You Have The Right To Be Pacified

Police Militarization

Feature- Mil PoliceThere’s an old theater saying that if there’s a gun on the mantle in a play’s first act, it will be used by the third act.  For years, police around the country have been stocking their mantles with body armor, batons, tear gas, shotguns, automatic weapons, and armored vehicles.  The Battle in Seattle, Occupy, Ferguson, and thousands of smaller, unnamed actions around the country are sounding a loud warning… the mantle is full, and the third act in this drama could be pretty ugly.

RestOfNewsletterPoverty, racism, corruption and more were on full display in Ferguson last month.  These issues are all inextricably linked, and combined form a broken system that at best doesn’t serve, and at worst preys upon, people who have no option but to deal with it.   From this tangled mess of civic collapse we pulled one thread to look at in more detail this month, one that we all face regardless of race, economic status, or location… the problem of Police Militarization.

TMW2014-08-20colorOur current system of policing is built on the ideas of Sir Robert Peel and the principles he established for an ethical police force.  His concepts have been described as “unique in history and throughout the world, because it derived, not from fear, but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behavior which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public”.  Peel believed the police were inextricable parts of the community, and that this connection gave them their strength.  Increasing police militarization is endangering that foundational concept.  Aside from the equipment that inherently separates police from their community, current police culture has moved to an “us vs. them” format that views citizens as an enemy to be defended against.

Police militarization is a huge issue.  It has many contributing factors that can’t be teased apart, and these complex motivations mean the issue will continue for a long time to come.  However, we assembled some of the best insights we’ve been able to find in the wake of Ferguson.  We hope they can give you a broader perspective on the police and the problems we all face as we try to better define their role in our communities and our lives.  And, surprisingly, you’ll see several options for what we as citizens can do about this problem.

Overview

First, here are a couple articles that describe the shape and extent of the militarization problem

Much of the problem with militarized police is the face it presents to citizens.

What kind of weapons are we talking about, where are they coming from, and where are they going?

Why is this happening?police-militarized1

Opinions from talking heads and public officials

Militarization around the country

It’s not like Ferguson was an isolated incident.  Here are stories from around the country of SWAT and Police going way over the line.  Unfortunately, it’s too easy to find many, many more.

Police attitude matters in every interaction from a traffic ticket to a potential riot situation.  Tensions in Ferguson ratcheted down when Captain Ronald Johnson and the Missouri State Police took over security from the locals.  What was Capt. Johnson’s attitude toward policing?  “When I see a young lady cry because of fear of this uniform, that’s a problem. We’ve got to solve that,” Johnson said.

More on how a change in attitude affected the situation on the ground…

What’s coming next?

 What can we do to end this?

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