The Violent Militarization Of Local Police
February 13, 2012 by Bob Livingston
Law-abiding citizens are no longer safe from police. Once the motto for police officers was “To protect and serve,” but now it seems to be “To harass, assault and attack.”
Across the country, police officers are increasingly militarized and increasingly militant. They make up laws out of thin air, claiming that innocuous activities like watching or videotaping police activities — including arrests on public streets, walking in certain neighborhoods, parking on certain streets and putting trash in trash cans — are crimes.
While the vilest offenders are SWAT teams, even regular patrol officers become violent at the least provocation. Thanks to YouTube and similar content-sharing sites, more of these incidents are coming to light. However, capturing video of these incidents has put the videographer at risk from the police, who often unlawfully and forcibly take the phone or camera and erase its contents or remove its memory card. It’s not unusual for the videographer to be roughed up and/or threatened with arrest in the process. A list of recent incidences of police brutality and other police misconduct can be read at Injustice Everywhere.
Cops have come to think of themselves as gods above the law whose commands are to be obeyed immediately and without question. Any hesitation often leads to the “suspect” being left bleeding and broken or quivering from electricity introduced by a TASER. It doesn’t matter if the person was unable to understand the command because of a language barrier, or if the person was unable to comply due to disability or defect. Officers expect immediate and complete compliance with no questions asked.
They are shooting dogs for barking, Tasing (see here and here) and pepper spraying children in schools and shooting wheelchair-bound men in the streets. They apparently feel they operate above the law.
Many, if not most, patrol cars now carry dash cams. Sometimes, dash cam videos are preserved, which allows abused citizens — if they are persistent and dogged enough — to get justice and restitution occasionally. Such was the case shown here, where the officer threatened to shoot a suspect in the head for not revealing he had a concealed weapon in the car. Often, though, the dash cam video mysteriously disappears before trial.
According to a report by the CATO Institute, tens of thousands of raids are conducted by SWAT teams each year. The report claimed:
These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.
The so-called War on Drugs is undoubtedly the casus belli for the increased militarization of the police. SWAT officers are armed and armored as well as, if not better than, soldiers. Drug task forces receive Federal funding to purchase assault weapons, armor and armored vehicles to use in drug raids. They no longer serve warrants by knocking on doors or by picking up suspects on the streets. Instead, they bash down doors or use chain saws to gain entry.
SWAT teams argue their safety requires they swarm into homes. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they create an explosive situation that often leads to innocent people being harmed or killed. Sadly, they often force their way into the wrong residence.
The instance in Tucson, Ariz., in which Iraq veteran Jose Guerena was shot 60 times by SWAT officers in his home is prima facie evidence of the danger these situations create.
In the early morning hours Guerena’s wife, Vanessa, saw a man pointing a gun at her through the window. She awakened her husband, who was asleep after working the night shift. Thinking a home invasion was in progress, Guerena told his wife to get into a closet and grabbed his gun.
The SWAT team forced open the door and opened fire on Guerena, then stood by and watched him bleed for an hour before letting paramedics treat him. By then, he was dead. SWAT officers then lied about who shot first. The safety was still on Guerena’s gun, indicating he never fired. Nothing illegal was found in Guerena’s home.
It is grounded in conservative American psyche to defend oneself and one’s home. Yet responding to an unannounced and violent intrusion by police will leave you as dead as it left Guerena.
And even if you aren’t shot dead, the police have no qualms about destroying your residence. They claim it is police procedure to gas the house, tear up floor boards, kick in doors and walls, and strew contents of cabinets and furniture to the winds. Requests for compensation are ignored, even if nothing was ever found.
But it’s not just suspected drug dealers who feel the wrath of police officers. Just ask Marianne Godboldo of Detroit. Police thugs forcibly removed her daughter for the crime of Godboldo not giving her daughter a pill prescribed by a physician.
Most people dismiss claims of an increasingly violent and aggressive police force as either conspiracy theory or sour grapes by criminals. Minorities have long seen their claims of police brutality dismissed out of hand by white America. Many people naively believe that if they don’t commit a crime, they won’t have anything to worry about from police. But it’s high time that people see this for what it is and connect the dots on the news stories of today.
Congress has just authorized having as many as 30,000 unmanned drones patrolling the U.S. skies. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are greatly expanding the definition of extremist and terrorist to include people performing normal activities or objecting to paying taxes. The USA Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act have given government carte blanche to detain Americans without charge and without trial and ship them to the Guantanamo Bay prison resort.
In a series of debates on socialism in 1914, John Basil Barnhill said, “Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.” The government fears the people and the coming conflagration it has sparked. By tightening its grasp on liberty through the militarization of the police force, the pendulum is swinging to where the people are now beginning to fear their government.
Where this will lead is anybody’s guess, but I predict it won’t be pretty.