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The PJ Tatler

by
Liz Sheld

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August 18, 2014 - 12:32 pm

It is becoming highly unlikely the civil unrest in Ferguson will provide an opportunity for a serious evaluation of the militarization of America’s police forces. Instead, the commentariat and its associates have tribalized into typical camps regarding the topic of law and order vs. race relations.

Nevertheless, the issue of a militarized police force is still a serious matter and in need of attention. It seems a shame to squander an opportunity where the massive, militarized, intimidating capabilities of America’s police forces are on display for the entire country to see in favor of a replay of predictable partisan fighting.

The issue is represented by some, crudely, as an either/or situation. Either we need police forces that have a jacked-up assault capacity in case there is civil unrest or we have a police force under-assisted and over-powered, forced to watch as havoc is spread among innocent members of society.

But I believe this is a false dichotomy.

There are no serious arguments being made that we should abandon the current militarization in favor of an anorexic or crippled capacity to respond to civil unrest or violence.

The central issue here is: under what circumstances, if at all, should the capacity for force and intimidation be deployed against the public by the state? And this becomes controversial when one wants to answer that the capacity should be preventative rather than responsive.

Responsive force entails responding to a situation where public safety is being threatened.

On the other hand, preventative force and intimidation is far more problematic from a civil liberties perspective because it is the police force itself introducing the element of disruption into the civil equation. When a massive force rolls into Ferguson during a peaceful rally in the middle of the day, can we really say this doesn’t result in intimidation, at the least, and antagonism, at the worst? Does the presence of intimidating MRAPs, military-esque rifles, and costumed-up police force have no effect on the public to which it is directed?

And for those inclined to say “yes” there is no effect, I respond: standard gun safety rules dictate that you DO NOT point your gun at something you are not prepared to shoot. Do you really think you have the right to free speech or free assembly when you are, literally, in the state’s crosshairs?

The consequence of such state action is that the free speech is chilled and the right to free assembly is and will continue to be thwarted whenever the state decides it might need to “prevent” a problem. This is a dangerous position for a free society to find itself in because the citizens have ceded their rights to the discretion of the state with the hope the state will not use that power to quash dissent. Perhaps today it is not your free speech or free assembly immediately at risk, but as long as we agree it falls under the purview of the state to dispatch fantastic displays of force with a view toward the prevention of discord, the possibility one day it will be your rights at risk is imminent.

Liz Sheld is Editor-at-Large at PJ Media. Follow her on twitter @starchambermaid

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Any responsible plan to reduce the top end capability of the police to handle crowd problems is an implicit call to reduce the threshold where the national guard is called out. Now it's possible that the author is just a moron, but maybe asking a question or two prior to drawing conclusions would be helpful.

There's a lot in this situation that would be helped by asking questions before drawing conclusions.

As for my personal opinion, I'm in favor of not militarizing the police where that's relevant and demilitarizing them where necessary. The police should be a distinct tool from the military, used in appropriate situations, which is most of the time.

When the situation calls for more than a peace officer force can reasonably be expected to give, the police should be trained to call for military assistance and how to hold out until it arrives, preserving as much order as they can as safely as they can.

If the military is being called out too often, then it is likely that there is something wrong with the political class that is running the place.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The question should be: At what point do the police become so well-armed, that they can, in the control of a corrupt (Leftist?) government, deny us our Constitutional rights? And, how do we correct it, before it is too late?

You may find this link interesting, as an example of why the 2nd Amendment was written: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Athens_(1946)
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, yes, Boston...

Where the alert and brave law enforcement nipped a terrorist attack on a high-profile event in the bud! Whups, no... where two bombs went off.

Well, but the alert and brave law enforcement got one of the amateur terrorists right off the bat, using their superior equipment and training! Whups, no... where the other amateur terrorist accidentally ran over his mate with a SUV.

OK, OK, where the alert and brave law enforcement zeroed in on the hiding place of the second one, bringing him to swift justice! Whups, dang it, just can't win... where the second one was found under a backyard boat by a homeowner, after the "alert and brave" law enforcement had kicked down the doors of the houses of completely innocent people, herding them into the street at gunpoint, and generally creating far more terror than the original two bombs ever did.

Yup.

That thin blue line will be somewhat useful, though - might give those of us who do know what we are doing in an urban combat situation time to open our gunsafes, and load up some spare magazines. We can hope for, what, maybe 15 minutes? (Competent people, do remember to keep your heads down while that thin blue line get itself torn apart - since at least nine out of ten rounds that they fire are going to go nowhere NEAR the enemy.)
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (47)
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I am sympathetic to the libertarian case against the militarized police, especially regarding the SWAT raids against ordinary hoomes and businesses for minor matters, where there is little indication of armed threat. But this is the wrong case to bring it up, because when you are dealing with looting and rioting, you need militarized police, because once looting and rioting has started, any mob, even a seemingly peaceful one, can be dangerous. Trying to bring up the argument in this non-applicable case only weakens an otherwise good argument, and makes libertarians look like they dont want to forcibly deal with looting and rioting.

"When a massive force rolls into Ferguson during a peaceful rally in the middle of the day, can we really say this doesn’t result in intimidation, at the least, and antagonism, at the worst?"
Except this mob was not always peaceful, the looting occured every day, and the one day when the police pulled back and the riots did not happen, the looting got even worse.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
For the last damn time, THERE IS NO MILITARIZATION OF CIVILIAN POLICE FORCES!!!

I am beginning to wonder if this site has Libertarians or Liberetards writing for it. With each pronouncement about how the military has been supplying police forces with equipment an implied exclamation point cries out that our police forces are being prepared to enforce the Federal government's wishes through the use of military force. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you are talking about a Federal agency the law enforcement you are afraid of is your local force, chosen directly or indirectly by you!

Let's break down this term "militarization" for a moment. Just what does that mean? What is the difference between a non-militarized police force and our actual military? At some point the line becomes blurred when you talk about weapons. After all, a gun is a military item still in use by all militaries around the world. Is it right for policemen to have guns? What about sticks or knives? That seems a little silly, doesn't it. What about protective equipment? For that matter what about handcuffs and cell blocks?

Oh, you say they have military assault rifles. Hmmm. Well how is it that so many libertarian and conservative types are quick to point out how silly it is to call an civilian firearm painted black and that looks like an M16 a military weapon? And so what if that semi-automatic is made automatic? Are you now arguing that civilians and police should never have automatic rifles that are easily carried on a shoulder? We aren't talking bazookas, mortars, or tank rounds, just shoulder borne rifles.

The surplus military equipment that all these law enforcement agencies are receiving has been stripped of it's military capability as our armed forces understand it to be. The armored vehicles and robots no longer have any offensive capability. They certainly look military but they are not functionally. The millions of dollars all tax payers spent to produce these items would go to waste otherwise AND the local taxpayers would have to pay a lot more to get a "non-military" version of the same thing. For instance, an armored vehicle to allow police protection against heavily armed assailants will cost your local agency about $250,000.00 give or take a few hundred grand. Will you be willing to pay for it through higher property or sales tax?

I don't know when in our countries history any of our local law enforcement agencies have not straddled the line between civilian capable and military capable equipment. It is inherent in the task we have assigned them! It is because these men and women serve from within our own community ranks that they have policies and procedures against the use of military force not needed to keep the peace. Your local agency is likely the first to defend you against an organized threat from beyond. Why deprive them of the basic tools they need to serve and protect you?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think there is a real issue of inapropriate use of militarized police equipment. But this case, where you had criminal looting and rioting, is definitely the wrong case to bring it up.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Disclaimers:
I am a cop & SWAT team member.
I am very conservative, pro 2nd Amend and teach CPL classes to civilians.

I have been reading several articles on conservative sites regarding the militarization of police and would like to bring some clarity to this issue.

Cops have had upgrades in equipment, weapons and tactics. This has been going on since the beginning of law enforcement. No technology or skill is static and weapons and tactics are no exception.

Citizens in most states can own semi-auto handguns, military-type rifles, and body armor. In some states full-auto guns, suppressors, and short-barrels rifles & shotguns are also legal. They can also receive tactical firearms training. I am all for this. By all means have your suppressed full-auto short-barrel AR15 and level IV body armor. Carry a pistol everywhere you go. Have whatever you think you need to protect yourself and family. I'm not for any kind of gun restriction or registration at all.

However, if you can have it so can I. I'll not be trading in my Glock for a .38 revolver with a widow-maker flap holster so you won't feel intimidated. I'll also keep my AR & plate carrier in the trunk as well, thank you very much. They won't come out every call but they damn sure will if I think I need them. Likewise on a SWAT call-out I'll have full body armor, helmet and AR15. I signed up to risk my life and I'm ok with that, but I'll be using the best tools I can get.

"SWAT is used too much and sometimes you hit the wrong house!"
Yes mistakes do get made and this is not good. But these articles are cherry picking a few bad incidents and throwing the baby out with the bath water. The vast majority of SWAT call-outs and raids are on target and most times a shot is never even fired. Where are the articles on SWAT teams saving lives? We do save lives.

"The war on drugs is futile and you guys are targeting harmless pot-dealers!"
Personally I don't care if people want to get high. However, drugs go hand-in-hand with other crime. People that sell and buy drugs often commit other crimes as well - burglary, robbery, and murder. Even your "harmless" pot dealers. We often find guns and stolen property when we raid "harmless pot dealers." Criminals commit crimes to get money to buy drugs.

"No-knock raids are wrong!"
Really? So, how much knocking do I need to do? How much time do I need to give criminals to destroy evidence, load their guns and fortify their position? I think I'll do my knocking with a ram and a flashbang instead. Or should we forgo raids altogether? Perhaps we should attempt to take down armed criminals in the street and have gun battles in the open among the citizenry, or have more car chases that endanger everyone?

"You are using military tactics, it's bad!"
So if I use reality-tested special ops CQB tactics that minimize police and hostage casualties that is bad? Really? I should disregard vital and proven knowledge because it originated from the military?

"Police look too intimidating!"
Good, that's the look I'm going for. If I can intimidate a bad guy and get him to comply without using force it is a good thing. SWAT teams use speed, distraction and intimidation to overwhelm bad guys so we don't have to shoot them. It works. Most SWAT raids not a shot is fired.

"You guys have tanks and grenade launchers."
An armored car or MRAP is not a tank. It is a big bullet-proof truck. Our armored cars are not armed with 120mm cannons or TOW missiles. We do not have grenade launchers. We have 37mm and 40mm chemical and less-lethal launchers. We shoot tear-gas and bean-bag rounds. They are not capable of firing HE grenades. Armored cars and chemical/less-lethal launchers have been around since the 60's. Ours are just newer and more bad ass looking.


Yes there are some bad cops, negligent cops, rude cops and crazy cops. They are the minority. Cops do make mistakes and sometimes things can get covered up. But many cops also get suspended, fired or convicted of crimes and go to prison.

Yes we use force. We also run into burning buildings, give CPR, rescue drowning people and dogs, find runaways and help stranded motorists. We also get cussed out, puked on, urinated on, spit on, bit, punched, kicked, stabbed and shot.

Are allies are few. The Left hates us. Now it appears that a noticeable portion of the right does as well. This is disheartening. Sometimes I think we should all throw our badges in a bucket and let you guys see how well you handle it on your own, but then I go to work the next day anyway.

The other day we hit a house in a bad neighborhood. At house down the street, a lady come out on her porch and thanked us and said we should come around more often. We were in full battle-rattle, armed to the teeth but she wasn't intimidated. We thanked her and carried on.

Regarding Ferguson, the people who are looting, destroying property, throwing molotov cocktails and shooting people are not assembling peaceably to exer
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
We're not addressing a grievance against what you think ought to be, but against what is. Which your possession of gear we are unconstitutionally prohibited from having.

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/193639/

"Yes there are some bad cops, negligent cops, rude cops and crazy cops. They are the minority."

Since I think that attitude includes most of you, I'm thinking the problem isn't a minority of you.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do not beleive that riot geat, tear gas, rubber bulets, heavy rifles, and even an armored car, is inapropriate in a looting and riot situation. It is only inapropriate if used in a situation that does not warrent that level of force, which does happen too often in these SWAT raids.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
What the hell are you talking about?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
police force we want. Or is it we don't have confidence that we can govern at a local level and want some sort of federal action?

I realize all the federal & state incentives to increase equipment and develop SWAT teams, etc. has had negative effects. Still, local cops respond to local politicians and to the local population. Make it an issue and get the votes to get rid of what you don't like, if you can. We scream & yell that we want local control, that government is too big and then we come across a local issue and instead of tackling it locally, suddenly it's a national crisis!!!1eleventy!!1

I think what really bothers me about this whole movement is that we're using the libs’ dishonest tactics to put it out there (likely with the help of others who have a more sinister agenda): constant scare stories / photos of dead dogs/ constant demonizing of cops / pictures of “scary” (cue Uncle Floyd voice) vehicles & equipment / impending doom-crisis / something must be done now/ demagoguery. Not only are these tactics dishonest but none of these even hint at the conservative/libertarian message that this issue should be dealt with at a local level. In fact, it almost screams, “Call Chuck Schumer today!”

By the way, the Ferguson incident is not applicable in any way. They had NO special militarized equipment: any that was brought in came from St. Louis and the County. Again, like liberals, this issue was brought in under false pretenses because by the time the "special forces" were brought in, they were damn well needed.

I live in a beautiful but crappy, inner-ring, mixed-race suburb of Philly. We have a tough police department, just the way I like it because we're on our way to becoming Philly. Our police department is incredibly responsive and reacts swiftly to both crime and public opinion. And they love law-abiding citizens. Yet I'm constantly told by pundits and academics, who live in expensive, upper-crust neighborhoods, that my police department has to be kinder and gentler. Do you have any idea what it sounds like on a Saturday night in my neighborhood?

I just think we need to step back and reassess. How significant is the problem, is it a problem for every community, how best should it be addressed on a local level, what, if any federal action is needed and how can we improve relations between local communities and their police forces. Because most of us need the police & demonizing them ain’t gonna get it done. Besides, we’re not progressives.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Do you really think you have the right to free speech or free assembly when you are, literally, in the state’s crosshairs?"

If I have equivalent guns facing the other way, yes. That's why there should be no prohibitions on the private ownership of equipment of military use.

Way too many people on this site lost track of the notion, 'I loathe what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."

Way too many people on the right want to abandon 1775.

They don't believe in it.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Have any looters been shot by the store owners? Could those store owners claim self-defense? There was a time when you could shoot to save life and property. Is it still possible? Just curious.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ferguson needs more Korean shopkeepers, those guys knew how to stop looting and rioting.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's another facet to it all: The city of Ferguson is likely broke (along with much of its population); St Louis County is teetering on broke - chronically; The school districts are always moaning about being broke (but we never saw a tax hike or bond that we can resist passing); the state is teetering on broke; The federal gov needs $18 trillion just to elevate itself to broke.

We can't really afford the primer for a 40cal bullet, let alone city + county + state cops + national guard. You see, we pissed it all away, long ago.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
"military-esque rifles" - Hey, you sound like Nancy Pelosi talking about "gun control".
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey, you sound like you don't have a point.

You should try making it again.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Barack Obama and his criticism hating cabal are the biggest threat to "free speech".

Or as Benjamin Franklin put it in the (now sounds quaint) language of the 18th century:

“Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech; a Thing terrible to Publick Traytors…That Men ought to speak well of their Governours is true, while their Governours deserve to be well spoken of; but to do publick Mischief, without hearing of it, is only the Prerogative and Felicity of Tyranny…Only the wicked Governours of Men dread what is said of them…”
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
What I have learned from Ferguson is that military weapons and tactics need to be left to the military (domestically, that means primarily the Guard).
Principal 1 of good policing: "To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment."
http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/policeNine.php
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
What about this situation has taught you this?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The supposedly professional police painting the non-rioting protesters with laser sights.

Also their population wide habit of confiscating cameras.

Also the fact we are in a ham sandwich nation as Glenn Reynolds puts it.

The fact Judge Napolitano has demonstrated we all commit around three felonies a day.


The fact no one can be in law enforcement in this nation have as many scuzzy laws as it does and anyone in law enforcement not be scuzzy until proven otherwise.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you listen to Glenn no wonder you think that. He is smart guy on many fronts, but his adolescent rebellion to Police authority is comical. It get's scary when other people adopt his view, though, since it isn't based in reality.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The supposedly professional police painting the non-rioting protesters with laser sights.

Also their population wide habit of confiscating cameras.

Also the fact we are in a ham sandwich nation as Glenn Reynolds puts it
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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