Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Militarization of American Police Forces

Andy Taylor was a popular TV character in the 60s. He was a local sheriff in the small town of Mayberry, had one bumbling deputy, and never really ran into too much trouble. In fact, during the entire 249 episode run of "The Andy Griffith Show," I don't recall him drawing his service weapon more than twice, if he carried one at all. He was loved and respected by the community, and he kept them safe with a mix of stern compassion, and discretionary enforcement.

This was the image of the "Good Cop" that became popular in America in the last century. In stories, and in the media, the police were always the good guys and more often than not, the "beat cop" would walk up and down neighborhood and city streets armed with little more than a nightstick, the law, and his wit. He made friends with local businesses who felt safe having him always just a few blocks away and his presence on the street allowed the public to see and get to know the man who they could call on for help, should they ever need it. The people trusted their local policeman. Now ask yourself, would Andy Taylor have ever driven a vehicle like this?

Note the machine gun mount at the top and the desert brown paint, in an area that's clearly not a desert. This is obviously a military hand-me-down and as you'll see below, the uniform of these officers is a military style camouflage.

Who are they trying to hide from with that forest camo pattern? Are they hunting? Or are they just trying to look more like the army they've become? Does law enforcement really require military vehicles, uniforms, and weapons these days? There were gangs during prohibition in the 30s, as well, but local police forces never needed anything like this. You'd think these vehicles were practically tanks, but they're not by definition. They're armored personnel carriers. They do have actual tanks though...

If you're wondering who they're gearing up to fight, it's you. These weapons are meant to be used against our own people, should they get out of line. There was a time, however, when the police weren't an army, and it was 1997. The North Hollywood Shootout scared a lot of important people at the time and for good reason. Two bank robbers, dressed head to toe in body armor and carrying assault weapons, robbed a Bank of America branch. Unable to escape in time, they met with police and overpowered the officers. In the process, they injured eleven people, while paying practically no mind to the 9mm rounds the police were firing back. So insanely outgunned, the police had to commandeer bigger weapons from a local gun store, and eventually, only after a hour stand off, two police snipers managed to hit their mark in the culprit's only unarmored location, their heads.

Ever since this incident, police have been heavily arming themselves, so that their authority can never be undermined again. It was embarrassing, to say the least, that our police were so easily outmatched by just two gunmen. The sentiment, at the time, was to re-train and re-arm, and re-arm they did. S.W.A.T. teams began training with military special forces, and precincts across the country started to acquire armored vehicles.

Even after obtaining all of this firepower, they were still afraid. They began to hide and devote more time to undercover operations with all the paranoia and skulduggery of organizations like the CIA, but with none of the training or experience. Instead of being visible and present to prevent crime, they instead would lie in wait to respond to crime, allowing it to happen so they could then punish the criminal. Military style raids, much like the one that killed Osama bin Laden, were being carried out in the homes of private citizens, many of whom were only suspected of selling an illegal plant. The extra money from tickets and fines that came in when the police allowed a crime to happen, instead of preventing it, was incentive enough to abandon the visible "beat cop," altogether, in most jurisdictions. They now rode exclusively in cars, conspicuous, yet unseen. You know it's a police vehicle, but you can no longer see the officer's face until he's in yours.

As they ramped up their "War" on drugs, they began to see all citizens as potential enemy combatants, retraining for caution over all else. The safety of the officer became far more important than the safety of the citizens they were detaining,  and they began to look far more like a military fighting an actual war than a civilian ran force employed to defend the general citizenry from actual harm. If the vehicle in the above photo didn't say "SWAT," or "POLICE," would you be able to tell if the man in uniform was a police officer or a U.S. Army soldier? The answer to that question is, most definitely, NO.

When our police become an army, we are living under martial law.

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  1. Today policemem like show of the power that the citizen have put at their finger tip's
    you would have to wounder if maybe the kkk, has some how pinetrated the fouce !

  2. If you ass me look's like a bunch of bully waiting too kill , don't even see any black
    police men ,is it because there are no black kkk, I think so , just telling you black
    kids stay out of the way of these killers ,they are just waiting for a reson to say
    something like Oh, look like he was going to speek so I shot first ,if he lives I'll
    asst why is he talking to me I'm the law!