This Wall Street Journal essay highlights disturbing facts about the aggressive militarization of U.S. police forces. Financed by Federal grants, police departments and government agencies are creating SWAT teams with weapons and capabilities equivalent to special military forces. They have so far murdered at least 50 innocent Americans either by mistake or by accident.
Citizen taxes are financing the acquisition of overwhelming power to be used against the citizens. The police officials will of course say that they need this power to combat the “threat” posed by the citizens, without ever asking why there is so much discontent, hostility and “lawlessness” in the population at large. (The essay makes clear that much of the lawlessness is in fact consensual adult activity with no victim, such as minor recreational drug use and gambling.)
But even if normal police forces did face citizen threats that justified such heavy weapons and tactics, why do the Fish and Wildlife Service, NASA, and the Department of the Interior all have SWAT teams? The answer is that “this is the way we do things now.” As with the rampant purchase of unmanned surveillance drones at all levels of policing, down to small municipalities, the petty authoritarians of our society want tools of repression because it’s the order of the day, because everybody else has them, and the Federal government is liberally dispensing public money to pay for it.
Radley Balko, the author of the essay, believes that this trend will be difficult if not impossible to reverse, but that an obvious first step is to end the Federal grants.