On November 4th I was privy to watch a powerfully disturbing documentary on the militarization of police in America. It was disheartening to listen to the realities of this theme. Police Departments are paramilitary organizations in America. The motto publicly has always been to serve and protect. This documentary touched upon the conflicted role of policing in a democratic society. The appearance of military clothing and automatic high powered weapons transforms police into soldiers. The conventional image of public service has its own set of rules, policies guiding the daily interactions of policing. Whether it is urban, suburban or rural communities the rules of engagement are guided by police standards usually similar nationally. That standard, the relationship with the public is abandoned the moment it is transformed upon the military mode of operations. The highly specialized SWAT , emergency response teams are trained, prepared precisely for military type execution when traditional police methodology cannot successfully meet the challenge. Is SWAT police or is it military? Terrorism has changed the complexion of policing in America and around the world. While police are trained for crime, terrorism is a horse of another color. Defining the threat of crime against the likes of criminals is different than terrorist? More training? The film showed a small picture enough to underline that the government is equipping law enforcement with the exact weapons, vehicles, armor that American armed forces are using in current conflicts in the Middle East. Is this the face of our future now?
This documentary showed the usage of artificial intelligence, data banks with preconceived identity information about who a criminal, terrorist is before the person had acted. This segment of the film was unsettling to say the least. Many things come to mind. There is an understanding how law enforcement can utilize such weapons, equipment in the need against special circumstances such as terrorist. The larger question looms like the ugly display of intimidating armor vehicles with armor camouflaged combat uniforms that came as Ferguson unraveled with violence. Is that the look, response for citizens who become outraged? It is about before the explosion, rages, and abuses of communities. Goodwill? Bad Will? This reality suggests that communities need to have a plan and discussion about such challenges.
There is much discussion, concern about guns, open carry and legality. Where does the legal line exist? How far can the average American citizen take the gun issue? Equally? Race? Class? There are debates raging in some communities about gun ownership. As the nation is confronted by fears the reaction has become frenzied, irrational and dangerous. A scared, confused public is arming itself. The militia reaction to threats is worrisome for various reasons. The us versus them scenario is taking on patriot image. The vigilante threat comes forth with an overzealous attitude during these days of polarizing tension. The military methodology coupled with the paramilitary police can make communities uncomfortable and confused. If the militarization is explained to citizens in terms of safety it can make the public service acceptable. The community and policing need to have solid communication to move forward.