The Militarization of the Police Is the Problem

Prolegomenon. There is an old joke about a man looking for a watch on Broadway when it was lost in the Bowery; when asked why he was looking on Broadway instead of where the watch was lost he replied “the light is so much better here.” Similarly, activists don’t use the incident that best exemplifies their cause, they use the most highly publicized event that can be linked to their cause, even if that link is tenuous. Because the light is so much better.

A meme that’s long gone. Take a look, a gander at this image. Norman Rockwell painted this (“The Runaway”, shown here) for a Saturday Evening Post cover that was published September 20, 1958. The imagery is perfect. Understanding cop — with a lot of time on his hands — reasoning with a lad who ran away. What would today’s version be? A kid sedated by a psychotropic cocktail, under lock and key or recovering after having been Tasered or beaten (or worse) for mouthing off to a cop. This is the crux of the problem: the militarization of the police. The destruction of the idea and notion that they’re to help and assist and not necessarily kick ass and take down names.

Compare this theme with today’s.

Seeming disparity of coverage and concern. Kelly Thomas, Dillon Taylor, Gil Collar. White guys beaten and shot to death by cops: white, non-white and black. (I still don’t know what the hell non-white means.) It’s relevant, it’s pertinent and it needs to be explored. Not because that excuses any alleged police overreaction but because it adds perspective. It adds light. The problem is endemic, inherent and knows not race as a primary factor. Correlation versus cause are two distinctly different considerations. Critial thinking and precise issue analysis are needed desperately.

Let me be brutally frank. I hate, no! I loathe discussions that victim categorize by race. What is this? Are we keeping a tally? No, that’s not the basis of my indictment. If a behavior is wrong, if a reaction is unwarranted, it’s wrong simply because it’s wrong. Likewise you can’t excuse wrongdoing simply because it’s rare and infrequent. A black suspect mistreated by cops is as wrong as a white suspect mistreated by cops. Cops who are trained professionals, I might add.

But what I cannot understand is the selective categorization of victim demographics. Yes, without a doubt, there are discrepancies between white and black treatment. True. The history of police treatment is marred and horrible to be sure. But issue analysis and critical thinking a required here. Let’s stick to the particular issue and framework that this disquisition attempts to address. Work with me in this one.

What the problem is and has been is an attitudinal militarization of police that has been exacerbated by the recent injection of 1033-like programs into police departments already burdened by historically entrenched and intrinsic racism. Without a doubt. let’s be clear: Racism has existed, the disparate treatment of criminal detainees and suspects still exists. Fine, let’s all stipulate to that and move on.

Here is the gravamen of my indictment.

  • Police training and institutional mindsets need immediate and drastic revision.
  • The celerity in the use of deadly force must be addressed. Alternatives to force and dispute resolution must be included in officers’ arsenal.
  • Racial arson, especially when fueled by those who seek to enjoy pecuniary gain, must be decried and attacked for what it is.
  • The mainstream media must seriously readdress the way in which it covers incendiary matters, especially in view of the 24/7 cable news wheel that feeds data and coverage without surcease with no recognizable sense of proportion, sobriety or responsibility.
  • The notion of the peace officer has gone the way of RoboCop. So long, Sheriff Andy. The message of the role of officer must be retooled and readdressed.
  • The principles of Posse Comitatus must be revisited to readdress the division between civilian law enforcement and military.

Good luck explicating this perspective. Ted Baxter and Ron Burgundy would be proud.


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