The militarization of the police has been seen across the country. On the Treasure Coast we have witnessed an MRAP respond to the scene of a police murdering a man for answering his door.
Simply answering aggressive knocks on your door with a gun sent Fort Pierce into Defcon 3.
The local law enforcement, which protect your property by stealing your property, says they may one day need the military equipment.
The recipients of the federal waste claim they will rarely use military equipment against citizens.
But, they say, it’s used only when needed, typically in rare cases
Yet time and time again SWAT raids are carried out for minor infractions which only creates more havoc.
The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.
Law enforcement has a culture of using intimidation to coerce submission just or unjust. The use of MRAPS, grenade launchers and other military equipment not needed in Iraq has no place on the streets here.
Fort Pierce has made national news with the rise of the militarized cops.
The Ft. Pierce police chief states, “The military was pretty much handing them out. … You know, it is overkill, until we need it.”
And Port St. Lucie’s Buldic:
“When you say militarization of the police, I think we need to back off and focus on the mission,” Bolduc said. “We’re peacekeepers, we’re community policing, we’re here to protect the rights of all citizens.”
But are today’s law enforcement officers the equivalent of peace officers?
Jeff Deist writes:
The archetype of a peace officer is mostly fictitious — sheriffs in westerns often come to mind, stern lawmen carrying Colt revolvers called “Peacemakers.” But the Wyatt Earps of western myth weren’t always so peaceful, and often, at least in movies, used their Peacemakers to shoot up the place.
Outside the Old West archetype, Sheriff Andy Taylor of the Andy Griffith Show is perhaps the best and most facile example of what it once meant, at least in the American psyche, to be a peace officer. Now of course the Andy Griffith show was fictional. And there’s no doubt that many, many small town sheriffs in America over the decades have been anything but peace officers. Yet it’s fascinating that just a few decades ago Americans could identify with the character of Sheriff Taylor as a recognizable ideal.
Obviously the situation today is very different, and we all know how far things have fallen. Police have suffered a very serious decline over the last several decades, both in terms of their public image and the degree to which average citizens now often fear police officers rather than trust them. We can note also that poor and minority communities have long been less trusting, or perhaps less naïve, about the real nature of police. But today that jaundiced view has found its way into middle-class consciousness.
Now the subject of police misconduct and the growing militarization and lawlessness of police departments could fill many hours, and several libertarian writers are doing a great job of documenting police malfeasance, as in the excellent work of investigative journalist William Norman Grigg.
But allow me to mention some particularly egregious recent examples of police action escalating and harming, rather than protecting and serving.
As just one example, we can point to the case in which a 90-pound, mentally-ill young man very recently was killed by three so-called law enforcement officers from three different agencies in Southport, North Carolina. He was apparently having a schizophrenic episode and brandishing a screwdriver when police arrived in answer to his family’s 911 call asking for “help.” The first two officers managed to calm the young man down, but the third escalated the situation, demanding that the other officers use a taser to subdue him. Once his body hit the ground the young man was brutally shot at close range by the third officer, for reasons that remain unclear.
As another example, we could note the beating death of Kelly Thomas by police in Fullerton, California. The beating was seen as so brutal and unjustified by many members of the community that it led to the recall of three members of the Fullerton City Council who defended the police department in the wake of the beating.
So here we see modern police at work. Escalation. Aggression. A lack of common sense, making a bad situation worse. Overriding concern for the safety of police officers, regardless of the consequences for those being “protected.” These are not the hallmarks of peace officers, to put it mildly.
Another troubling development that demonstrates how far we’ve strayed from the peace officer ideal can be seen in the increasing militarization of local police departments. The Florida city of Ft. Pierce (population 42,000) recently acquired an MRAP vehicle, which stands for “mine response ambush protection” for the bargain price of $2,000. The U.S. military is unloading hundreds of armored tank-like vehicles as Operation Enduring Freedom winds down — and it’s also unloading thousands of Afghanistan and Iraq combat vets into the ranks of local police and sheriffs. The Ft. Pierce police chief states, “The military was pretty much handing them out. … You know, it is overkill, until we need it.”
So how did we go from “peace” officers to “police” officers to “law enforcement” officers anyway? How did we go from “protect and serve” to “escalate and harm”? And what is behind the militarization of police departments and the rise of the warrior cop, as one writer terms it?
Watch Jeff Deist give a speech titled “What Ever Happened to Peace Officers?”