“The trend toward militarization was well under way before 9/11,” Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's project on criminal justice, told The Daily. “But it’s the federal policy of making surplus military equipment available almost for free that has poured fuel on this fire.”
The Daily, a relatively new media organization making use of emerging technologies, interviewed several current and former law-enforcement chiefs for the story. Opinion varies widely and some police support the idea. For others, however, it is a sinister and troubling trend.
It is also risky and counterproductive, he said.
“We have a lot of evidence on how to prevent crime and the major component is to win support for police, that we’re not this aloof occupation army.
Two days before The Daily’s article by Benjamin Carlson appeared and drew worldwide attention to the issue, theNew York Times also examined militarization of law-enforcement, but from more of a mindset perspective. The Times’ piece and other analysts have noted that the roles of law enforcement and the military are completely different.
Taxpayers hire police officers to protect and serve their local communities — essentially to keep the peace. They hire soldiers, on the other hand, to smash, kill, and destroy an enemy with overwhelming force.
“Some say this adds up to the emergence of a new, more militaristic breed of civilian police officer.”
And the process has served to significantly weaken local citizens’ control over their law-enforcement agencies.
A 2006 study by the Cato Institute called “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America” examined the ever-increasing number of military-style raids across the country — around 50,000 per year according to some estimates — that end in needless tragedy.
“Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work,” the executive summary explained, noting that the “SWAT” raids often inflict unnecessary terror on non-violent drug offenders, bystanders, and even wrongly targeted civilians.
“The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects,” the paper explained, detailing numerous accounts of abuses and botched operations that left innocent people dead.
But record billions worth of military equipment are still being handed to local police.
American citizens deemed by government bureaucrats to represent a “threat” to the “Homeland” under the legislation could be picked up by the military and detained indefinitely — no charges, no jury, no trial.