Our Militarized Police Departments
Posted in the Seymour Forum
#1 Sep 10, 2011
Our Militarized Police Departments
Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Crime
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak today.
Iím here to talk about police militarization, a troubling trend thatís been on the rise in Americaís police departments over the last 25 years.
Militarization is a broad term that refers to using military-style weapons, tactics, training, uniforms, and even heavy equipment by civilian police departments.
Itís a troubling trend because the military has a very different and distinct role than our domestic peace officers. The militaryís job is to annihilate a foreign enemy. The police are supposed to protect us while upholding our constitutional rights. Itís dangerous to conflate the two.
But thatís exactly what weíre doing. Since the late 1980s, Mr. Chairman, thanks to acts passed by the U.S. Congress, millions of pieces of surplus military equipment have been given to local police departments across the country.
Weíre not talking just about computers and office equipment. Military-grade semi-automatic weapons, armored personnel vehicles, tanks, helicopters, airplanes, and all manner of other equipment designed for use on the battlefield is now being used on American streets, against American citizens.
Academic criminologists credit these transfers with the dramatic rise in paramilitary SWAT teams over the last quarter century.
SWAT teams were originally designed to be used in violent, emergency situations like hostage takings, acts of terrorism, or bank robberies. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, thatís primarily how they were used, and they performed marvelously.
But beginning in the early 1980s, theyíve been increasingly used for routine warrant service in drug cases and other nonviolent crimes. And thanks to the Pentagon transfer programs, there are now a lot more of them.
This is troubling because paramilitary police actions are extremely volatile, necessarily violent, overly confrontational, and leave very little margin for error. These are acceptable risks when youíre dealing with an already violent situation featuring a suspect who is an eminent threat to the community.
But when youíre dealing with nonviolent drug offenders, paramilitary police actions create violence instead of defusing it. Whether youíre an innocent family startled by a police invasion that inadvertently targeted the wrong home or a drug dealer who mistakes raiding police officers for a rival drug dealer, forced entry into someoneís home creates confrontation. It rouses the basest, most fundamental instincts we have in us Ė those of self-preservation Ė to fight when flight isnít an option.
Peter Kraska, a criminologist at the University of Eastern Kentucky, estimates weíve seen a startling 1,500 percent increase in the use of SWAT teams in this country from the early 80s until the early 2000s. And the vast majority of these SWAT raids are for routine warrant service.
These violent raids on American homes, when coupled with the imperfect, often ugly methods used in drug policing, have set the stage for disturbingly frequent cases of police raiding the homes not only of recreational, nonviolent drug users, but the homes of people completely innocent of any crime at all.
Take a look at the map on the monitor ( http://www.cato.org/raidmap ). This is a map of the botched paramilitary police raids I found while researching a paper for the Cato Institute last summer. It is by no means inclusive. It only includes those cases for which I was able to find a newspaper account or court record. Based on my research, Iím convinced that the vast majority of victims of mistaken raids are to afraid, intimidated, embarrassed, or concerned about retaliation to report what happened to them.
Pay particular attention to the red markers on the map. Those are the approximately 40 cases where a mistaken raid resulted in the death of a completely innocent American citizen.
#3 Sep 14, 2011
Hey Steve did you see the stand-off in Seymour? Maybe the officers don't have enough paramilitary training and equipment.
Good job and God bless to those Seymour Officers
#4 Sep 16, 2011
Nice attempt to spin from the topic but if you call what happened at Balance Rock a standoff then what do you call it when the suspect is actually armed?
Back in the day before cops could use torture techniques using tasers, they actually had to get hands on physical to restrain a suspect. Electrocuting a person to subdue him is not only inhumane but a bit sadistic, whether he possessed a firearm or not. To quote, "The man had a towel over an object which looked like it could have been a firearm". That is laughable. Was this man doing a magic show. Is it a firearm or a bunny under my towel. Please.
The topic was about militarizing the police bypassing the Posse Comitatus Act which means that the act prohibits members of the military from exercising nominally state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain "law and order" on non-federal property (states and their counties and municipal divisions) within the United States. In order to bypass the Act you can equip the police as if they were a paramilitary force.
The Insurrection Act is the set of laws that govern the US President's ability to deploy troops within the United States to put down lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion. In order to bypass these laws you can equip the police as though they were a paramilitary force.
It's all a matter of logic. I wasn't poking fun or flaming the police. I have had positive encounters with Seymour Police in the past. There are some that understand the job as a Peace Keeping duty, some that police as a bully, and some in between who just don't understand Natural Law.
Stick to the topic John.
#5 Sep 16, 2011
Sorry you missed my point, but the Posse Comitatus Act should be bypassed. Your posting points to the increase of SWAT teams since 1980, but fails to point to the decrease in officer deaths and injuries during the same era.
Now Steve, would you feel safer wandering the streets of New Haven late at night running into a group of street thugs or a "paramilitary police unit?" I'LL TAKE MY CHANCES WITH THE COPS.
#6 Sep 18, 2011
I have the Officer Death Statistics and there is no significant change. But there is definitely something interesting in these statistics which date from the year 1791 - 2011. If you look pre-tyranny/gun control, there are far less policeman killed in the line of duty. It seems that the yearly rate was between 1-50 deaths. After gun laws/control became the norm the deaths begin to increase significantly and make a huge jump in the 1920's. I suppose that the more law abiding citizens that carry, the more safe the streets become, including more safety for peace keepers. But between 1980 and now the officer deaths per year range between 158 - 210.
To answer your questions, I would not feel any difference in safety if I turned the corner and walked into a group of thugs or a group of cops. Chances are that no matter the circumstance you are either going to be arrested with one group or beat down by the other. I would much rather not have to deal with either group. Now I'm not saying that there are no good cops out there because there are but theirs numbers are dwindling either because they get flushed out or setup. That is a fact.
#7 Sep 28, 2011
The cops are just the most well-funded and organized gang around. Legalized extortion in my opinion. Side note, is there any reason whatsoever for a seat belt law other than revenue generation? I would love to hear any argument that justifies the ridiculous tendency of scared people to try and legislate personal responsibility.
#8 Sep 29, 2011
There are countless laws which are created knowing full well that they will generate revenue. If a law is unenforceable or created to generate revenue then that law should be abolished because "it" has become and Unconstitutional law and infringes upon the rights of the governed.
#9 Sep 30, 2011
Im all for the police getting heavy arms. Im all for police leaning on suspects and to hell with the rights of the felons they sure as heII DIDNT THINK OF THE RIGHTS OF THEIR VICTUMS
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