A Good, Long Essay About Police Militarization In The United States That Every Cop, Lawyer, Journalist And Participating Citizen Should Read

Actually, it’s not an essay, it’s an excerpt from journalist Radley Balko’s book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Anyway, it’s a compelling read that covers massive, widespread overuse of force by U.S. police against casual small-time gamblers, underage drinkers, protesters, chihuahuas and other dangerous dogs, college students and people who had the misfortune of living at residences SWAT teams mistakenly think house child pornography watchers. Includes a guest appearance by Shaquille O’Neal. Here’s a short excerpt.

The fact that the Postal Service offers such training and most police departments don’t lends some credence to the theory that dog shootings are part of the larger problem of a battlefield mentality that lets police use lethal force in response to the slightest threat—usually with few consequences. “It’s an evolving phenomenon,” says Norm Stamper, the former Seattle police chief. “It started when drug dealers began to recruit pit bulls to guard their supply. These dogs weren’t meant to attack cops. They were meant to attack other drug dealers who came to rob them. But of course they did attack cops. And yes, that’s awfully scary if one of those things latches on to your leg.”

But Stamper says that like many aspects of modern policing, dog shootings may have had a legitimate origin, but the practice has since become a symptom of the mind-set behind a militarized police culture. “Among other things, it really shows a lack of imagination. These guys think that the only solution to a dog that’s yapping or charging is shooting and killing it. That’s all they know. It goes with this notion that police officers have to control every situation, to control all the variables. That’s an awesome responsibility, and if you take it on, you’re caving to delusion. You no longer exercise discrimination or discretion. You have to control, and the way you control is with authority, power, and force. With a dog, the easiest way to take control is to simply kill it. I mean, especially if there are no consequences for doing so.”

This is a great piece of writing and you guys should head over to Salon and read it. And maybe even buy the damn book.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

3 thoughts on “A Good, Long Essay About Police Militarization In The United States That Every Cop, Lawyer, Journalist And Participating Citizen Should Read”

  1. Nice! I read that piece earlier today. One of the things mentioned by Balko is that, despite the high odds of a cop running into a dog on duty, very few departments have dedicated “dealing with a dog” training. Given the recent shooting of a dog by a member of the RPS, it would be interesting to find out if they have any such training.

  2. This book is extremely timely. I’m not sure when I can pinpoint the change – but peace officers in Regina can be seen wearing combat-ready pants and boots, along with bullet proof vests. Not to mention the increased use of para-military SWAT teams etc. I recall reading an article about the RCMP purchasing 2 armoured personnel carriers for Saskatchewan as well.

    The police provide an important public safety service. They do not exist however, to scare us into behaving. I reckon we are starting to cross the line into that very thing.

  3. I miss the days of beige or sky-blue police street-duty shirts. It’s what I was raised with and trusted, when I saw police on the streets as a kid.

    Now, it’s all black or combat-dark-blue.

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