Is it "bashing the police" to express concern about the trend among America local law enforcement agencies towards a military-like force?
Over the past two days we've talked on the show about the "militarization of the police." And while many in the audience are worried about the growing police state, their concern is focused on the federal level. Most reject the notion that a local police force that acts and is equipped as the military is of similar concern.
Here are some of the e-mails:
Great debate with [caller] Bob re: police militarization. I tend to generally agree with you, but Bob made some good points. You have a first-class show.
By the way, we both know that military dress by police is for intimidation, which, if it works is preferable to force.
We also both know (but few will say) that police cannot afford to lose a street fight.
As I said on the show, about 98% of the interactions I've ever had with law enforcement have been professional, courteous, and uneventful.
My specific point about the Ferguson, MO situation was that the initial response by police - to meet angry demonstrators with an armored intimidating presence including aiming guns at the crowd - was not a wise approach.
The police didn't cause a riot by the way they dressed.That is like saying the devil made me do it.The police obviously had warning the protesters were going to turn violent which they did and have.Now the big guns have to come in.The dentist and doctors and yes some policemen who are National Guard Members.And the police are much better trained.
- Mr. Poon
I agree that once the rioting and looting began, the situation changed and so, too, should the police response.
I believe in the axiom, "The clothes make the man."
When a man dresses the part of an intimidating gangster, I interpret his message to be, "I am an intimidating gangster." And when the police officers begin looking more like soldiers, it is not unreasonable to interpret the message in a similar manner.
I believe there is (and should be) a very real difference between the army and the police.
Don't over blow the "militarization" hype. That "type" weaponry is nothing more than a rifle any citizen can get at the gun show. It is no where close to being the military. That's the same argument the left uses to vilify the ARs and AKs. The VEHICLES do LOOK like military but that actually is more of a safety factor for the police than a "weapon" to use against the citizens. It gives the officers more protection to stay in areas where normally they might assault those areas with GREATER force. These "military" style vehicles do not fire tank rounds, do not have mini guns, etc. Yes it looks, military, but it is not. This incident in Missouri was a pistol. A bullet is a bullet is a bullet, no matter if it is fired from a pistol, or one of those scary evil assault rifles. SNIPER RIFLES ? Yeah..... we had those and machine guns and assault rifles in the mid 1980's. Nothing new there.
By the way, The use of high powered weapons against officers AND citizens happens . Automatic machine guns and all sorts of assault type weapons are all over the streets. A female officer that worked where I worked was shot multiple times through a wall with a AK47 style rifle, shattering her hip, walking up to a house to answer a 911 hangup call. She was unaware and was ambushed. SCARED of being shot ? More like being AWARE of the possibility.
Just my two cents.
AND , I would like to add that the police can be a first line of defense against any outside or inside attack against our freedoms as Americans. The police are not our enemies. They can be a very valuable asset against any, as they say, domestic or foreign enemies.
I agree with Jeff's reasoning here. They look like military equipment (because they were surplus military equipment), but they are not always used in the same manner.
However, the projected image is the same.
The civilians who encounter this presence are not going to understand that this surplus military equipment just looks the same.
Pete, you say that the media is as bad as the police in Ferguson, but you seem to be accepting the narrative they are promoting through selective video and tape editing. One point to consider: the Justice Department has suppressed a great deal of information which could be exculpatory for the cop in question.
Another point: unlike federal regulatory agencies, police forces have a right and a duty to wield deadly force.
Another point: Ferguson police did not begin wearing riot gear and wielding "assault" weapons until police were fired on -- multiple times.
Another point: the statistic about how many people are killed by American cops should be accompanied by the facts that not only are more Americans killed by their fellow citizens than are citizens of any other Western nation; more police are killed by Americans than police in any other Western country.
The militarization of American police forces began in the wake of Oklahoma City. It was accompanied by the very illegitimate arming of all federal agencies and the shift in bureaucratic focus from public service to ruling us.
Finally, let's consider what makes it legal to use deadly force. A person who is clearly more than 50 pounds heavier than you can be presumed to be a lethal threat. A police officer has a duty to stand his ground. A private citizen in most states has a duty to retreat in the face of an aggressor. If the aggressor pursues, both the cop AND the armed citizen have a right to respond with deadly force. Failure to recognize this is one of many ways in which the facts of this Ferguson story have been misrepresented.
While I'm also a supporter of civil liberties, I don't like reaching conclusions until I learn the whole story. I'd rather not run with the carefully screened facts released by Eric Holder's (in-)Justice Department and by a biased media.
The concerns I have about "militarizing the police" are not related to the initial encounter between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson.
Further, I believe the case has been intentionally manipulated and escalated by bad actors who are not interested in learning what happened.
Likewise, the Ferguson Police Department's and the St. Louis Police Department's handling of the shooting, the investigation, and the protests has been atrocious.
This e-mail came from a police officer:
I know you are saying that you are not bashing police. However after listening for the past week, it makes me feel depressed. You know how you feel when someone says bad things about you, especially when it is someone you look up to or admire. I am a local officer and I work with great officers both city and county. We don't want to hurt anybody or intimidate anybody. We just want to fulfill the oaths we took, provide an excellent customer service to the community we serve and go home to our families at the end of the day.
Use of force is never pretty on any level. There is no way to make it look good like a Jackie Chan movie. But it's a part of reality.
I don't want to hurt anyone, I do this to help people for very little money. But I will go home to my family at the end of the day. And I am not the exception. Every officer I have worked with - city or county - are good people.
This saddens me, as does any misunderstanding between people of good intent.
Either there is a national trend towards a more militarized police force or there is not. Expressing concern that this trend exists does not make me "anti-cop" or mean I am saying bad things about police officers.
It is precisely because I respect the men and women who put their lives on the line every day that I want to see an examination of the relationship between officer and civilian - and whether it is deteriorating.
For folks interested in the issue, Radley Balko offers an analysis in his book:
The last days of colonialism taught America’s revolutionaries that soldiers in the streets bring conflict and tyranny. As a result, our country has generally worked to keep the military out of law enforcement.
In Rise of the Warrior Cop, Balko shows how politicians’ ill-considered policies and relentless declarations of war against vague enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have blurred the distinction between cop and soldier. His fascinating, frightening narrative shows how over a generation, a creeping battlefield mentality has isolated and alienated American police officers and put them on a collision course with the values of a free society.
Is Balko exaggerating?
Is conservative columnist Charles W. Cooke off base?
What do you think?