Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Militarization of our Police




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 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 and the police 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 alot 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, injuring 11 while being practically impervious to the 9mm rounds the police were firing back. So outgunned, the police had to resort to commandeering bigger weapons from a local gun store and eventually after hours two police snipers managed to hit their mark in their only unarmored location, their heads.

Ever since this incident, police have been arming themselves so their authority is never 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.



And with 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 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 citizens who were merely suspected of selling an illegal plant. The extra money from tickets and fines that came in when you allowed a crime to happen instead of preventing it, was incentive 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. If the vehicle above didn't say "SWAT" could you tell if the man in uniform was a police officer or a U.S. Army soldier?

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

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