Wednesday, March 26, 2014

the militarization of domestic policing

My dad was a policeman, so I have longstanding respect and admiration for those who serve and protect us. And I know that many of the bad guys have dangerous firepower. But I don't like the rush to acquire military-style combat equipment that can be deployed without much restraint against local people. Not every community really needs a SWAT team, and they certainly don't need to use them as aggressively as many now do.

The Economist reports: "that SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers. That same year heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando, Florida; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for “barbering without a licence”."

Lured by generous funding to fight drug dealers and now possible terrorists, local police are acquiring and using too much firepower, disproportionate to their real needs. Too much, already.

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