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Rise of the Warrior Cop: How America's Police Forces Became Militarized 835

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-first-rambo-movie dept.
FuzzNugget writes "An awakening piece in the Wall Street Journal paints a grim picture of how America's police departments went from community officers walking the beat to full-on, militarized SWAT operations breaking down the doors of non-violent offenders. From the article: 'In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred [raids] a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005, there were approximately 50,000 raids.' It goes on to detail examples of aggressive, SWAT-style raids on non-violent offenders and how many have ended in unnecessary deaths. Last year, after a Utah man's home was raided for having 16 small marijuana plants, nearly 300 bullets in total were fired (most of them by the police) in the ensuing gunfight, the homeowner believing he was a victim of a home invasion by criminals. The U.S. military veteran later hanged himself in his jail cell while the prosecution sought the death sentence for the murder of one officer he believed to be an criminal assailant. In 2006, a man in Virginia was shot and killed after an undercover detective overheard the man discussing bets on college football games with buddies in a bar. The 38-year-old optometrist had no criminal record and no history of violence. The reports range from incredulous to outrageous; from the raid on the Gibson guitar factory for violation of conservational law, to the infiltration of a bar where underage youth were believed to be drinking, to the Tibetan monks who were apprehended by police in full SWAT gear for overstaying their visas on a peace mission. Then there's the one about the woman who was subject to a raid for failing to pay her student loan bills. It's a small wonder why few respect police anymore. SWAT-style raids aren't just for defense against similarly-armed criminals anymore; it's now a standard ops intimidation tactic. How much bloodshed will it take for America to realize such a disproportionate response is unwarranted and disastrous?"
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Rise of the Warrior Cop: How America's Police Forces Became Militarized

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  • by pecosdave (536896) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:49AM (#44341467) Homepage Journal

    These raids being discussed above are to get the populace to accept them as normal, and to eventually get immediate compliance and prostration on "routine" raids in the future. Then disarming people, or shooting them, "for their own good" so that "misunderstandings" don't happen in "routine" raids in the future. These early raids will weed out those who will resist, as they ramp up eventually they'll get everyone who would resist.

    People think there are sheep and wolves. Truth is there are sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs. The job of the wolf is to get the sheep to fear the sheep dog - and it's working. The sheep dog is the biggest threat to the wolf, and the wolves are systematically weeding them out.

    A near miss [].

    Nowhere near a miss. []
    My thoughts [] on that one.

  • by Bomarc (306716) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @08:56AM (#44341491) Homepage
    In Auburn, WA a corrections officer was seeking another person. [] The DOC officer and King County police shot an unarmed man (Theoharis), the officers later claiming say they thought he (Theoharis) was reaching for a gun, though no weapons were found in the room.The independent review also found evidence the sheriff's office was more interested in advocating for its officers than uncovering the facts behind the shooting.
  • by giorgist (1208992) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:01AM (#44341517)
    When you have 50,000 raids a year ... you will get the ones that will swing wide off the mark. I am sure they will get the address wrong, a cat will fall on the officer's face as they break in and they will gun down a whole convent. The officers are shit scared that 12 year old is holding a fully automatic weapon as per it's God given right.
  • Re:IRS Too? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:26AM (#44341643)

    Your statements about Canadian police and drinking / driving are a daydream.

    An Actual Canadian

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:28AM (#44341657)

    No, no they weren't. See it wasn't asymmetric power in those days. Anyone could carry the same gun(s) and keep the power balanced between authority and citizenry. Today, not so much.

  • by shinobiX (28155) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:29AM (#44341667) Homepage

    Your subject line and message content say opposite things. Hey, you'll be right either way! I see what you did there.

    you might want to consider reading things before posting.

    "And it's only going to get worse" = going to get worse

    "And it's only going to get worse, Before things improve" = going to get worse

    "Before things improve, they will get worse." = going to get worse

    no matter how you read it the subject and body agree.

  • Re:IRS Too? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @09:58AM (#44341847)

    As an american I watched in disgust as the brits did nothing for 25 minutes as one man hacked up another in the middle of the street while being recorded. In the end special police units with guns had to be called and they still used the same amount of overkill american police use.

    Which is scarier?

    The American system by far. Did you notice the asshole didn't have a gun? And did you notice that the police didn't shoot any innocents? Compare and contrast this situation with the Christopher Dorner killings. During that fiasco, the LAPD tried to extrajudicially execute an elderly lady and her daughter (100 shots fired) for simply having a similar car to Dorner near where he lived.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:09AM (#44341901)

    Notice how swat usage skyrockets within a decade of the US Army replacing the M14 with the M16, a true assault rifle.

    The M-14 was a fully automatic weapon that fired a large 7.62x51mm cartridge. By comparison the M-16 is a pop gun firing a 5.56x45mm cartridge. They switched because the M-14 and its ammo are heavy. Many people who were around at the time objected because they felt the M-16 lacked firepower.

    theoretical is 875-1000 rpm for the M16

    Actually they slowed it down a little to 850rpm to reduce fouling, but either way with a 30 round magazine you can't fire for long at that rate. Modern versions are limited to 3 round bursts for just that reason.

    BTW, in the 1920's civilians could freely buy fully automatic weapons like BAR's and Tommy guns, so your screed about the choice of weapons makes no sense. You should also note that the military has a different job than the police.

  • Re:Wake up (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:36AM (#44342047) Homepage Journal

    The answer to why police have become more militaristic is because criminals have become more murderous against cops.

    Sorry, officer, but you're full of shit. 160 police officers died in 2010, a 37% increase from 2009. [] Ten years earlier 150 died. That's out of []794,300 cops. And remember, those are all deaths including squad car wrecks. []

    To put that in better prospective, 774 construction workers died in the US in 2010. []

    Being a cop is a hell of a lot safer than being a construction worker.

    Here's a little hint, Officer Moore: you might want to google before making a fool of yourself.

  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @10:55AM (#44342193)
    Funny enough, none of that really applied until after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Prior to that, the US was myopic to the extreme, and really appeared to only want to mind its own business, as far as excessive military, foreign intervention, etc. Fear of others in society was something that started to be brought forward in the 70s and 80s with hijackings, bombings, and hostages, mostly overseas, but didn't take hold locally until 2001, which could have been prevented IMHO with merely having followed a single piece of advice from the Israelis: secured cockpit doors.
  • by bfandreas (603438) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:02AM (#44342245)
    It's gone way out of proportion. Guns get pointed at people for no proper reason at all. It feels like cops are not trained in the art of deescalation anymore.

    In comparison of SWAT teams busting friendly poker games this may sound a little bit irrelevant. But that dog incident a couple of weeks back illustrates perfectly why the cops don't feel like a civilian organization anymore.

    The cops were busting somebody. A guy came along and proceeded to film him with his cell phone. Things escalated and he got cuffed. Here two things had already gone wrong.
    The cops reacted to being filmed. Why? What's wrong with that? Aren't they accountable for what they do? Then they cuffed him. Which comes way WAY too easy for them nowadays. Cuffing somebody is a major thing to do and should come as a last resort. Repeatedly saying no to the request to stop filming does NOT warrant detaining somebody.
    The guy had a dog with him. Who got excited by the cops handling his owner. The guy was asked to lock his dog in his car, which he did. The cops continued their cop thing. The dog got even more excited and broke out of the car. Cops shot the dog. Dying dog all over Youtube.

    Here's my thing. If you point a gun at me and mine then I will not treat you as an officer of the law. I will treat you as a threat. I will treat your uniform as very elaborate gang colors. And I would imagine I am not the only one who feels that way. And that's why I totally buy into the stories where cops got wasted in a SWAT style home invasion for being mistaken as violent gangsters.
    Serve and protect it once was. Now with all this "Getting tuff on jaywalking" they are just plain bullies. Trust is at an all time low and we always suspect some CYA coverups happening. And while we are at it, have them wear name plates. And for fucks sake ban those ridiculus mirror shades. They hide behind them and I'm always tempted to check my hairdo in them.
  • by stjobe (78285) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:24AM (#44342401) Homepage

    That animation is from Bowling for Columbine, not South Park.

  • Re:IRS Too? (Score:5, Informative)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:57AM (#44342637) Journal

    Taking 3 steps back = Resisting arrest.

    So the officers deliberately get too close, natural reaction it to preserve personal space and step back. Three small steps and now you are resisting arrest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @12:09PM (#44342719)

    Funny enough, none of that really applied until after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Prior to that, the US was myopic to the extreme, and really appeared to only want to mind its own business

    Incorrect. The US had plenty of involvement in World War 1.
    The US involvement in World War 2 started by supplying the allied nations with weapons and money.
    Pearl Harbor happened after the US, in coordination Britain and Netherlands, cut off Japans oil supply. Japan needed the oil for their war effort in China and decided to strike against Pearl Harbor after that.
    Before World War 1 there was the Spanish-American war that was started on very flimsy grounds.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @12:43PM (#44342951)

    Sorry, no. America was imperialistic long before the Pearl Harbor attack. Go read about the invasion of the Phillipines, the Spanish-American war, and the Banana Wars. Don't forget the Barbary Wars. America has been big into foreign intervention since the early 1800s.

    The Barbary Wars were not imperialistic.

    "The First Barbary War (1801–1805) ... Barbary corsairs led attacks upon American merchant shipping in an attempt to extort ransom for the lives of captured sailors, and ultimately tribute from the United States to avoid further attacks"

    "The Second Barbary War (1815) ... brought an end to the American practice of paying tribute to the pirate states and helped mark the beginning of the end of piracy in that region"

  • by deanklear (2529024) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @01:03PM (#44343121)

    This statement is so ignorant of American history that I have to start from its beginning.

    First of all, the United States is a land of conquered nations and foreign intervention. There were only 13 states in the beginning. We committed genocide to conquer the midwest and the west, invaded Mexico and took their land (where do you think the name for New Mexico came from?) and we have been invading neighbors consistently and for the sole purpose of directing their internal affairs since the 1820s. The only thing that stopped our numerous invasions of foreign lands was the Civil War.

    Here is a list:

    1915 invasion of Haiti by the United States
    1900 invasion of China by the Eight-Nation Alliance (including the United States)
    1898 invasion of the Philippines by the United States
    1898 invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States
    1898 invasion of Spanish Cuba by the United States
    1893 invasion of Hawaii by the United States
    1846 invasion of Mexico by United States
    1813 invasion of Canada by United States
    1812 invasions of Canada by United States
    1805 invasion of Tripoli by United States and mercenaries

    Those are just the "official" wars. There is much more detail here: []

    Please read just a bit on the topic before you make misleading comments like this. America learned everything from it's ancestor, Great Britain. We've been invading, conquering, taking, and killing since our inception. This whole ridiculous and infantile notion of America's Exceptionalism, even in our imagined good old days, is pure bullshit. The real difference back in those days was whether the United States should stop at our "natural" borders, which included all of North America, the Caribbean (including Cuba), and Hawaii, or if our "manifest destiny" was to continue marching west until we conquered the entire world.

    I know it's difficult to see from inside of the news you're exposed to, but the truth remains: we are the empire.

    For the past 12 months I have had the great honor to lead over 328,000 service members and 38,000 civilian employees along with all of their families. Our area of responsibility is diverse and complex. Stretching from California to India, the Indo-Asia-Pacific encompasses over half of the Earth's surface and well over half of its population.

    This region is culturally, socially, economically, and geo-politically diverse. The nations of the Indo-Asia-Pacific include: five of our nation's seven treaty allies; three of the largest and seven of the ten smallest economies; the most populous nations in the world, including the largest Muslim-majority nation; the largest democracy; and the world's smallest republic.

    The Indo-Asia-Pacific is the engine that drives the global economy. The "open and accessible" sea lanes throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific annually enjoy over 8 trillion dollars in bilateral trade with one-third of the world's bulk cargo and two-thirds of its oil shipments sailing to or from nine of the world's ten largest economic ports.

    By any meaningful measure, the Indo-Asia-Pacific is also the world's most militarized region with seven of the ten largest standing militaries, the world's largest and most sophisticated navies, and five of the world's declared nuclear armed nations.

    When taken together all of these aspects represent a region with a unique strategic complexity and a wide, diverse group of challenges that can significantly stress the security environment.

    Effectively engaging in the Indo-Asia-Pacific requires a committed and sustained effort, and USPACOM, as the military component of this commitment, is clearly focused in our efforts to deter aggression, assure our allies and partners, and to prevent should our national interests be threatened. []

    Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III
    U.S. Pacific Command
    House Armed Services Committee, 05 March 2013

  • Re:IRS Too? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tftp (111690) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @01:25PM (#44343343) Homepage

    During that fiasco, the LAPD tried to extrajudicially execute an elderly lady and her daughter (100 shots fired) for simply having a similar car to Dorner near where he lived.

    The shooting of newspaper delivery women happened not where Dorner lived, but where some police boss lived. The shooting was done by his protection team.

    There is a very small chance that those ladies could know the location of Dorner's house; but there is exactly zero chance that they could possibly know where protected persons live. Therefore they couldn't just avoid the area. Besides, it was their duty to deliver newspapers to those addresses. The police acted as Elite Guards of some paranoid dictator.

  • by memnock (466995) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:47PM (#44344011)

    I'll play devils advocate for a moment. In part, the cops have attained these capabilities because of the increased capabilities of organized crime and street-level criminals. Something of an arms race going on.

    Add to that the fact that the military conglomerates were looking for a way to expand their markets. Police agencies are the perfect answer.

    Done with the advocate thing.

    Not only are the cops armed like small armies, they act without regard for law. Here is an egregious example. A court's marshal in Clark County, NV, sexually assaults a woman in family court and then arrests her when she tried to confront him about it, IN FRONT OF A JUDGE. Who then proceeds to act as if nothing happened. []

    Given the impunity with which these people behave, and the firepower they are enhanced with, people should start to question how the police are a benefit to society.

  • Definitely a problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:57PM (#44344123)

    To preface this, I live in a fairly affluent area with extremely low crime. My town has no standing police force, just a satellite sheriffs office. Next town over has about the same demographics but has a 300+ member police force. A few years ago they trained a swat team and bought a very expensive 'urban assault vehicle'. I'm not sure for what, there is zero gang related activity, almost no drug stuff aside from the usual medical marijuana, and as far as I know no dangerous criminals have ever been brought in from the community.

    Of course, this comes at the expense of things like schools, where we're jamming 30+ kids in a classroom and the teachers can barely do classroom management, let alone actually teach something.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @03:32PM (#44344397) Journal

    In Auburn, WA a corrections officer was seeking another person. [] The DOC officer and King County police shot an unarmed man (Theoharis), the officers later claiming say they thought he (Theoharis) was reaching for a gun, though no weapons were found in the room.The independent review also found evidence the sheriff's office was more interested in advocating for its officers than uncovering the facts behind the shooting.

    I've lived in WA all my life and stories like this aren't new. When I was in high school, the police got the wrong address, bust the door of a "suspected" drug dealer, killed the guy on the couch because he was holding up a remote control. They find out wrong address. Justified shooting. Another time after a "all clear" call, a police, still speeding to the scene, hits a car and kills the person inside. Policeman wasn't hurt and didn't get in trouble.

    Cops generally get away with a lot here. Only 1 time did a hear about a cop getting in trouble, and that was because he was shaking down junkies and dealers. Probably didn't cut his fellow cops in, i don't know, but he got in trouble and off the force for it.

  • by Daemonik (171801) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @04:12PM (#44344701) Homepage
    1915 invasion of Haiti by the United States

    Between 1911 and 1915, a series of political assassinations and forced exiles saw the presidency of Haiti change six times.[1] Various revolutionary armies carried out this series of coups. Each was formed by cacos, or peasant brigands from the mountains of the north, along the porous Dominican border, who were enlisted by rival political factions under the promises of money, which would be paid after a successful revolution, and the opportunity to plunder.

    The United States was particularly apprehensive about the role played by the small German community in Haiti, which numbered approximately 200 in 1910 and wielded a disproportionately high amount of economic power.[2] German nationals controlled about 80 percent of the country's international commerce, owned and operated utilities in Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf and a tramway in the capital, and owned a railroad serving the Plain of the Cul-de-Sac.[3]

    Huh, 1915, why ever would the US be concerned about German nationals up to hijinks right off the coast of the US? []

    1900 invasion of China by the Eight-Nation Alliance (including the United States)

    Hmm what was going on in China in 1900.. oh the Boxer Rebellion, Empress Dowager Cixi declared war against all foreign powers, the German envoy, Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler, was killed on the streets of Beijing by a Manchu captain and 473 foreign civilians, 409 soldiers from eight countries, and about 3,000 Chinese Christians took refuge in a fortified Legation Quarter.

    Oh look, they declared war on us and attacked our diplomats & civilians...

    1898 invasion of the Philippines by the United States

    This one was a clusterf***. Unknown to the soldiers on the ground the US & Spain had signed a peace treaty the day before Spanish troops surrendered Manila to the US rather than the Filipino nationalists who'd overthrown the Spanish forces around the island. THEN this happened: "The June 12 declaration of Philippine independence had not been recognized by either the United States or Spain, and the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which was signed on December 10, 1898, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost." Took us much too long to return the islands to independance (1946).

    The whole deal was not popular at home with the Anti-Imperialist League [] forming over it. A ding, but not a punch sir.

    1898 invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States; 1898 invasion of Spanish Cuba by the United States; 1898 invasion of the Philippines by the United States

    You know what, I was going to respond to these individually but heck with it. The US was at war with Spain, these were all Spanish colonies. Colonies get invaded during wars, end of story.

    1893 invasion of Hawaii by the United States

    This one is another clusterf***. History really loves those, but in this one we were at best used by Industrialists to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, at worst we stole it. Even Grover Cleveland was against it:

    "the military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu was of itself an act of war; unless made either with the consent of the government of Hawaii or for the bona fide purpose of protecting the imperiled lives and property of citizens of the United States. But there is no pretense of any such consent on the part of the government of the queen ... the existing government, instead of requesting the presence of an armed force, protested against it. There is as little basis for the pretense that forces were landed for the security of American life and property. If so, they would have been stationed in the

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson