Other law enforcement personnel, including former Los Angeles Police Chief and current New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, have defended the equipment as necessary for defending themselves from a more dangerous citizenry.It's understandable to want the police officers to be able to do their job in safety.
“I don’t see us as militarizing police,” Bratton told the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2011. “I see us as keeping abreast with society. And we are a gun-crazy society.”
The problem is that this claim of policework being more dangerous is total bullsh*t. Just look at the chart of police killed in the line of duty.
The number of fatalities of U.S. law enforcement officers in 2013 is the lowest in 54 years and the number dying in firearms-related incidents is the lowest since the 1800s, according to a preliminary report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.That's the lowest number of police officers killed in the line of duty since 1959, despite the population of the country doubling.
In fact, you are more likely to be murdered simply by living in some of America's big cities than you are being murdered as a cop in the line of duty. Far more cops die on duty from traffic accidents than from violence.
Just last year the St. Louis Police were complaining about being outgunned.
“We’re outgunned out there all the time,” said Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. “The thugs out there have dangerous and sophisticated weapons.”He obviously never mentioned that his department has military-grade weapons.
However, before you denounce the police commissioners for hyping the danger to police officers, consider that they are far from alone. Only last year, Vice President Biden said that police being killed by assault weapons was way up.
"There were fewer police being murdered, fewer police being outgunned when the assault weapons ban, in fact, was in existence," Biden said.Only around 1% of cop killed while on duty were killed by assault weapons.
It isn't just police and politicians. The news media loves hyping the fear.
Two years ago the NY Times told us that police being killed on duty was going up. Three years ago MSNBC reported a "war on cops going on".
One Texas sheriff told NBC that "I think it's a hundred times more likely today that an officer will be assaulted compared to twenty, thirty years ago." These sorts of claims are rarely questioned.
Consider these facts:
There are 137 SWAT raids a day in America, and nearly 80% of them were deployed just to execute a search warrant.
That means the overwhelming percentage of time the SWAT is used for people only suspected of having drugs.
One-third of all war material given to state, local, police agencies by the Pentagon is brand new.
It isn't just the War on Some Drugs. Police departments on the border are using the DHS grants to get war weapons to use against illegal immigrants.
As for the claim of a more violence society, well, that's total bullsh*t too.
The rate of murders by guns has dropped 49% since 1993.
The biggest obstacle to reform is the news media, which exists to hype every crime and scare us all into a frenzy of irrational fear just so they can get higher ratings. Consider these charts.
And this is reality.
Since 1993 the murder rate has dropped from 9.5 per 100,000 to 4.7.
Aggravated assaults have dropped from 440.5 per 100,000 to 242.3.
Forcible rapes have dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 to 26.9.
In fact, the violent crime rate is about to hit a century low.
This is fairly preliminary data, but Rick Nevin reports that if current trends keep up, we'll end 2013 with the murder rate in America at its lowest rate in over a century.The public's perception is getting more and more divorced from reality. It's bizarre.
Since the days of feudalism, the right-wing has been supportive of law enforcement. Its critical for controlling the peasants. Hyping the fear of crime is the easiest and quickest way of rallying support for more cops with more guns, tougher laws, and bigger prisons.
The twist is that in recent decades the liberal left has also been hyping the fear of crime as well. It's a shortcut to addressing whatever the pet cause is (guns, sexual predators, etc). This is a historical shift, because liberals have historically been the rational voice on the subject of crime.
Even on DKos it doesn't fit into the narrative. We need better gun control laws. We still have too many gun murders.
But its much easier to get people motivated if you scream "OMG! There are guns everyone and people are getting mowed down in the streets!"
It's a lot harder to get people motivated by saying, "This is the sane and moral thing to do."
Thus you have people here (and elsewhere) taking the easy method and screaming their fears.
The problem is that when you appeal to people's fears rather than to their reason you get unintended consequences. Good laws and policies are never formed from whipping people into a frenzy of fear.
In this case you get lack of political motivation to do something about the insane levels of incarceration and an over-militarized police force.
You've made a trade-off, and it wasn't a good trade.