|For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of “militarization.” They've upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and inculcated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces.
But beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a new report called War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.
“Our investigation is the first to conduct an analysis using raw data received directly from police departments, by looking directly at incident reports themselves,” says Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice and the primary author of the report. The ACLU sent public records requests to 260 law enforcement agencies in 25 states plus Washington D.C., asking for records of all SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012. Below are some of its most significant findings.
1. The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization. […]
2. Militarization is occurring with “almost no oversight.” […]
3. Non-whites are more likely to be targeted by SWAT deployments. […]
4. Police are secretive about their use of SWAT
Overall, the ACLU report lacks the sort of robustness you might expect for a definitive report on police militarization in America. This is largely the fault of police agencies themselves, who denied nearly half of the ACLU’s public records requests in part or in full, and who keep poor records of their own SWAT use.
Those difficulties seem to inform much of the ACLU’s recommendations to local, state and federal officials. Above all, the organization calls for a streamlined system of record keeping for SWAT deployment and equipment procurement. No such system currently exists. The ACLU also asks that standards for deployment be bolstered and unified across precincts, and that federal programs incentivizing militarization be weakened or dismantled outright.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2006—Campaign Finance Reform: Moving Forward:
|Following yesterday's Supreme Court decision invalidating Vermont's campaign finance reform law, you might be wondering whether there's any hope for further proposals to reduce the impact of wealth on the political process.
To be clear: yesterday's decision strong suggested that any restrictions on a campaign's own spending would be held unconstitutional, as would limits on individual contributions to campaigns set so low as to prevent challengers from waging competitive races.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, yesterday's Supreme Court decisions dominate the discussions today. Greg Dworkin brings us good fodder in the form of insightful writing on the subjects of buffer zones and recess appointments. Also in courts news, "Does the ACA violate the Origination clause?" and a Colorado federal judge upholds that state's new laws on gun background checks and magazine capacity. The passing of Sen. Howard Baker. Why the media loves Iraq hawks.