According to multiple definitions of the term, militarize means “to equip with military forces”, “to train for war,” or “when society organizes itself for military conflict or war.” While these definitions make sense for the way our armed forces operate, they have no place in our police force.
Over the past few years, our society has seen our police force become more and more militarized. Police officers are equipped with armed vehicles, heavy duty weapons, and crowd control instruments that can permanently injure protesters. So the question is, what effect does this have on an officer’s mentality?
First and foremost, the militarization of our police force makes officers think that the use of force is more acceptable. If they are equipped for violence and have the tools to inflict harm, it makes sense that they would be more willing to. There could be instances where an officer has the option to peacefully detain a suspect or control a crowd, but chooses to use force because they have the power to. This doesn’t seem right, does it?
Police militarization has the power to turn a peaceful protest into a riot. According to the First Amendment, Americans have the right to assemble peacefully and protest against the government. However, in recent years, we have seen protesters brutally attacked and beaten by officers just for not complying with their requests. According to a NewsWeek article, the following are situations that have occurred between the police and peaceful protesters:
- During the Ferguson Protests, a cop yells “Bring it, you f****** animals, bring it!”
- During a Chicago protest, a cop yells at the crowd “Run, you bastards, run!”
- During a peaceful protest in Ferguson, police attack protesters with tear gas
Americans have the Constitutional right to peacefully assemble. Therefore, why are we allowing our police force to attack innocent people while they are doing so? When police officers are given more powerful weaponry and bring it to protests, they are going into the situation planning to use force, not saving it as a last resort.
Our police force is not our military. There is no need for officers to have the same weapons that members of our armed forces have. If a police unit is unable to handle a peaceful protest and keep the public safe without force, then they cannot do their job. We need police reform, not police militarization.