America has changed. Looking back to at far as the late 1950’s you can see one undeniable fact; today’s Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) is now more heavily armed, quick to utilize disproportionate force, or is overwhelmed in providing stability to their communities. It didn’t always used to be this way; and the impacts of these changes while combined with the transitions of senior military leadership have pressed the national boundaries of the Constitution, and made today’s LEOs just as dangerous to the citizenry as much as criminals.
Several books have already been published examining the growing militarization of America’s LEO community. In Bradley Balko’s investigative analysis “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” Balko postulates that since as early as the 1960’s the lines separating domestic security and law enforcement has gradually been blurred with those of the military. Flash-forward to today and America’s police more resemble front-line military ground troops covered in body armor, helmets, battle belts, and high-powered military-grade weaponry. Balko details how everything from the War on Drugs, War on Poverty, and the post-9/11 world under both Presidents is fundamentally changing America and altering civil liberties.
Another book is James Fisher’s “SWAT Madness and the Militarization of the American Police: A National Dilemma”. Fisher examines how the use of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams increasingly demonstrates a zero-tolerance; brute force response utilized by the law enforcement community to a majority of domestic responses in a post 9/11 America. The continual “threat” has become the norm and the nation is perpetually in a policed state where we lurch from scenario to scenario.
And it’s not just a few tin-foil hat authors publishing books that have noted the dramatic uptick in the use of tactical force by police. The Huffington Post ran an op-ed titled The Over-Policing of America that examined the perpetual state of policing in America from cradle-to-prison. (Madar) The American Civil Liberties Union speculated on the disproportionate use of force by SWAT teams statistically often results in the death or injury to those who are not the intended target when SWAT is employing methods oft reserved for war, such as forced entry, breaching, and hard-contact. (Dansky) Even Conservative sources are beginning to note a disturbing trend as Fox News detailed many of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protective (MRAP) vehicles from Iraq and Afghanistan are in turn being sold to local law enforcement agencies and offices for a fraction of their manufacturing cost. (DeMarche) Even the Gray Lady, the New York Times, published a full spread analysis answering the question; Is this militarization of the American Police? (Baker)
A possible case in point, which demonstrates these factors, is the December 6th shooting of UIW college senior, Robert Cameron Redus. There continues to be some debate on the facts of the incident; however, at the time of this writing what is clear was following a night of celebrations with friends at a local bar, 23 year old Redus was shot by Campus Police Cpl. Chris Carter. The shooting itself took place a short distance off-campus after an altercation in the parking lot of Redus’ apartment when Cpl. Carter pulled Redus over for erratic driving. Witnesses in the apartment complex were most disturbed for what the arrest did lack stating,
“I didn’t hear him say anything like, ‘Get down on your hands and knees,’ you know? I didn’t hear him say anything. He just started shooting,” one resident said. “He emptied the gun on him. Boom, boom, boom. Six shots — five or six.”
The dash-cam audio details Cpl. Carter ordered Redus to “stop resisting arrest” over 50 times and Redus’ sarcastic responses. (Brumfield and Simpson) Later reports detailed that Redus was unarmed at the time he was pulled over, but afterwards the local Texas Police Chief made a public statement to the effect that when Cpl. Cater conducted the vehicle stop, Redus immediately approached the patrol vehicle and in the ensuing altercation managed to disarm Cpl. Carter forcing the Campus Patrolmen to draw his sidearm and kill Redus. It should be stated that in multiple interviews with Redus’ friends and fellow students, none of them described Redus as one with a troubled past or mannerisms that would imply hostile intent to law enforcement. Complicating the issue was delayed response times by local law enforcement to assist Cpl. Carter, no video from the dash-cam, and disparities in Cpl. Carter’s employment in serving with law enforcement.
Look, before you vilify me as decidedly anti-LEO, anti-American, or any other derision simply because I don’t enjoy the fact that the NSA and local law enforcement are systematically collecting intelligence on millions of Americans without their knowledge or suspected involvement in crimes, or that TSA is groping children under the guise of “airline safety”, or that I have some innate hatred for police in general please just consider this;
I have spent an extensive amount of time with the weapons of war. I am succinctly aware of their usage, level of damage inflicted on both physical structures and human tissue, and moreover I know how they can be employed for maximum effect in long-term operations that shape the fortunes of war. So when I see such weapons that are intended for use in this nation’s wars, weapons and systems explicitly intended to resist both conventional and unconventional attacks despite those methods never having been utilized here domestically, combined with the gross stockpiling of ammunition (specifically hollow-point) by federal and local law enforcement agencies (with only a paltry explanation of “business per usual” for training) – not only do I began questioning the intent of those making such decisions, but I become deeply concerned to their designs. (DeMarche)(McGarry)(Benko)(Flock)(Tuohy) I worry why the LEO community needs such firepower and ammunition; I worry what will happen as increasingly such weaponry is employed against lesser domestic threats or offenses (real or perceived). Increasingly, I subscribe less to the complex that “everything’s all right” when it’s revealed not only is the NSA flagrantly disregarding the Constitution, but that the Senior Intelligence Advisor to the President, James Clapper, is caught lying in a Congressional hearing and no one in power remotely considers it a crime. (Sasso) I did not spend years apart from my family while serving in uniform, and provide security for a foreign nation only to lose my own freedoms at home when the wars were over. I fully support my local law enforcement, they provide an invaluable service arriving often 5 minutes (or less) post a 9-1-1 call. They are placed in an increasingly difficult and often legally perilous position for a community that relies on them despite the occasional issues of corruption, complacency, or abusiveness. But simply put, they do not need the weapons of war for domestic security operations, nor do they require ammunition procurement contracts on ammunition billed “for training purposes” despite it designed specifically to kill only human beings. They need improved monitoring and policing technologies, fingerprinting, biometrics, and a legal system not mired down in its own issues.
That is unless of course, you began to consider the alternative as to why they would need the tools of war here in America residing with Homeland Security, Border Patrol, or domestic security elements and not the National Guard…but that is all merely speculation and forces me to reminisce to myself “I miss America”…because this is not what we once were.
Baker, Al. “When the Police Go Military.” December 3, 2013. The New York Times: Sunday Review. December 9, 2013 <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/sunday-review/have-american-police-become-militarized.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.
Benko, Ralph. “1.6 Billion Rounds Of Ammo For Homeland Security? It’s Time For A National Conversation.” November 3, 2013. Forbes. December 9, 2013 <http://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphbenko/2013/03/11/1-6-billion-rounds-of-ammo-for-homeland-security-its-time-for-a-national-conversation/>.
Brumfield, Joshua and David Simpson. “Student told to stop resisting arrest 56 times before fatal shooting, police say.” December 10, 2013. CNN: Justice. December 14, 2013 <http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/10/justice/texas-campus-officer-shooting/>.
Dansky, Kara. “Local Police, Armed with the Weapons of War, Too Often Mistakenly Shoot and Kill.” March 6, 2013. American Civil Liberties Union. December 9, 2013 <https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/local-police-armed-weapons-war-too-often-mistakenly-shoot-and-kill>.
DeMarche, Edmund. “Defense Department gives local police equipment designed for a war zone.” November 27, 2013. Fox News. December 9, 2013 <http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/27/defense-department-gives-local-police-equipment-designed-for-warzone/>.
Flock, Elizabeth. “DHS Denies Ammo Purchases Aimed at Civilians.” April 25, 2013. USA News & World Report. December 9, 2013 <http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/04/25/dhs-denies-ammo-purchases-aimed-at-civilians>.
Madar, Chase. “The Huffington Post.” December 9, 2013. The Over-Policing of America. December 9, 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chase-madar/over-policing-of-america_b_4412187.html>.
McGarry, Brendan. “Navistar Pitches New Uses for Old MRAPs.” October 23, 2013. DOD Buzz: Online Defense and Acquisition Journal. December 9, 2013 <http://www.dodbuzz.com/2013/10/23/navistar-pitches-new-uses-for-old-mraps/>.
Sasso, Branden. “Patriot Act author: Obama’s intel czar should be prosecuted.” December 6, 2013. The Hill. December 9, 2013 <http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/192241-patriot-act-author-obamas-intel-czar-should-be-prosecuted>.
Tuohy, Andrew. “Homeland Security’s Ammunition Purchases Should Not Worry You.” March 15, 2013. Military Times: Gear Scout. December 9, 2013 <http://blogs.militarytimes.com/gearscout/2013/03/15/homeland-securitys-ammunition-purchases-should-not-worry-you/>.