It is to no surprise that there has been a change to the way Police Officers are perceived based on their change to their uniforms, weapons, and increased power they have in society. We can see that the transformation of not only the uniform, but forms of protection and weapons from police officers is starting to mere that of the United States Military. It is no coincidence that they look like that, it is intentional.
On, “Last week tonight” with John Oliver he talks about some of the reasoning behind this transition and how it is effecting society. A eye opening photo of about twenty officers dressed and equipped like a soldier all pointing M-16 rifles at an unarmed black male with his hands up. This is no coincidence because Melissa Harris-Perry quoted that, “Defense department 1033 program spent $4.3 billion dollars in military equipment transferred to local police.” So when we look at photos from Ferguson, Chicago, New York, California, we see a uniformity of the militarization of police officers. Why? because this is not a problem isola-
ted in one geographical region, it is a nation wide problem. Yes, some places experience it harsher than others. Like Oklahoma for example, their chief of police allowed military personnel to come and train their officers brining in military tanks, and firing off loud military grade weapons, scaring their surrounding neighborhoods. We are aware of this, it come down to how much it affects you to make you want to speak up. But why when we google search images of militarization of police officers, or watch stories about it on the news, it involves people of color?
Lets take Ferguson for example. In ferguson 63% of their population is black. 84% of police stops are of blacks, 93% of police searches are of blacks, and 93% of arrests are from blacks, which is obvious racial profiling. But if most of Ferguson’s police officers are white, and wear and have military grade weapons and uniforms it is safe to say that their law enforcement departments use their power to depict and police others of color within the criminal justice system in a militeristic way. A radio interview with representative Hank Johnson, discussing militarization of law enforcement. It reads:
“I believe it’s a culture that enables or says it’s okay for law enforcement officers to shoot to kill blacks, be they male or female, Hispanics … to use excessive force. Yes, I do think it’s a cultural issue within certain departments. Certain departments have a documented history of using excessive force.” — Rep. Hank Johnson, on the perceived culture in some police departments
This also ties back to race and the criminal justice system, because of the fact that the police officers that have militarized are still profiling and having bias toward those people of color, that are as well being killed. The culture that we live in today is scary, we have become so complaisant with what is going on around us that it has become the norm to hear about the problems with Police officers and their departments and not even be phased anymore. Making a hashtag is how we deal with our problems now. But what about the contrary and the benefit of PPU’s and SWAT being used for crowd control? Or is that just an excuse?
It is really fascinating to see how ex military personnel is being hired to become police officers. There is such a disconnect and change between a soldier coming from a military background, especially straight from war and being put not only in a police officer position but a high ranking police officer, being able to dictate training and policies of lower ranking officers. Soldiers, whether we want to believe it or not come back looking at the world differently. when we send our soldiers to war, were not sending them to white countries, were sending them to countries to kill enemies of a different race. Very similar to when police officers deal with civilians here in America, most officers are white having to deal with people of color. So when we get trained by military personnel and then allow soldiers to be police officers we begin to adopt their way of thinking.
Because of the increased police officer trainings, we can also look at the other side of them, a side people think is okay. The use of military equipment for crowd control. But in my opinion it is the same thing there are just using it as a crutch to do the same thing. Take San Bernardino, Ferguson, New York, etc. should our local law enforcement be able to have the weapons that they do for local ride arounds or even crowd control. I maybe totally off here, but i do think there is a huge correlation between militarization of law enforcement and use of force as well as race tying into it.
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- Do you think the increased military trainings within police departments effects police brutality?
- Has social media effected the way police officers can do their jobs effectively, if so how?
- If this is a cultural problem, how do we begin to change our culture?
- Should we only have special task teams do deal with domestic terrorism, active shootings, etc. or does it help if local law enforcement can be trained in the same way so that a situation can be under control by the time SWAAT is assembled?
- Is there reverse prejudice from civilians to police officers? and does it make their job harder
Huffington Post, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/26/so-that-happened-hank-johnson_n_7666964.html
Ryan, Reily, huffingtonpost, 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/30/ferguson-protests-police-response_n_7698548.html
John Oliver, 2014 Last week tonight with john oliver