Many people have noticed that several of the local police officers, particularly the younger ones are more gruff, rude and even abusive as compared to the past. Many veteran officers attribute the shift towards DHS’ training of local police which focuses on teaching the police that the public is their enemy as opposed to the traditional view that teaches that the local population and the police are partners in keeping the community safe.
Whatever happened to the friendly neighborhood cop who walked a beat, was well-known and respected by the local residents and was seen as the protector of the neighborhood? Far too often, that cop has been replaced by thugs wearing camouflage, bank robber type black ski masks who are armed with automatic weapons and sometimes even break down the doors of people who are innocent.
A Long-Term Trend Towards the Militarization of the Local Police
Americans have long maintained that a man’s home is his castle and that he has the right to stand his ground in defending his property from dangerous interlopers.
Unfortunately, the right to defend one’s own home may be disappearing. America has become SWAT team happy. America has seen a disturbing trend towards militarization of its local civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and very disturbing rise in the use of paramilitary police units being used for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home. However, anyone can be SWAT-teamed, even those who default on their student loans have been SWAT-teamed.
Since 9/11, and the subsequent militarization of the police by the Department of Homeland Security, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by US police officers. The civilian death rate is nearly equal to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq. In fact, you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.
Salt Lake City: The Federalization of Our Police
Under the creation of the Unified Police Department (UPD) in Salt Lake City, Utah local jurisdictions and municipalities which were previously controlled by the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, was reallocated to UPD. The UPD is a regional police force. They answer to no mayor, no city council and no county commissioners. The UPD is Salt Lake City’s new police department and serves as the model for the program which is being implemented in other police departments across the nation. This centralized Gestapo type of law enforcement does not belong anywhere in America.
It is clear that the police departments are being trained as the local enforcers of the coming martial law and they are also being trained to use horrific brutality.
While the majority of police officers are good men, reports like raiding the wrong house and subsequently killing the individuals inside are becoming more common place, and the officers that are involved rarely face any sort of consequences.
John Adams 61, was shot and killed by police in a drug raid on the wrong house. His wife Loraine, 70, was also handcuffed and forced to the ground. Not one of the officers has lost their job. In fact, some have even been promoted since the event.
Jose Guerena was shot and killed by several members of the Pima County Sheriff’s Office on a drug raid that produced no evidence of drug use or that of selling drugs. He was an Iraq veteran and the Pima Sheriffs officers let him bleed to death over the course of an hour after being shot over 60 times. The deputies denied Guerena medical attention. Not one of the officers has lost their job.
The Guerena and Adams cases are being played out all across the country. This is unacceptable in a supposed free society. However, what we are witnessing is the militarization of police for what looks like brutal martial law training. Why else would we see such senseless acts of violence being committed by police against American citizens all across the country?
The Data Says It Is Time for the Public to Act
The CATO Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, in 2010 there were 4,861 reports of police misconduct involving 6,613 sworn officers and 6,826 alleged victims.
The question of police discipline is one of the fox watching the hen house. Far too often the police are left to discipline themselves. Many communities who are dissatisfied with police departments’ internal discipline procedures have created volunteer police watch groups to prevent the police from hiding behind the discipline offered by colleagues as they hide behind the “thin blue line”, which serves to protect fellow officers accused of wrongdoing.
Coupled with the paramilitary design of the police bureaucracy itself, the police give in to what is already a serious problem in the ranks: the belief that the increasing use of power against a citizen is always justified no matter the violation. The police don’t understand that in many instances they are the cause of the escalation and bear more responsibility during an adverse outcome. The Cato Institute maintains a botched raid map at this link.
The Solution Is to Film Cops in the Performance of Their Duties
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Police should be filmed in the performance of their duty so there is no question as to whether the police are applying excessive force and are following the Constitution.
We can no longer trust cops to operate on their own authority. They must wear cameras.
In Minneapolis, the city government voted to spend $25,000 to have cops wear cameras in the performance of their duties. City Council member, Betsy Hodges, said that the city will ultimately save money from lessening the number of law suits.
Film Cops and Get Life In Prison
Unfortunately, many police are not warm to the idea of being filmed in the performance of their duties. However, it is perfectly legal to film cops so long as they are not interfered with, as nobody in public has an expectation of privacy. Yet, the law has not stopped some cops from abusing their authority and arresting people for harmlessly filming officers in the performance of their duty.
Michael Allison, recorded police officers on duty in his front yard inspecting vehicles he was repairing. The police cited Allison for failing to properly register his vehicles, and so he requested an ordinance review hearing. Allison now faces five felony counts, with each count carrying a penalty for 15 years in prison. For videotaping police and a court proceeding, Allison faces an unbelievable total of 75 years, or the rest of his life in prison under Illinois new eavesdropping statutes.
Clearly, the tide of increasing and deadly police brutality must be stemmed in America. The solutions that should be invoked are (1) invoke the 10th Amendment and forbid DHS to train local law enforcement; (2) repeal the legislation which permits the military and DHS to donate military hardware to local police departments, it is not needed and promotes a paramilitary attitude towards police work; (3) establish a citizen review board which will have authority over all complaints regarding police brutality. The police can longer be allowed to judge their own; and, (4) require all on-duty police to wear cameras.
These simple actions could go a long way towards re-establishing civilian control over too many departments which are clearly out of control and are serving to endanger the public as opposed to serving the public.
Dave is an award winning psychology, statistics and research professor, a college basketball coach, a mental health counselor, a political activist and writer who has published dozens of editorials and articles in several publications such as Freedoms Phoenix, News With Views andThe Arizona Republic.