Pubdate: Tue, 26 May 2015
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2015 The Palm Beach Post
Authors: Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall
Note: Christopher J. Coyne is coeditor of The Independent Review, 
journal of The Independent Institute (, Oakland, 
Calif. Abigail R. Hall is research fellow at The Independent 
Institute. They wrote this for Inside Sources.


We've all seen videos of Third World "police" in combat gear putting 
down demonstrations by physically assaulting protesters, turning 
heavy equipment and tear gas on them, or shooting into crowds. That's 
what makes the recent events in Baltimore all the more disturbing. 
This time the "peace officers" in military combat gear, brandishing 
military-grade weapons and perched on armored military vehicles, were ours.

No one knows what the Baltimore protests will look like in the coming 
days, though the criminal charges filed against six police officers 
in the homicide of Freddie Gray may have a calming effect. But the 
recent violence there and elsewhere has brought long-overdue 
attention to an important national development that had all but been 
ignored: the militarization of our police.

Over the past two decades, police departments across the country have 
acquired large quantities of military equipment and have dramatically 
increased their use of such questionable tactics as "no-knock" raids.

As citizens consider the merits of this trend, it is crucial to 
understand its origins.

Police militarization can be traced primarily to two policies: the 
"War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror." Throughout the 1970s and 
1980s, concerns over drug use prompted calls for local, state and 
federal law enforcement to step up efforts to curtail the drug trade.

Interdiction and enforcement thus became the justification for 
increased policing resources.

At first, the response was mostly more of the usual conventional methods.

Then, in 1981, Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law 
Enforcement Act (MCLEA), which allowed the Department of Defense to 
offer training, intelligence, vehicles and equipment to domestic 
police forces to combat drugs.

This included items ranging from small handguns and night-vision 
goggles to armored cars, tanks, assault weapons and aircraft.

The impact of MCLEA was swift.

By 1982, 59 percent of law-enforcement agencies maintained police 
paramilitary units or Special Weapons and Tactics units, according to 
Peter Kraska, an expert on militarization at the University of 
Kentucky. He found that more than 89 percent of police departments 
had a PPU by 1995.

The militarization accelerated following the terrorist attacks of 
Sept. 11, 2001, when the war on terror began.

The federal government directed millions in cash and equipment to 
local police forces to combat the terrorist threat.

One example of this expansion can be seen in DoD's 1997 Excess 
Property Program 1033, which allows the transfer of military 
equipment to local police.

This was an offer the police couldn't refuse.

By 2010, some $212 million in military equipment was being 
transferred to local police annually - a number that more than 
doubled, to $450 million, by 2013. Similar programs are operated by 
the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

The military-style police response we've witnessed in Baltimore and 
elsewhere should cause us all great concern.

Police militarization has helped transform our country into a 
battlefield, where U.S. citizens are viewed not as civilians presumed 
innocent until proven guilty of a crime but as enemies.

Officers are trained to think of their patrols, not as their 
communities, but as "battlefields." In fact, an internal memo to the 
Ferguson, Mo., police department, described protesters as "enemy 
forces" and "adversaries."

We need to change direction.

An initial step would be to end the 1033 program and similar 
initiatives that encourage the transfer of military equipment to the 
police, rather than dial it back as President Barack Obama did last 
week. Citizens also should reconsider the costs along with any 
benefits of providing police forces with military-style assault training.

Moreover, it's time to seriously reconsider the larger policies under 
which police militarization occurred and expanded. Stated simply, 
demilitarizing police would require nothing short of scaling down or 
drastically altering the wars on drugs and terror.

The shift in police mentality has blurred the distinction between 
police and the military, between law enforcement and combat.

The result is an erosion of the liberties we enjoy as Americans.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom