Ferguson as a Datapoint – The Trend of Police Militarization

It’s no secret that the situation in Ferguson, Missouri at the moment is a mess, to say the least. It’s also no secret that race has played a huge role in the escalation of a tragic instance of police violence into pseudo-martial law in a small town. What has been kept under the radar, for the most part, until a week ago was the slowly expanding and militarizing police force.

I want to take the events in Ferguson and step back for a moment and analyze the broader picture. You see, to be frank, I don’t care about the killing of Michael Brown anymore than I do about the killing of Keith Koster. I don’t care about the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. anymore than I do about the killing of Troy Geske. Why? Because these are four people amidst the over 400 who are killed annually. In fact, new studies indicate that the number of people killed by police, not only may be much higher annually, but in the past decade has surpassed all the Americans who died in Iraq (evidently, police kill 8 times more people than terrorists do).

When I turn on the TV or log on to the internet, I don’t see individual instances, rather a growing trend towards militarization and unwarranted aggression, and it is this trend, not any racial or socioeconomic element, that I want to explore after the jump.

Following the troop cut backs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense found itself with quite a bit of extra hardware including, but not limited to, automatic weapons, body armor, and heavy transports. What did the DoD do with half a billion dollars worth of wartime hardware? They gave it to local police forces, of course! Hell, even the Ohio State University acquired a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle because, you know, those rival Michigan fans have been known to plant IEDs in the middle of High Street[.]

All kidding aside, the trend in the United States has become very clear: militarize the police and disarm the citizens. Following that, a nasty positive feedback loop occurs wherein a disarmed public, when abused by police due to the power differential, resort to guerrilla tactics such as Molotov Cocktail throwing. In response, the police cry “see, we need our MRAPs!” and the cycle of violence continues and gets worse and worse. Not only does this model not work, but eventually even more corrupt officers will get military weapons and then, as William Adama said, “the enemies of the state tend to become the people” (x).

So what is the alternative? For some less than intelligent people on Facebook, the answer is to “go burn down the police station” and “radically rebel” while going out to “shoot some cops” (citation redacted to protect the stupid). But that’s clearly not a solution, if anything it’s a way to re-entrench the problem (this may be a later post). Rather, I would propose a two part solution. First, demilitarize the police, and second, arm the citizens.

There’s no reason your local sheriff needs a fully automatic machine gun; save that for SWAT teams and special forces. There’s no reason a university needs a Mine-Resistant vehicle. If police are demilitarized *note: that is not disarmed*, that will lessen the severity of rights violations enacted upon journalists (ie. Al-Jazeera) as well decrease the chances of conflict escalation (and of course, save money). The police are supposed to the protect the citizens from threats at home, not fight the citizens. I don’t agree with Senator Rand Paul on many issue, but when it comes to the militarization of the homeland, I stand with Rand.

Before all else, be armed. – Niccolo Machiavelli

But second, and most importantly, I think citizens should be armed. Before I explain however, allow me to take a brief aside: I intend on writing a post designated solely to the following topic, so this will just be a statement of opinion and a little teaser if you will.

I think that a well armed populace is vital to the security and peace of a nation. Not only does a well armed populace deter crime and looting, (I’m confident that if the clerk at Ferguson Market & Liquor had brandished a .357 Magnum, Mr. Brown would have left promptly without illegal merchandise) but a well armed populace is likely to deter invasions of individual rights (think Bundy ranch) and sure as hell will deter unwarranted police aggression.

What’s more, and what will be discussed in detail in a later post – so please excuse the brevity here, an armed populace forces a change in government. Once a populace is armed, an illegitimate government has nowhere to hide because they can’t hide behind a monopoly on weapons. Once citizens have the ability to fight back against a government, the government must either become more transparent and actually view the citizens of the nation as people as opposed to fodder, or face an angry armed public (which no government wants) . You see, legitimate governments “by the people and for the people” have no need to fear their citizens and vice versa.

It’s clear that a change in governmental views on citizens won’t change from the top down or by electing better leaders, rather it will have to change from the ground up. As was said in Battlestar Galactica, “a government that hears the people has no reason to fear the people”.

Update: See how much military equipment has been given to a police force near you! Here.

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