Why Police Militarization Isn’t About Protecting Officers

In the far-right news website Breitbart, there was an article named “Police Militarization: It’s Not About the Equipment, It’s About Keeping the Peace.” The author makes a few outdated, illogical arguments for the militarization of police. Like many proponents for police militarization, the author takes a very narrow view of the world and ignores the negative consequences of militarization.

The first argument he makes is that the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security have given billions of dollars in military weapons to police departments nationwide and a bill to stop this program was shot down by Congress. Since Congress hasn’t objected, he thinks that there is no issue.

Really?

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His argument is that if the government doesn’t seem a problem with it, then it must be okay? This argument is flawed for many reasons, especially since it is the government that has the power to oppress citizens. Of course the government wouldn’t immediately find fault with a program that gives them more power. Just because the government allows something does not mean it is morally correct or the right policy decision. Remember when African Americans were enslaved? Or when women couldn’t vote? The author should think twice before using this logic again in the future.

Secondly, the author argues that officers need military weapons because there is more violence against police officers. While there are cases where officers are attacked by citizens, this should not justify billions of dollars spent on military grade equipment. If officers who already have guns can’t defend themselves against an attacker, how will giving them an armored vehicle protect them? How will instilling values of force and violence towards citizens protect them from an attack? The militarization of police is not a solution for officer deaths, it just adds to the problem of police aggression and force.

Although the author cites that police officer murder has been on the rise, this is actually not the case. According to a BBC article, the number of officers killed by a criminal act has actually decreased since the 1970s.

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Another interesting trend that debunks the authors claims is that the number of police officers in our country has increased. This combined with the stat above shows that officers are less likely to be killed now than they were in the past.

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Those who support militarization are missing the big picture: there are problems in our country surrounding police officer safety, but the answer is not to give officers more expensive weapons and promote violence towards citizens. If individuals want to protect police officers, they should try to fix the deeper issues that make citizens distrust police and kill them.

We don’t need officers with bigger guns, we need police reform.

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Militarization of Police: A Threat to Democracy

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.

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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.

 

kimxt