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.