Critics who decry “police militarization” over AR-15’s are missing the point. The real issue isn’t the gear, it’s the military attitude. When “to serve and protect” becomes “this is war” we have a problem. Police need gear like body armor and night vision goggles. They need modern semiautomatic rifles because the bad guys have them. Armored vehicles can shield officers and civilians and even block dangerous criminals from escaping, and their use is valid as long as the vehicles aren’t used solely for intimidating the public. Police don’t need machine guns, hand grenades, or missiles because they’re not law enforcement tools, they’re weapons of war used to rapidly and indiscriminately kill large numbers of people. Even their “flash-bang” grenades, which are incendiary devices, require caution. They may be appropriate for ending a hostage crisis but they shouldn’t be the first resort in a nonviolent case. SWAT teams were created to deal with violent situations but they’re increasingly being used for routine police operations that may actually increase the risk to the public. As many as 80,000 SWAT deployments are estimated every year. Does it make sense to send a SWAT team over a traffic violation? Sadly these SWAT teams are sometimes sent to incorrect addresses with tragic consequences. How much “collateral damage” is acceptable in this “war”?
Much of this war mentality comes from the “war on drugs”, a subject intentionally previously discussed. No incident demonstrates the war mentality more than when police threw a flash-bang into a home from which there was no obvious threat. They were after a low-level drug dealer (not a serial killer) and they relied on the word of a “snitch” instead of conducting the basic surveillance that would have told them that the dealer wasn’t there but a child was. But no, they threw the grenade first, severely burning a child who must now suffer ongoing surgeries and disfiguration while the family suffers a 7-figure medical bill. That wasn’t executing an arrest warrant, it was using a battlefield tactic where everyone in the house was “the enemy”. The state must approve of battlefield tactics as it denies any responsibility for the child’s injuries. Don’t blame the flash-bang, blame the war attitude that ordered it to be thrown, and don’t blame the child if he never trusts the police.
We’ve also seen unarmed drivers shot during routine traffic stops. It’s a tense moment for the officer when the driver reaches in the glove box for the registration, so why not stop asking for the paper registration? It’s obsolete! When the officer “runs the plates” the computer shows (or should) the make and model of vehicle, registered owner, registration date, and whether the vehicle has warrants outstanding or has been reported stolen. If the computer check is clean it’s probably just a traffic stop and if it isn’t the officer knows to be careful. The tense moment is eliminated.
Let’s turn to Federal government militarization. Unless the USDA is expecting an uprising of zombie chickens it needs to explain why it’s buying submachine guns. Again, fully automatic weapons aren’t for routine law enforcement. For that matter, why are so many government agencies suddenly being armed and given law enforcement power? The FDA and NASA have armed teams. Even the “gun-free zone” Department of Education has armed agents. The Federal government has law enforcement agencies including the FBI and US Marshals who, along with local police, could support these other agencies when needed. What’s the purpose of this “civilian army”? Since civilians can’t be deployed to fight overseas, who is this army going to fight, and why?
Why are so many unarmed suspects being shot multiple times? Don’t all lives matter?