A recent New York Times article by Matt Apuzzo reported that in the Obama era, “police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”
Police agencies around the nation possess military-grade equipment, turning officers who are supposed to fight crime and protect communities into what appears to be an invading army. And military-style police raids have increased in recent years, with one count putting the number at 80,000 such raids last year.
Certainly no one realized at the time that when these donations began, they would result in an evolving police state pitting Americans against paramilitary-style police departments, particularly departments not trained properly.
American communities are not battle fields, and American citizens are not the enemy. In response to the public outcry about the militarization of police departments, President Obama has issued a ban on the US government from supplying certain types of military-style equipment to local police departments, as well as control of other weapons and gear supplied to law enforcement, according to a report in The Guardian.
The President’s announcement is in coordination with a 116-page report recommending an even broader taskforce on criminal justice reform, alongside several proposals for local agencies around the US focused on how police can build trust in communities, especially those disproportionately affected by crime, they said.
The report calls on police to “embrace a guardian – rather than a warrior – mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public.”
How the United States became a police state
In June 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought more attention to police militarization when it issued a comprehensive, nearly 100-page report titled, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. Based on public records requests to more than 260 law enforcement agencies in 26 states, the ACLU concluded that this police militarization “unfairly impacts people of color and undermines individual liberties, and it has been allowed to happen in the absence of any meaningful public discussion,” according to Bill Moyers website.
The ACLU reports 11 ways the militarization of police has impacted US Society.
1. Harms and kills innocent people
2. Children are impacted
3. The use of SWAT teams is often unnecessary
4. The “war on terror” is fueling militarization
5. It’s a boon to contractor profits
6. Border militarization and police militarization go hand in hand
7. Police are cracking down on dissent
8. Asset Forfeitures are funding police militarization
9. Dubious informants are used for raids
10. There has been little debate or oversight
11. Communities of color bear the brunt
For a complete description of each of the above visit the link to Bill Moyers website.
Finally, US police departments are not the only entity to gradually become more violent and militarized, for American society has become increasingly violent as each generation becomes desensitized to violence which is evidenced by the perceived need to possess military-style weapons, entertainment choices, romanticizing and encouraging violence beginning in childhood with toys that imprint on young minds that violence is how to problem solve.
The incongruity is clear when we hear consistently crime is down in most cities, yet the incarceration rate in the US is the highest of any country in the world at 716 per 100,000 population as of 2013. These numbers reflect a multitude of problems with the American justice system including the criminalization of drug addiction, but the proliferation of weapons and a “weaponized society” are at the core.
We applaud President Obama for risking criticism from some entities by pulling back on supplying paramilitary-style weaponry to police agencies. This is a start to not only de-militarizing police departments, but also sets a tone for the nation pivoting towards community policing incorporating methodologies of engagement that defuse and mitigate, rather than inflame and escalate.
If the federal government wants to be a partner in change, then it should provide funding for education and training to transform policing in communities. Under the community policing model officers are empowered to identify and solve problems proactively involving a blend of skills: 1) develop community partnerships; 2) engage in problem solving; 3) implement community policing organizational features like using technology to solve crimes and management, recruitment, hiring, and training; 4) reward policing agencies for innovation and creative solutions to keeping the peace using peaceful means.
is retired and lives in Clearlake, California. She has three grown
children and one grandson and a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services
Administration from St. Mary’s College in Moraga California. On the
home front Dava enjoys time with her family, reading, gardening, cooking