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The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments

*** I actually wrote this two years ago, but I think in light of all the police rioting against the occupy movement, it's information is even more striking, topical, and relevant today ***

Before you dismiss this and say, "it can't happen here," click this link, and then click this link; the problem is that it happens all too frequently as seen in this recent video about the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. Stick with the video, the first 30 seconds or so of the video is music, but then comes an interesting report

CATO: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments

By Diane Cecilia Weber~CATO Institute [Report in PDF]

    One of the most alarming side effects of the federal government’s war on drugs is the militarization of law enforcement in America. There are two aspects to the militarization phenomenon. First, the American tradition of civil-military separation is breaking down as Congress assigns more and more law enforcement responsibilities to the armed forces. Second, state and local police officers are increasingly emulating the war-fighting tactics of soldiers. Most Americans are unaware of the militarization phenomenon simply because it has been creeping along imperceptibly for many years. ...


    What is clear — and disquieting — is that the lines that have traditionally separated the military mission from the police mission are getting badly blurred. Over the last 20 years Congress has encouraged the U.S. military to supply intelligence, equipment, and training to civilian police. That encouragement has spawned a culture of paramilitarism in American police departments. By virtue of their training and specialized armament, state and local police officers are adopting the tactics and mindset of their military mentors. The problem is that the actions and values of the police officer are distinctly different from those of the warrior. The job of a police officer is to keep the peace, but not by just any means. Police officers are expected to apprehend suspected law breakers while adhering to constitutional procedures. They are expected to use minimum force and to deliver suspects to a court of law. The soldier, on the other hand, is an instrument of war. In boot camp, recruits are trained to inflict maximum damage on enemy personnel. Confusing the police function with the military function can have dangerous consequences. As Albuquerque police chief Jerry Glavin has noted, “If [cops] have a mindset that the goal is to take out a citizen, it will happen."

    The lines that have traditionally separated the military mission from the police mission are getting badly blurred. Paramilitarism threatens civil liberties, constitutional norms, and the well-being of all citizens. Thus, the use of paramilitary tactics in everyday police work should alarm people of goodwill from across the political spectrum.

    This paper will examine the militarization of law enforcement at the local level, with particular emphasis on SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) units. The paper will conclude that the special skills of SWAT personnel and their military armaments are necessary only in extraordinary circumstances.

    The deployment of such units should therefore be infrequent.More generally, Congress should recognize that soldiers and police officers perform different functions. Federal lawmakers should discourage the culture of paramilitarism in police departments by keeping the military out of civilian law enforcement.


Full report with related links below