Category Archives: Polce Militarization

Cop Culture


Radley Balko has an article up on HuffPo about what cop T-shirts say about cop culture.

This exemplifies the us-against-them mentality that permeates law enforcement at all levels in the U.S.  Instead of serving and protecting, people have become the enemy.  Add to that the fact that cops are rarely even disciplined for breaking the same laws they enforce against ordinary citizens with such zeal and it becomes pretty obvious that law enforcement, and government in general, have become a privileged class in America.

Go read Radley’s article and look at all the other pictures.

New York finds new uses for anti-terrorism surveillance

New York’s Big Brother surveillance systems justified through fear-mongering after the 9/11 attacks and funded with federal anti-terrorism dollars is now being used to target ordinary crime.  After the 9/11 attacks, governments at all levels helped fuel the hysteria by pouring fear-mongering fuel on an already chaotic and uncertain situation.  Federal, state, and local officials helped racket up the panic and leverage off of public fear in order to acquire more government police powers.  Almost universally, it was claimed that the new powers would be used to fight terrorism and would not be used to bypass protections that ordinary citizens are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.  Those promises immediately became more and more watered down to the point where they are now forgotten.

New York City police now have access to some 6000 surveillance cameras and 120 license plate readers with plans to more than double that number.  The courts have declared that attaching a GPS locator to someone’s car without a warrant constitutes a violation of their 4th Amendment rights, being able to track their position using license plate readers essentially guts that ruling.

Now, New York has openly stated that the technology that Americans tolerated as a necessary evil to fight terrorism is being turned on New York residents for purposes having absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.  New York has established a reputation for dragnet style tactics where they simply dispense with 4th Amendment protections conducting wholesale searches of people on the street in hopes of catching them doing something they’re no supposed to be doing.  Imagine an expansion of that strategy to encompass all the new technological tools developed and installed under the excuse that they were needed to fight terrorism.

This reminds me of the trend of local law enforcement agencies to acquire military equipment for ordinary policing.  Even tiny towns now have SWAT teams and armored vehicles.  Once a department has that equipment, they’re going to find a use for it and, as a result, storm trooper style raids are routinely used to serve warrants on non-violent offenders.

Expanding power and surveillance available to police departments notorious for abusing existing powers can only lead to even more abuse.

Domestic drone surveillance receives enthusiastic welcome

The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to establish six drone test sites within the U.S. and Huntsville, Alabama is actively engaged in competing to attract one of those sites to the “Rocket City” area.  According to local TV station, WAFF:

Redstone Arsenal is already the hub for development and management of unmanned aerial vehicles for the army, so if you add testing into the mix, it puts Redstone and the Huntsville area on the map for everything behind drones.

And the competition is going to be tough.

Because more jobs come with the testing of drones, Huntsville is not the only city vying for the opportunity. There is already interest from cities in more than 30 states to be one of six testing sites that the FAA will designate.

Drones have, of course, been in the news because the U.S. routinely uses them to to carry out targeted attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, killing thousands, many of whom were innocent.  It was recently revealed that the U.S. has built a new drone base in northern Africa presumably to support American operations in Libya, Egypt, and Mali.  In terms of domestic use, the White House has been criticized for assuming the power to use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil ignoring  due process requirements of the Constitution.    In this context, the comments of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle regarding the intended purpose of domestic drones seem stunningly naive:

“It looks at the landfill and makes sure it has the right compaction there and uses a sensor to tell you. It may follow a pipeline and makes sure there is no leakage out of that pipeline,” he said. “That’s the kind of technology you are looking at and the commercial applications that you are looking, which means jobs, money to the area. There is really not enough money in watching people.”

Actually, the largest share of the $75B (by 2025) drone market is expected to be in the agriculture industry.  Law enforcement is expected to account for $3.2B and “all other applications” (including the environmental uses mentioned by Battle) account for another $3.2B.   By Battle’s compass, the militarization of law enforcement and the growing surveillance state are inconsequential to the discussion because that’s not where the big money is.


ACLU starts campaign against police militarization

From a March 6th entry on the ACLU national website:

American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 23 states today simultaneously filed more than 255 public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

ACLU-storiesThe site lists ten horror stories like the one at left to make the point that the aggressive tactics routinely employed by over-zealous police departments for ordinary crime are becoming more like the battlefield methods used in war zones, often visiting preventable tragedy on innocent people.  The scary part is that these tactics are becoming increasingly common even for low risk, non-violent situations.  The supply of battlefield weapons is expanding under continuing armed forces hand-me-down programs.

This blurring of the line between police and military will eventually transform “the land of the free” into an occupation zone as police substitute brute force where they once used reason and intelligence.  It will fuel an “us against them” mentality which will only result in further deterioration in the relationship between police and the community.