There Has Been Too Much Abuse. Demilitarize the Police NOW.

Posted on August 15, 2014

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Ferguson, Missouri is only the latest case of local governments unleashing military-grade weapons and military tactics against their own people. How is this any different from the abuses we criticize in other countries?

In 1992, this is what riot police looked like during the Rodney King riots, which were among the most violent and destructive in our nation’s history.

LAPD riot police in the 1992 Rodney King riots.  Photo credit:  Mike Nelson, AFP/ Getty Images

LAPD riot police in the 1992 Rodney King riots. Photo credit: Mike Nelson, AFP/ Getty Images

Those riots were interesting for a couple of points: first, they were unleashed in response to the acquittal of four white police officers who were videotaped viciously beating an unarmed black man after a high-speed chase, instead of just arresting him like they should have. Second, the riots were so extreme that the National Guard was called in to help restore order. This is as it should be: state governors already have a military force under their control which can be deployed in truly exceptional circumstances, and it takes the governor to do it.

Today that has been turned on its head. Every one-horse town has a paramilitary force just itching for some action, and you are the potential target. There are any number of stories about minor offenses or mistaken identities resulting in unannounced, highly aggressive, military-style assaults that would do any tinhorn dictator proud.

Here’s what the police in Doraville, Georgia have in their arsenal: yep, an Armored Personnel Carrier. Check out the video and more pics at the Washington Post.  Never mind that Doraville numbers some 8500 people and that there have been no murders since 2009.  This thing could come in handy for… um… well, we’ll think up something.

Doraville-APC

It’s getting harder and harder to tell any difference between our police and the military these days.

Not seeing a whole lot of difference here.

Not seeing a whole lot of difference here, except that the one on the right is in Baghdad.

Ask yourself why the police have a .50 caliber, belt-fed machine gun mounted on their APC, while the military unit pictured here does not.

Ask yourself why the police have a .50 caliber, belt-fed machine gun mounted on their APC.

Worse, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between our police and the abusive thugs we have long criticized in foreign countries. Have a look:

 

Azerbaijan and California

Azerbaijan and California

Greece and New York City.

Greece and New York City

Brazil and Ferguson, Missouri

Brazil and Ferguson, Missouri

This is all just so wrong.  It’s time to demilitarize the police and go back to letting state governors decide the very rare circumstances that they might need to call out the National Guard.  Civilian cops have always been able to do plenty of damage with their pistols, nightsticks, boots, and fists.  They have no business buying military excess like armored personnel carriers and… for crap’s sake, why would any civilian authority ever need a fully automatic, belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun? Did you know that according to US warfare rules, we are actually not supposed to shoot at people with those things?  Where, in a crowded city, can you safely fire even one round from a .50-cal?

I guess that sums it up: when our police forces have belt-fed .50-caliber machine guns, we have some serious issues.

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