Headlines: June 13, 2016: Call For De-Militarizing Police on Hold?

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A Brief History

After the anti-police hysteria following police related killings of black (in this article we will use this term to be in consonance with “Black Lives Matter?) in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland (as well as New York and Cleveland), many naïve people called for the “de-militarization of police.”  Led by no less than President Barack Obama, who declared his intention to keep military surplus equipment out of the hands of police, the reactionary response has been shown in graphic detail to be seriously flawed.

Digging Deeper

During the massacre of at least 49 people at an Orlando night club only yesterday, June 12, 2016, police used an armored vehicle to smash into the club where a heavily armed gunman had another 30 people hostage, successfully allowing the entry of SWAT units to resolve the situation.  The BearCat armored vehicle used in Orlando is also used by police departments and military units throughout the world.  In addition to the fortunate presence of this vehicle, a policeman’s life was saved by his military Kevlar helmet which stopped a bullet from the terrorist.

Pulse nightclub exterior, showing holes made by the BearCat and bullet holes

The anti-police hysteria that has developed over the past few years has been fueled by media distortion and political gamesmanship, and serves as a disservice to the public, sometimes resulting in what the head of the FBI James Comey calls “The Ferguson Effect” where police are afraid to do their job because of unfair persecution in the aftermath of arrests or deadly force incidents.

A few select incidents have seemed to show police wrongly applying deadly force, and of course these incidents need to be addressed so that any police abuse of force is properly dealt with, but it is a mistake to cripple police efforts everywhere based on exceptional incidents.  Taking away needed equipment from the police only makes emergency situations much worse.  After all, police in armored vehicles have not been accused of murdering black citizens (or anyone else), so why does taking these vehicles away help the public?  Or is this approach just a broad brush punishing of police, totally irrelevant to the perceived problem?

A BearCat pictured in 2007.

Of course, the anti-gun rhetoric generated by the Orlando massacre as espoused by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (remove “assault weapons” meaning AR-15 semi-automatic versions from the public and “universal background checks“ based on universal gun registration) is just more misdirection, a desperate attempt to “do something”even if it would not prevent or mitigate such incidents.  A goof such as Omar Mateen could do tremendous damage with firearms that do not resemble military weapons, and had he used explosives and fire may have killed many more.  Obviously the real solution is to stop these murderous terrorists themselves, hopefully through diligent law enforcement analysis instead of the failed efforts of the FBI to evaluate the threat posed by Mateen.

Police have to have the tools needed to combat terrorists and terrorist like incidents, just as they need bomb disposal units and equipment and scuba gear for those times when nothing else will do. Seriously, these items are not being used against regular people or in some frivolous way.  Tying the hands of police serves only the bad guys, not good citizens.

Feel free to comment on which ever side of this argument you believe in.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Lancia, James.  “Downtown White Police”: Demonizing the Alpha Cop, Glorifying Thugs, and Militarizing Law Enforcement.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

Selby, Nick and Ben Singleton.  In Context: Understanding Police Killings of Unarmed Civilians.  CIAI Press, 2016.

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About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland