The Militarization of Law Enforcement

Over at Bruce Schneier’s security blog, he reviews a book called Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, by Radley Balko [available at Amazon].

At both federal and state levels, the formerly hard line between police and military has blurred. Police are increasingly using military weaponry, employing military tactics and framing their mission using military terminology…. In Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko chronicles the steady militarization of the police in the U.S. A detailed history of a dangerous trend, Mr. Balko’s book tracks police militarization over the past 50 years, a period that not coincidentally corresponds with the rise of SWAT teams….

The topic is of interest in prepping and survival circles because any major SHTF or TEOTWAWKI disaster will likely see a rise in crime and civil unrest. And what will the response of police departments be? As some survivalist blogs have mentioned, they may well behave in a less reasonable and more authoritative manner. Already, SWAT teams in some localities are used to respond to situations that don’t seem to require Special Weapons or Tactics, such as to serve search or arrest warrants, even for misdemeanors and non-serious felonies.

they were originally exclusive to big cities and deployed only against heavily armed and dangerous criminals…. SWAT teams are routinely deployed against illegal poker games, businesses suspected of employing illegal immigrants and barbershops with unlicensed hair stylists.

But if there is a sharp increase in civil unrest and crimes of theft and robbery, due to some type of SHTF scenario, will the use of these heavy-handed tactics increase or decrease? The current trend to use SWAT teams for even minor crimes gives us the answer.

But one of the concerns specific to prepping is how local police will react if goods such as food, clean water, electricity, fuel are in short supply. When they realize that some members of their community are preppers, with stored goods that pertain to their own need, will they take these goods by force?

In my view, though, local politicians are just as dangerous. They might make some ridiculous new town or county ordinance that requires preppers to give up their goods, or permits police to search for, and commandeer, any goods need by the local community. They might institute a “tax” in the form of food or fuel. They might confiscate solar panels and wind turbines and water purification equipment.

If you are skeptical that police or government could get that far out of hand, maybe you should read the news once in a while. NYC has used stop-and-frisk over 4 million times with no probable cause or warrant. And only now are the courts saying it might be unconstitutional. There was an incident where local police wanted to stake out one house from a nearby house, and when the owners refused to leave their homes and let the police move in for a few days, “police returned later, broke down his door, forced him to the floor and then arrested him for obstructing an officer. They also shot his dog with pepperball rounds.” Whiskey tango foxtrot.

Then there are the continuing revelations about the NSA spying on Americans. The latest news stories say that the “National Security Agency’s surveillance network has the capacity to spy on 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic” (NSA surveillance reach broader than publicly acknowledged).

The next major SHTF or TEOTWAWKI event is not going to improve this situation. It will only represent another excuse for government and law enforcement to further exceed the reasonable limits of their roles in our society.

– Thoreau

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