Monday, June 25, 2012

The Militarization Of Our Community Police?

S.W.A.T  Special Police photo by vudhikrai courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos. Net

I just heard on WAVE-TV news that Scottsburg, IN was one of (6) cities in Indiana to get a "Cop Grant" from the Department of Justice.  While I have nothing against VETS (my husband is a VET) it gave me pause when I heard that the communities receiving money from these 221 grants MUST hire ONLY former military personnel who served after 9/11. 

For any new hire positions awarded, grantees are required to hire a new police officer who is a military veteran that has served after 9/11 for a period of no less than 180 days and has been honorably discharged. 

Our police departments are already adopting way too many military style policies and procedures and even using the same weapons that our soldiers use.  I worry that the erosion of our civil liberties will only increase with an increasingly militarized police department. Hiring only former post 9/11 military for new police officers is a giant step in the wrong direction.

With so many communities suffering under budget shortfalls these grants will more than likely be the ONLY source available for hiring new police officers in these communities. 
The COPS Hiring Program makes grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers. The program provides the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years. Along with the pledge to hire military veterans, grantees for the 2012 Hiring Program were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates. An additional factor in the selection process was each agency’s strategy to address specific problems such as increased homicide rates and gun violence.

Perhaps I'm worried unnecessarily but the requirements for these grants really set off my radar. This passage from the excellent Arthur Rizer and Joseph Hartman piece in the Atlantic  sums up my concern: 

The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the "men in blue" from "peace officer" to soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to "keep the peace." Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that - suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the "bad guys." For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is an absolute last resort. 

Soldiers, by contrast, are trained to identify people they encounter as belonging to one of two groups -- the enemy and the non-enemy -- and they often reach this decision while surrounded by a population that considers the soldier an occupying force. Once this identification is made, a soldier's mission is stark and simple: kill the enemy, "try" not to kill the non-enemy. Indeed, the Soldier's Creed declares, "I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat." This is a far cry from the peace officer's creed that expects its adherents "to protect and serve."  

1 comment:

  1. I whole heartedly agree w/what the above. We do NOT need solidiers as Police Officers. What we need is men and women who fear G-d and who care about people and who desire to serve and keep the peace. Men and women who understand that we are all sinners and that none of us are perfect and men and women who care to solve problems and not just make arrests. Yes some military training might help in certain situations but the bottom line is what I mentioned above and if a person has a desire to serve and protect than they should be given a chance to do so whether they've been in the Military or not. Dave B


* If you post using the "anonymous" profile you can still include whatever name you wish to use at the end of your comment.