Interesting article on the police that I think covers some of what has been discussed here.
Serve and Protect
The dangers of our increasingly militarized police
A. Barton Hinkle | August 23, 2011
The front page of last Tuesday's [I]Richmond Times-Dispatch[/I] carried a startling photo: Richmond police officers taking a suspect into custody. What was startling was the display of force. The officers, accompanied by a robot and decked out in full riot gear with shield and combat helmets, could have been mistaken for American soldiers on patrol in Iraq. Yet they were going up against a single man—and they were not even sure was armed.
Regrettably, this is not a new development. In recent years police forces across the country have become increasingly militarized.
To a small degree, that trend represents a rational response in an arms race against the criminal element's escalating firepower. But more of it has to do with the lavishing of federal Homeland Security funds on local law-enforcement agencies. Local departments have used the money to buy themselves all kinds of fancy toys—from the Segways bought for the bomb squad in Santa Clara, Calif. several years ago to the Lenco BearCat G3 bought last year by the sheriff's department in Warren County, Va.
The BearCat G3 is an 8-ton armored personnel carrier. Its half-inch steel plating and 2.5-inch window glass can stop a .50-caliber round. Its sensors can detect chemical, biological, and radiological threats. "It's big enough to go through a house if it had to," says the department's Roger Vorous. Warren County bought the quarter-million-dollar vehicle with a Homeland Security grant.
"We're in a very dangerous business," Sheriff Daniel McEathron told the [I]Northern Virginia Daily[/I] last year. "We're not interested in leveling the playing field. We're interested in having the high ground."
He's got a point: Police officers should not have to bring a knife to a gunfight. On the other hand, Warren County, which boasts that its "small-town charm" makes it "an excellent place to raise a family," has a population of fewer than 40,000. It averages about one homicide every three years. Insurgents have not detonated a roadside bomb in Warren County since—well, never. The need for an armored assault vehicle would seem scant.
But Warren County is not alone. McEathron says it is only one of several Virginia localities that have BearCats or similar vehicles now. Others include Roanoke and Stafford—whose sheriff, Charles Jett, said that if he had had his druthers, the money would have been used for patrol cars. "The priorities under Homeland Security are different," he said last March.
Still, it would be a mistake to lay blame for the militarization of the police entirely at the feet of the federal government's homeland-security endeavors. In "Overkill," a 2006 paper for the Cato Institute, Radley Balko traces the rise of paramilitary policing to the 1980s and the war on drugs. One of the earliest developments was the Military Cooperation With Law Enforcement Act, whose purpose was to let the military lend a hand in drug interdiction.
In the three decades since, the trend has only spread. In 1994, Congress authorized the re-use of military equipment by local law-enforcement agencies. In the following three years alone, the Pentagon provided local constabularies with 3,800 M-16s, 2,184 M-14s, and (yes) 73 grenade launchers.
Police officers might respond that they are simply trying to keep up with the bad guys. Maybe—although criminals in the U.S. are not known for driving tanks. That argument also does not explain the increase in no-knock raids, complete with battering rams and flash-bang grenades—or the stories about innocent people gunned down in such raids when informants give cops the wrong address. Three thousand no-knock raids took place in 1981. In 2005, police departments across the country carried out more than 50,000.
At this point a reasonable person might ask: What, exactly, is wrong with the paramilitary approach? After all: The police are on the side of law and order; they serve and protect law-abiding citizens. If you aren't breaking the law, then you have nothing to fear.
Yes, but: The paramilitary approach to law enforcement flies in the face of the idea that the police and the citizens are on the same side. Officer Friendly, strolling the block in a blue uniform and playing a paradiddle with his baton on a white picket fence, looks like he is ready to help carry groceries for the little old lady who lives on the corner. A cop in combat gear with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder looks like he is ready to go to war. In war, there is no presumption of innocence—and the opposing side is not a fellow citizen with constitutional rights. He is the enemy.
In prepared statements, police departments may speak of dedicated professionals who desire only to serve and protect. But in their riot gear and armored vehicles they look more like an occupying force, intending to conquer and command. That might be good tactics. It is not good government.
[I]A. Barton Hinkle is s columnist at the Richmond Times Dispatch. This article [URL="http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/rtd-opinion/2011/aug/23/tdopin02-hinkle-serve-and-protect-or-command-and-c-ar-1254996/"]originally appeared[/URL] at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.[/I]
This article goes a long way in summing up my concerns with law enforcement.
[QUOTE]The paramilitary approach to law enforcement flies in the face of the idea that the police and the citizens are on the same side. Officer Friendly, strolling the block in a blue uniform and playing a paradiddle with his baton on a white picket fence, looks like he is ready to help carry groceries for the little old lady who lives on the corner. A cop in combat gear with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder looks like he is ready to go to war. In war, there is no presumption of innocence—and the opposing side is not a fellow citizen with constitutional rights. He is the enemy.[/QUOTE]
[QUOTE=gunnails;4114163]This article goes a long way in summing up my concerns with law enforcement.[/QUOTE]
The thing with that quote is, times change. Sucks, but it's true. Used to be that when my friends and I saw a cop walking the beat, we crossed the street, mostly out of respect. Nowadays, some feel empowered to the point that they will flip the cop the bird.
Like I said, times change.
[QUOTE=Trades;4114183]I think the part of the article talking about the assualt vehicle in the county with 40,000 people that haven't had a murder in 3 years is very telling.[/QUOTE]
Smells like political pork, to me. Kind of like the anti-terror funds funneled to Indiana(?) to protect popcorn factories.
[QUOTE=Piper;4114187]A laughably naive assumption that ignores reality of life in many urban settings.
Do police sometimes step over the line and violate citizens rights? Absolutely, and that needs to be vigorously investigated and prosecuted whenever it happens.
But the assumption that "Police and citizens are on the same side" has resulted in too many police funerals to be blindly practiced by 'Officer Friendly'.
Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.[/B][/QUOTE]
Speaking from experience, that axiom doesn't go over too well around here. :cool:
Law Enforcement is disconnected. The people understand the realities of today.
That is why there are so many video recording of Police activity and why the police are against it. The cams level the playing field with the police. Why would they want to play fair when they are used to having the advantage?
[QUOTE=Jetdawgg;4114371]Law Enforcement is disconnected. The people understand the realities of today.
That is why there are so many video recording of Police activity and why the police are against it. The cams level the playing field with the police. Why would they want to play fair when they are used to having the advantage?[/QUOTE]
Who are these people who 'understand the realities of today'?
And if police are against video recoding, why do most police cares have dash mounted video cameras?
I don't have statistics bu I bet videos help more cops defend themselves agains claims of bruality than hurt them.
I don't see where your post ties in with the thread topic?
The murder of the four officers in Washington is a tragedy and is certainly deserving of its own thread. I did not read the links, still I will concede there is a high risk of random and deliberate violence for all law enforcement employees. Which in and of it self is tragic.
My point is as always that the overuse of SWAT tactics is bad, it puts citizens and officers alike at unneeded risk, and portrays LEO's as paramilitary by nature. It's dangerous and bad community relations.
My other point would be the growing disconnect between the police and the public is bad. It's a big deal and this country need to deal with it somehow.
[QUOTE=Piper;4114691]What is the difference between 'Often' and 'Not always'.
Anyone could point out certain instances when one or the other got away with something.[/QUOTE]
I am sure that even you can understand that the police are more likely to get away with a crime than a common crook. There are many who have served on or attempted to serve on a jury that state that they always take the word of the police.
I cannot believe that you do not know that.
The Bill Of Rights is under attack by the Police State Mentality creeping into this society at a faster rate than ever. The people are finally waking up and doing something about it by video recording the activities while they are occurring.
A SWAT unit is a specialized force tasked for specific high-risk taskings. I can't criticize their objective, equipment or methods.
I've never seen a regular patrolman with a battle rifle slung on a shoulder unless in response to an incident meriting it.
However, when I see a regular patrolman in BDU-type dress with tactical thigh rig, a Marine high and tight and wearing boots, that is running contrary to purpose. A regular policeman should be a visible symbol of local government authority and community, risks and all, not concealing themselves under a tacticool visage.