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View Diary: I don't want this to be another 9/11. (239 comments)

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  •  The militarized police mindset worries me (0+ / 0-)

    (I apologize in advance for the length of this response, but I want to give full weight to your critique -- and I want to respond today, which means I can't take my usual lengthy pause while my mental editor figures out what to cut.)

    I thought you were concerned about the presence of the military in Boston; that's why I responded as I did. But to an extent, my answer is similar. The "unprecedented" militarization of today's law enforcement does indeed follow precedent.

    There's no question that police have been increasingly militarized, starting with the introduction of SWAT back in '67. The original idea -- that the increasingly risky challenges posed by ever-more-heavily armed criminals, hostage rescue, etc. required a new kind of police unit -- has always been controversial. The progression since then, and particularly in the last couple of decades, whereby ordinary police officers are routinely armed and armored like the SWAT teams of old, is even more controversial.

    On the one hand, I can see the logic: you can't ask police officers to face crooks with more firepower than they have themselves. And there's no question that today's criminals (and not just the terrorists, though they're a large part of the justification) can bring a whole lot more firepower into play than could their predecessors of just a few years back.

    And don't get me started on the whole "Homeland Security" nonsense.

    Not that long ago, it was the norm for beat cops to go essentially unarmed; a truncheon was all they needed or wanted. As criminals moved to greater violence and heavier weapons, so too did the police. Truncheons gave way to guns. Eventually, they added Mace and pepper spray and tasers. Right or wrong, the intent was to give the police the ability to respond with the most appropriate level of force to maintain the peace or ensure public safety when faced with increasing levels of criminal violence.

    My biggest concern isn't that the police are being given weapons on a par with those they're expected to combat. It's not even that they're often bringing much heavier firepower, with the reasoning that an overwhelming mismatch will either lead to a less violent solution ("Look at those things! I'm giving up!") or at least a faster resolution, posing less danger to innocents and the police themselves.

    My worry is that we're shifting how police are trained, from being members of the community they're supposed to protect to being paramilitary occupiers of enemy ground. It's a change in mindset far more than it is of firepower, and the effects have at times been horrifying. The intelligence units and counter-terror units and high-tech surveillance units and such are both a symptom and a further cause of this transformation.

    To me, the APCs and assault rifles and all aren't the problem in and of themselves. It's that they represent a change in how police officers are being trained to think of us all, criminal and innocent civilian alike. Increasingly, we're not those they have sworn to "protect and serve" but simply enemies, potential enemies, and potential casualties.

    NOTE: I do NOT believe that most police officers think this way, or that the vast majority of those who do are aware of it. It's a change that's crept into how we train law enforcement officers, and it's insidious. So far, I don't think we've reached a point of no return, or even necessarily a tipping point, but if we don't fix the problem fairly soon, we may get there.

    "Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end..." - Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter

    by pragmaticidealist on Fri Apr 19, 2013 at 03:18:53 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

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