The ACLU has announced a nation-wide investigation of the militarization of our country’s police forces.
The danger of any militarized group is that when it is sponsored by the government, it may be turned against the people. In fact, that’s why we have a Second Amendment. The Framers worried that a federalized government would turn against the people and use a standing army to do it.
Militarized police forces are tantamount to standing armies and we should fear them just as we would fear any militarized force that can be used against ordinary citizens.
But we need not wait for a future tyrannical event to see the effects of police militarization. The effects are already with us and they can be summed up in one word: bullying-arrogance.
The police, by and large, do not see themselves as the protectors of the people, regardless of what is written on their cars. They see themselves as “officials” who must be obeyed. And one disobeys at his peril.
A few years ago I watched as a drunk was ordered into a paddy wagon but didn’t move fast enough to please a plain-clothes police officer standing nearby. The officer smashed the offending drunk with a sap and banged his head against a car. The police captain standing next to me on the sidewalk looked at me and said, “We don’t hire no Rhodes Scholars.”
Maybe they should hire Rhodes Scholars. Police work actually is too complex for the ordinary person. It involves skills in dressing wounds, delivering babies, giving CPR, talking down suicides, negotiating with people holding guns to other people’s heads, doing endless paperwork, being polite when patience has run out, shooting those who endanger others, and being always aware that citizens have Constitutional rights. It’s a job that requires extraordinary skills.
But for 200 years the police job has been treated as a blue collar occupation where you get to abuse people. The result is that blue collar types who like to be abusive are a significant factor in police hirings.
And this blue collar tradition has been exacerbated by large LEAA grants of federal money that have allowed police agencies to dress themselves up like soldiers, drive armored cars, and strike even more fear into ordinary citizens than they could manage with their police uniforms. By one estimate, SWAT teams invade homes in America 40,000 times in a typical year.
The locker room atmosphere of “us against them” and “we’ll kick them around” is endemic in the world of police. Resisting a police command, no matter how ridiculous or ill-advised, is justification – in police minds – for being charged with a crime. Of course, the charge won’t stick, but the offending citizen will go to jail overnight and the police will illustrate once again that they are above the law.
This arrogance and contempt for “civilians” is what makes the police likely gun confiscators. They get to keep their guns and be oppressors at the same time.
Although the police are just ordinary civil servants, they believe they are demigods, answerable to no one but themselves. They are also opportunists, eager to please the politicians who hire them. And right now, the politicians are gun grabbers.
Of course, this is one side of the story. There are plenty of cops acting in good faith with high levels of skill in what they do. The problem is that a few rotten apples easily spoil the barrel. It works that way with apples and with positions of public trust.
Our entire system of government is based on government officials – from the highest to the lowest — acting in good faith. This means that they act with an eye to the public good, not for the purpose of enhancing their own images, or getting votes, or stealing money, or satisfying their sadistic need to brutalize others.
When the ACLU investigation is concluded, what they will find is that the will to dominate and subjugate that is inherent in military operations has tainted police operations in general and eviscerated the idea of public service in every police force in the land.
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