By: Michael D. Jacobsen
Staff writer at Fighting the Tyranny
Since the events of 9/11 most of us have noticed an increase in the amount of military gear our police forces have been using be it armor, weapon, or vehicles. To some it may seem like a normal reaction, but is it really? For the most part, the function of a police officer has not changed in decades. So why do we need ordinary officers roaming the streets with automatic weapons, in full body armor, and driving in re-purposed military vehicles?
Why have cities like New York and Chicago become to look more like an area under siege than a place where ordinary American citizens live? Has the American populace become that much of a threat that we need to be guarded against? Add to this the increasingly violent tactics the police have been trained to use and you begin to see a major problem, the police state has become bigger than we feared and its growth is getting out of control.
How could we let this have happened? Well the answer to that is, as it always seems to be with an increase in government power, is fear. We were scared after 9/11 and even though having heavily armed police officers would have done nothing to stop the planes crashing into the twin towers, people wanted to feel safe. Putting rifles in the hands of ordinary police was a quick way to convince people something was being done, when in reality nothing was being done, aside from better arming the police against its citizens.
None of this protects us better from foreign terrorists, the only reason that the police are being militarized is that of the very real fear that the citizens are going to turn against the government. There is a saying that if you only have a hammer than you see every problem as a nail. Well if you turn your police into a military force then every citizen will be seen as the enemy.
You can see it almost every day. Encounters are recorded with police that shows excessive force being used for seemingly no reason at all, and for crimes that hardly warrant such a response. Often the justification for such actions is that they felt the suspect was going to act in a threatening manner or the all too common phase is issued from an officer”stop resisting”. For the most part, while these actions are getting caught on tape more and more. Seldom are officers punished for these actions unless the public outcry is overwhelming. Even in a lot of those instances, the officer is rehired by another police department. In most instances of police brutality officers are rarely arrested or if it does go to trial, convicted.
The lack of convictions grants officers with a feeling that anything they do will be considered justified, which in turn leads to ever-increasing levels of escalation from police officers. In addition, the attitude of police towards the public has certainly taken a major shift towards the violence they inflict. Take for instance the NYPD wearing shirts mocking the dying words of Eric Gardner, a man who died as he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes.
The violence will continue until more officers are held accountable for their actions. The issuance of body cameras to police departments has, in my opinion, helped a little, but it most certainly has shown just how widespread acts of violence are by police officers. The lack of prosecution by most district attorneys is a much bigger problem. Until that changes officers are still going to feel like they can do just about anything.
Just look at recent examples of what officers feel is justified for “non-compliance”. A 20-year-old Emily Weinman, after she was tackled to the ground she did what anyone would do, thrash around because she was scared. The police took this as an opportunity to punch her in the head for her non-compliance. The Mayor of Wildwood feels that her non-compliance made her beating acceptable. Another example is Robert Johnson in Mesa, Arizona. he was detained by police during a domestic disturbance call. He had been searched and no weapons were found, due to his failure to comply to sit down as the officers wanted he was beaten unconscious by four officers. In West Milwaukee, two police officers broke into the apartment of Adam Tramell during a wellness check. They found him naked in the shower and proceeded to tase him 18 times until he died. He was tased for non-compliance. No charges were filed against the officers.
The growing prevalence of SWAT raids has an alarming effect on this problem. It is estimated that there are 45,000 SWAT raids each year. These raids are being carried out for minor reasons. Small marijuana possession, a raid on an organic farm. This just reinforces the idea to police officers that we are the enemy. A lot of these raids are no-knock raids, which can lead to a multitude of problems. However if a homeowner tries to defend their home from someone breaking into their house in the middle of the night and gets shot by police, well they should have complied. The justification for the violence that officers show during these raids is ridiculous. In a notable example a 2014 drug raid where police threw a stun grenade into an infants crib, severely burning him and required the infant being placed in a medically induced coma. Charges were filed but the officer was acquitted.
After reading all this you might be inclined to think that militarized police and police brutality are common things. In my opinion, they are not. However, there is an alarming increase that has been happening this past decade and as with all things it is better to stop a problem while it is small and growing than to wait until it is too big to stop. If anything the militarization of police is more widespread than police brutality. But the frequency with which seemingly small violations of the law that have led to excessive violence has gone up, be it at a traffic stop or a similar misdemeanor offense. Crimes that certainly do not deserve the punishment of a severe beating or in some cases, death.
Not only do we the people need to step up our participation in elections, such as making police accountability an issue but we also need to get over our fear of jury duty. If people who actually care about these issues try to find a way to get out of it, then people will not be held accountable in court. Do not be silent when you think the police are out of line. If you do not speak up nothing will be done. And last, do not wait until it is too late to do something. We can all see the writing on the wall here. Currently, I would estimate that an excessive police act is only about 1 in 20 occurrences. But how high do you need that number to go to before you do something? One in ten? One in five? Or will it take something happening to yourself or a loved one? Be a part of the solution, not just a silent bystander.
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