The Rise of the Warrior Cop

We will soon return to our regular programming.

But first, I’m passing along a disturbing article in the July issue of the ABA Journal by Radley Balko, entitled “The Rise of the Warrior Cop.”  It is adapted from his just-released book of the same name.  I recommend taking a few minutes to read it (HERE).  It describes the militarization of American police forces that has occurred over the past few years, most notably with the rise of SWAT teams and the use of military equipment and tactics.  For example, in 1984 only about 25% of American cities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams.  By 2005 80% did, with a corresponding increase in the frequency of paramilitary-style raids.  The article describes, in troubling detail, some of the results of this militarization.

Here’s an excerpt, which is food for thought.

Most Americans still believe we live in a free society and revere its core values. These principles are pretty well-known: freedom of speech, religion and the press; the right to a fair trial; representative democracy; equality before the law; and so on. These aren’t principles we hold sacred because they’re enshrined in the Constitution, or because they were cherished by the founders. These principles were enshrined in the Constitution and cherished by the framers precisely because they’re indispensable to a free society. How did we get here? How did we evolve from a country whose founding statesmen were adamant about the dangers of armed, standing government forces—a country that enshrined the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights and revered and protected the age-old notion that the home is a place of privacy and sanctuary—to a country where it has become acceptable for armed government agents dressed in battle garb to storm private homes in the middle of the night—not to apprehend violent fugitives or thwart terrorist attacks, but to enforce laws against nonviolent, consensual activities?

How did a country pushed into a revolution by protest and political speech become one where protests are met with flash grenades, pepper spray and platoons of riot teams dressed like RoboCops? How did we go from a system in which laws were enforced by the citizens—often with noncoercive methods—to one in which order is preserved by armed government agents too often conditioned to see streets and neighborhoods as battlefields and the citizens they serve as the enemy?

If you have a few minutes, have a look at the rest of the article.