After the September 11 attacks, the American public was quite willing to make a trade off: the exchange of some of their constitutional rights and liberties in the name of security. Over the years, the level of police militarization has not decreased in comparison to the threat. If anything it has increased.
Americans have suddenly woken up to the fact that when you trade liberty for security, you end up with neither.
If there is one good thing to come out of the events in St. Louis, it is the increased attention that is now being paid to the wholesale militarization of the police. It is a subject we have covered several times in this blog.
Matt Apuzzo from the New York Times recently wrote an article which noted that in the Obama era:
“police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”
The result is that police agencies around the nation possess military-grade equipment, turning officers who are supposed to fight crime and protect communities into what look like invading forces from an army. And military-style police raids have increased in recent years, with one count putting the number at 80,000 such raids last year.The article also adds that there is a racial element too:
Based on public records requests to more than 260 law enforcement agencies in 26 states, the ACLU concluded that “American policing has become excessively militarized through the use of weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield” and that this militarization “unfairly impacts people of color and undermines individual liberties, and it has been allowed to happen in the absence of any meaningful public discussion.”
Journalist Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides us with information about the police force there.
(This article is reprinted with permission.)