Have US Police Forces Become Too Militarised?

International news agency Al-Jazeera (which also happened to recently purchase Current TV here in the states, y’all) asks whether the United States’ police forces have become too militarized. For those of us who get our news from independent, mostly online sources, this seems obvious. Anyone who was involved with or follows the Occupy movement has seen how local and state law enforcement have refitted themselves as paramilitary organizations.

Each week, seemingly every day, there are dozens of stories of police harassment, abuse, brutality, and infringement on civil rights; usually against people of color. It may not be that this is a trend on the rise, but as others have suggested, that there are simply more cameras and recording devices out there facilitating our constitutional right to keep the cops accountable. But there can be no doubt that the addition of SWAT tactics, zero tolerance, racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, warantless surveillance and wiretapping, armored tank-like vehicles, severe use of ‘nonlethal’ weapons, and the trigger-happy cowboys themselves have increased faster than you can say ‘counter-terrorism’ or ‘fusion center.’ Add in some DHS-supplied drones and you’ve got a local militia with a fraternal code of silence and protection from the very laws they were once sworn to uphold.


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39 Comments on "Have US Police Forces Become Too Militarised?"

  1. Ted Heistman | Jan 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

    The question is “too militarized” for what?

    A free society?
    A police state?

    Clearly too much for the former, probably not enough for the latter.

    • VaudeVillain | Jan 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |

      The Mayans must have been off by a couple of weeks. I share your sentiments exactly.

    • alizardx | Jan 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm |

      Well said. This looks a lot more like tools for suppressing civil disorder caused by social destabilization which is an inevitable byproduct of continuing bi-partisan centrist upward transfer of wealth and power.

    • Yea. But I’d say their current status is much closer to the latter than the former…and drifting in that direction day-by-day, little-by-little.

  2. Manhattan Project Playboy | Jan 7, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

    No. Not when they may possibly need to contend with a heavily armed and paranoid right-wing element of the American population with enormous home arsenals and ungodly levels of firepower.

    • BuzzCoastin | Jan 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

      name one instance where heavily armed cops
      put down gun tooting extremists or terrorists

      usually the pigs organize & arm their “terrorists”
      before they instigate a confrontation with them

      • Manhattan Project Playboy | Jan 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm |


        Your turn. Name the terrorists armed by the police before being confronted by them.

        • BuzzCoastin | Jan 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm |

          first, that’s a lone gunman, with one gun
          & not a heavily armed group of paranoid right-wing gun freaks
          let’s skip 9/11, OK City & Waco as too controversial
          there were those 4 old coots in Georgia who were armed by
          then arrested by the FBI for terrorism

          or maybe
          Craig Monteilh, a paid FBI informant and ex-convict sent to infiltrate a Cali mosque
          who tried to incite violence
          there’s a lot more
          but why should I get in the way of your preconception?

        • Breshvic | Jan 8, 2013 at 1:34 am |

          There are at least two instances (going through the court system now) of groups of Occupy protestors where evidence, fake bombs and weapons were planted, or given by informants and agents, or entrapped, and then simply steamrolled as “anarchists” or even “terrorists” by police or federal agents. There is a third case where they are trying to get protestors to falsely testify against each other, like the Salem witch trials, but the political dissident in question won’t roll.

    • Apathesis | Jan 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

      They aren’t the ones you should be afraid of. After all, the cops are the state-sponsored gang that acts with impunity.

        • DeepCough | Jan 7, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

          Truth is, since the U.S. government is “of the people, by the people, and for people,” naturally, it’s going to reflect their values and tendencies. You’ll notice the same Republicans who support the 2nd Amendment don’t have any qualms with the growing imposition of the Police State. The following image certainly exemplifies how much Republicans accept giving government more firepower when it will only be used against them later.


          • Whoa, wait a minute. You can’t just pawn off police state acquiescence solely on the right wingers. Right this minute, it’s the lefties arguing for leaving the cops as the only ones trustworthy of carrying assault weapons.
            The party of anti-authoritarianism (at least until the last true anti-authoritarian lefty checked out with a .357 at Owl Farm a few years ago) long ago learned to stop worrying and love the jackboot. As long as the empire’s pitchman has a brown face or a pair of tits, they’re cool with it.

          • DeepCough | Jan 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm |

            Yeah, I’ll believe what you’re saying when the Republicans start slashing the Defense budget by ending the War on Terror as well as the War on Drugs, the latter which has been a major cause in the increase of SWAT teams and raids across the country–but that will never happen since conservatives have stalwartly favored both policies without considering their consequences or costs.

          • That reply might make sense if I had said that Republicans are NOT authoritarian police state worshipers in their own right.
            But that’s not what I said. I said Dems/Libs have become highly authoritarian pro-police state themselves.

          • InfvoCuernos | Jan 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm |

            points for HST reference!

          • Thanks. If only the Good Doctor were still here to weigh in on this issue.

          • Ted Heistman | Jan 8, 2013 at 6:14 pm |

            Phallic worship. Someone should photoshop it.

    • alizardx | Jan 7, 2013 at 9:39 pm |

      Note how much traction anti-gun memes are getting in the media. Could it be that the top 0.001% feels safer with a gun ban than with a temporary alliance with the rank-and-file political right?

      Alternate narrative … reviving the GOP by making sure the right remembers to vote in the next election.

      These two narratives aren’t mutually exclusive.

      • Apathesis | Jan 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm |

        There’s definitely a movement to disarm Americans, and what’s going on right now will certainly drive more people to Satan’s Elephant or at least guarantee they will keep their voting base. We are going to be stuck with these two parties for a long time as long as they exploit tragedies and hot-button issues to maintain their voter base and power in D.C.


        Sharp objects, blunt objects, and hands/feet were each used more often to kill than rifles, which are only involved in 3.76325294186% of gun homicides. The number of “assault weapons” being responsible for murders is probably under 2%. So why the push to scary ban rifles and not handguns, which are used over 19 times more to kill? It doesn’t make sense.

        • Breshvic | Jan 8, 2013 at 1:48 am |

          I mean, that’s also partly because of the sampling. More handguns and blunt objects exist than assault rifles in America, and they’re cheaper and easier to get, even for criminals. It might be more accurate to look at the number of people killed by each *incident* of each weapon. It’s clear that when you want to kill more people at once, an assault rifle does a better job than a handgun or a hammer or a fist. So does arson, and we tend to frown on that. But comparisons are odious; I wouldn’t want to ban the use of fireplaces by responsible fire-owners.

          • It’s not even that cut and dry. The single biggest mass school shooting body count was achieved by a guy with two pistols, some chain, and a padlock..

          • I know. It’s a complicated issue without a simple resolution. I don’t think kneejerk bans or arming teachers will fix anything substantially.

          • Apathesis | Jan 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

            First off, stop calling them “assault rifles.” Only military and LEOs have easy access to such weaponry. Select-fire (semi/full-auto) firearms are not available to civilians for purchase unless they were made prior to 1986 . You need to file ATF paperwork, pay the $200 tax, then fork over $10-20K for an MP5 or an M4. No one is spending $20K to spray up Gun Free Zones.

            Secondly, I can’t find any data on the FBI website that breaks down the stats to show the number of homicides per incident and what weapon was used. I wish I could see that data, but I don’t think it really matters; six thousand more people are killed by handguns than rifles. Thirty-eight people were killed at VT and the weapons used were pistols. Yeah, rifles have larger capacity magazines, but they can’t be easily concealed and they are used far less to kill. Banning weapons that are not the types used in the vast majority of homicides is plain stupid, but it’s easier to convince the public it’s a good idea; everyone knows only a knucklehead would try to conceal a rifle for self-defense purposes.

            It’s not about banning weapons that are used in mass killings. It’s about exploiting tragedies to forward authoritarian political agendas to ensure those in power never feel threatened. Democrats want you dependent on the police for safety; the Republicans arm them to the teeth.

          • But I don’t understand the quandary you pose. First off, I’m not for any particular proposed ban. It doesn’t matter to me if you keep your handguns or rifles at home, assault, automatic or otherwise. I’m not a gun guy, so I’m not going to tell people who are what they should do.

            But the fact that gun murders are over double all other types of weapons and methods *combined* tells me that guns are the most efficient method of killing. What alternatives do you propose for handling that majority? It would be silly to focus on fists and hammers. Just as silly as a government that wants to cut funding to NASA or the social safety net to get .1% of the money back, and let’s defense funding take up over two-thirds of the budget when it’s not even needed. You treat the largest part of the problem, or whatever underlying mechanisms correlate to it. Why are nonlethal gun accidents or injuries up? Why are suicides up? Why do Americans own more guns than in any other country, including many, many countries where authoritarian dictators have taken over?

            I guess the gun rights paranoia doesn’t strike me because, though I do understand and somewhat agree with the reasoning that it will prevent tyranny in theory, in practice it would be like shooting a rhinoceros with a pellet gun. PLUS you still have to live with the fear that guns outnumber humans everywhere you go. Besides, plutocrats, tyrants and oligarchs have *already* taken over to buy us and our countrymen like slaves. Not a single shot was fired.

          • Apathesis | Jan 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm |

            The point being made in my initial post is that it is stupid to ban “assault weapons” when their contribution towards the homicide rate is minimal. As scary as some rifles may be, handguns kill far more people and are responsible for over 70% of gun homicides. It would make far more sense to ban handguns than “assault weapons” if the honest desired effect was to drastically and significantly decrease the amount of gun murders, but that doesn’t mean that is what the effect of such a ban would actually be. I think the motivations of the politicians are disingenuous; the anti-gun crowd is just playing into their hands and is conveniently ignoring how deadly prohibitions have been in the past and present.

            Accidents are actually decreasing, whether age-adjusted or not. Intentional injuries are up, though.

            And yes, you are right. We are all slaves , whether we recognize it or not. I think guns provide certain people a level of comfort, knowing they can at least defend themselves from tyranny should they need to. Problem is, folks don’t feel the need and won’t until it is too late.

          • I would argue that the pro-gun crowd plays just as well into their hands as well, by reinforcing stereotypes and offering ridiculous proposals. Not all of them, of course, but the loudest and most powerful, like the NRA. The media does its part by portraying only the craziest gun nuts, of course.

            Once again, I don’t think prohibition is ever a good solution. It’s too radical. Unfortunately, most of the proposals from the NRA and other gun groups are just as radical and preposterous (register all the mentally infirm, arm teachers, etc). I don’t ever see any serious, evidence-based suggestions to this complex issue from either side.

            Nor do you ever see the news acknowledge how phenomenally unlikely it is to end up being killed by a mass shooter.

      • It amazes me how blind so many loyal Democrats are to the fact that pushing the gun ban is gift wrapping the next several election cycles to the GOP.
        If I wasn’t so hesitant to be labeled a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, I’d almost be tempted to say it couldn’t have been scripted any better if you gathered a council of Oscar winning screenwriters,

        • Apathesis | Jan 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm |

          Democrats could have the next election in the bag if they reverse their stance on guns by then.

          • Indeed. But they won’t for the same reason Republicans won’t ease up their stance on abortion rights; they can’t do it without alienating a big chunk of their most reliable supporters..

  3. BuzzCoastin | Jan 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm |

    in my entire life I have never needed a cop
    except to protect me from other cops

    pigs don’t prevent crimes
    don’t really solve crimes (as DNA evidence shows)
    and are usually used as junkyard dogs by the man
    in order to insure that the status quo holds
    are they too militarized for that?
    not according to the cop equipment purveyors

    • kowalityjesus | Jan 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm |

      I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t discuss the lucrative nature of the government grants for arms manufacturers. Opacity and collusion are their most profitable weapons.

      • BuzzCoastin | Jan 8, 2013 at 11:49 pm |

        fascism has capitalist underpinnings
        the Military-Industrial-Bankster Complex is inherently fascist
        but the militarization of the cops has 3 major benefits:
        bizmess for the MIBC
        makes the indolent, doltish masses feel safer
        and keeps those not so inclined to fascism in check

  4. DeepCough | Jan 7, 2013 at 8:33 pm |

    I have to ask: is this the reason why all you gun nuts been procrastinating your armed rebellion against the tyrannical federal government?

  5. The US is paying the price they deserve to pay. When Us police forces often draw the recruitment direct from the military, the harm, pain and suffering the US military inflicted upon the people on Iraq is now being paid back. As the US military sowed in Iraq, they are now reaping in the US. US citizens are now paying for the way their police officers were initially trained in the military.

    • Breshvic | Jan 8, 2013 at 1:30 am |

      I’m not clear on who ‘deserves to pay.’ US citizens? Are individuals responsible for the atrocious actions taken by their government without their knowledge or consent? How would those citizens in the military, police, and other positions of power pay? Does a blanket police state of karmic retribution apply to everyone, even those in America who did speak out and fight against it? Isn’t that like robbing Peter to pay Paul?

      • The vast majority votes for these same people time and again. I guess you can avoid lumping the few who have been warning of this exact outcome for years with the rest, but it will be a VERY small (read: virtually nonexistent) consolation prize.

  6. When police act like the military they get shot by military style weapons. Seems perfectly logical to me…

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