA
and Detroit, the public outside the riot zones will agree.

Likewise, after a few unfortunate incidents outside the Zones,
the public will replace a good many city and state level leadership
structures, who will in turn retrain their police departments.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All