Friday, July 5, 2013

Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko

In his new book, Rise of the Warriror Cop, Radley Balko provides a detailed history of our decline into a police state.

 He works his way through this history in a sound way describing police raid upon police raid gone terribly wrong, resulting in a useless loss of life.  He discusses police agencies that serve populations of only 1,000 people but receive federal funding for military-type weapons and tank-style vehicles.  We have also seen a total disregard for “The Castle Doctrine” which has been held dear by our citizens since the colonial days.  The “Castle Doctrine” is the idea that a man’s home is his castle and a warrant signed by a judge is necessary to enter and search the “castle.”  Balko cogently explains the reason for all of this: The war on drugs and the war on terror are really wars on our own people. 

 A profession that I was once proud to serve in has become a militarized police state.  Officers are quicker to draw their guns and use their tanks than to communicate with people to diffuse a situation.  They love to use their toys and when they do, people die.

 The days of the peace officer are long gone, replaced by the militarized police warrior wearing uniforms making them indistinguishable from military personnel. Once something is defined as a “war” everyone becomes a “warrior.” Balko offers solutions ranging from ending the war on drugs, to halting mission creep so agencies such as the Department of Education and the FDA don’t have their own SWAT teams, to enacting transparency requirements so that all raids are reported and statistics kept, to community policing, and finally to one of the toughest solutions: changing police culture. 
Police culture has gone from knocking on someone’s door to ask him to come to the station house, to knocking on a door to drag them to the stationhouse, to a full SWAT raid on a home.
Two quotes from the HBO television series The Wire apply quite appropriately to this situation.
 "This drug thing, this ain't police work. Soldiering and police, they ain't the same thing."

"You call something a war and pretty soon everyone's gonna’ be running around acting like warriors. They're gonna’ be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs and racking up body counts. And when you're at war you need a f**king enemy. And pretty soon damn near everybody on every corner's your f**king enemy. And soon the neighborhood you're supposed to be policing, that's just occupied territory."

- Detective John J. Baeza, NYPD (ret.)

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