Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Militarization of the police in the United States

The police in the United States (or at least many parts of it) being extremely trigger-happy isn't really any news anymore. However, if you dig deeper into it, it's actually quite frightening.

The police forces there being a paramilitary organization isn't just a figurative speech or an exaggeration. It's literally true. The police force at many places spends a total of billions of dollars in actual military equipment. And not just guns and vehicles, but the whole shebang. At many places, when the police does an operation, they look like a military group, even wearing camouflage. (There's zero reason for the police to wear military camouflage in the middle of a city, other than to intimidate. Or to boost their own ego, or something.)

It oftentimes gets ridiculously extreme. For example the police in the town of Doraville in the state of Georgia has a military-grade assault tank. And that wasn't a metaphor or an exaggeration; they literally have a military assault tank to move personnel. Doraville has a population of about 8400 people, and its police feels the need to have an assault tank, and police in full military gear. (This is a town of the size where you would think that there's like a sheriff and a couple of deputies, and the worst crime that ever happens is the town drunk or local teenagers causing trouble, or the occasional bar fight. But no, apparently there's a full-on war going on inside this small town of 8400 people.)

But the thing is, while the police at many places is pretty completely militarized, they do not have military training to speak of. For example, one of the core principles of the United States military is that you do not point your gun at someone unless you are ready to shoot them. This obviously isn't a principle of the police, who happily point their assault rifles at unarmed civilians who pose no danger whatsoever. (Although one could cynically say that hey, they are quite ready to shoot those unarmed civilians, so they are actually following the principle...)

And this has its repercussions. Probably not a week goes by without news about yet another police shooting, often of a completely innocent person. For example the police shoots a teen holding a Wii mote, or the police shoots a 12-years-old with a toy gun. The full list would be quite extensive.

And this isn't even going into the prevalent police brutality, which would be a subject all in itself.

The police in the United States has quite a track record of shooting unarmed civilians and police brutality, yet they seldom get any repercussions. Internal investigations seldom find any fault, and the United States government seldom intervenes or seeks for a reform. The government, however, seems quite happy to fund the military equipment of the police forces, and seldom intervenes in the abuses.

This is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of a police state. Sure, the United States might not yet be fully there, but they are quite far on that road.

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