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  • This was a protest near the White House, on June 1st.

  • "It has been an entirely peaceful protest..."

  • It was met by forces with helmets, riot shields, rifles...

  • and tear gas.

  • The authorities here were a mix of police and military:

  • There were Secret Service, Park Police, the National Guard, Prison Special Operations,

  • and local police from a nearby county.

  • But can you tell which ones are the police?

  • If it's hard to tellit's these guys by the way

  • it's because America's police have been looking more and more like troops.

  • "Get in the house!"

  • (screams)

  • So why do American police officers look like soldiers?

  • And where did they get all these weapons?

  • "Don't shoot!

  • This was a peaceful protest!"

  • In the 1980s, police in America looked more like this.

  • The US's crime rate had been doing this.

  • And President Reagan called for the military to work more directly with the police

  • for the War on Drugs.

  • "Drugs are menacing our society."

  • "We must move to strengthen law enforcement activities."

  • Congress agreed, and over the next few years passed a series of bills:

  • To give police access to military bases and equipment,

  • for the National Guard to assist police with drug operations,

  • for the military and police to train together,

  • and eventually, to have the military loan police departments their excess,

  • leftover equipment, for free.

  • This would become known as the 1033 program.

  • Police departments got assault rifles like M16s, armored trucks, and even grenade launchers.

  • And before long, it started to have an effect on how policepolice.

  • We can see that in the number of times SWAT teams were used.

  • Departments that had deployed them about once a month in the 80s

  • were using them more than 80 times a year by 1995.

  • Almost all of these deployments were for drug-related search warrants,

  • usually forced-entry searches calledno knock warrants.”

  • The police were becoming militarized, and people noticed.

  • This 1997 article said it made police look likean occupying army.”

  • In February of 1997, two men robbed a bank in North Hollywood, Los Angeles.

  • They had automatic rifles and body armor.

  • The police didn't.

  • By the time it ended, a dozen police officers were injured.

  • In the aftermath of the shootout, California police demanded they be equipped

  • with assault rifles, like the AR-15.

  • But so did police in places from Florida to Connecticut.

  • And that same year, the 1033 program was expanded, dropping a requirement that police departments

  • use the equipment for drug-related enforcement.

  • Now any law enforcement, even university police, could access leftover military weapons,

  • for any reason.

  • A retired police chief in Connecticut told the New York Times, “I was offered tanks,

  • bazookas, anything I wanted.”

  • Because complete records on these loans weren't kept until 2015,

  • we don't know exactly how much equipment was given out in those early years.

  • But we do have data on how much of it police departments still have,

  • from each year it was given out.

  • And you can see a steady growth in the program for most of the 90s and 2000s.

  • And then something happens around here.

  • The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.”

  • In 2011, the US military formally withdrew its troops from Iraq.

  • That meant the military had a lot of equipment, and one less war to use it on.

  • So it became available to the police.

  • This is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, or MRAP.

  • It's among the most controversial equipment given out under the 1033 program.

  • And we know from the data that police departments still have several hundred of them

  • that they got in 2013 and 2014.

  • But none from 2015.

  • That's because in August of 2014, the 1033 Program became national news.

  • "We just said 'hands up, don't shoot,' and they just started shooting!"

  • A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, had shot and killed an unarmed black teenager

  • named Michael Brown.

  • Afterwards, the community's protests were met by heavily militarized police,

  • who pointed sniper rifles at them as they marched.

  • "Tear gas and armored tanks became a familiar sight in Ferguson, Missouri."

  • "The police departments around the country have been getting a lot of this type of equipment..."

  • President Obama responded with an executive order curbing the 1033 Program.

  • "We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there's an occupying force,

  • as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them."

  • Two years later, President Trump's administration reversed that.

  • "We will not put superficial concerns above public safety."

  • But by that point, the 1033 Program had become a lot less important anyway.

  • This chart shows that by 2016, most MRAPs loaned out by the military

  • went to smaller police departments.

  • That means when larger cities today have MRAPs and other military gear,

  • it's often because they've bought it themselves.

  • And that's because police having military gear and weapons

  • no longer depends on any one government program.

  • It's now a part of how police see themselves.

  • The thing that I think is really important is, with that equipment comes a certain mentality.

  • This is Arthur Rizer.

  • He's a former military police officer, former civilian police officer,

  • and now studies police militarization.

  • A big part of his research is about that mentality.

  • And he shared a poll he did of police officers with us.

  • I asked officers,

  • do you have any problem with police officers routinely on patrol,

  • carrying military-grade equipment, or dressing in military type of uniforms?

  • And the vast majority of those officers told me, "no, I have no problem with that."

  • And then the second question I asked is,

  • do you think it changes the way that officers feel about themselves and their role in policing?

  • And the vast majority officers, again, said "yes."

  • And what they said was, it makes them more aggressive, more assertive,

  • and it can make them more violent.

  • And then finally, I asked them,

  • how do you think the public perceives you?

  • And the vast majority said,

  • "it scares them."

  • They know that it scares the public.

  • They know that it makes them more aggressive or more assertive.

  • And that can be dangerous.

  • But they don't seem to care.

  • There are definitely times when it's been more clearly beneficial

  • for the police to have this equipment.

  • For example, during the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016,

  • Orlando police used an armored military vehicle to stop the shooter.

  • But those moments tend to be the exception.

  • Today, this equipment is still mostly used by SWAT teams for executing drug-related search warrants.

  • And more than half of those are still no-knock warrants,

  • the kind that Louisville police were executing when they killed Breonna Taylor.

  • And in the case of the Ferguson protests,

  • the Department of Justice found that the heavily militarized presence

  • served to escalate rather than de-escalate the overall situation.”

  • The military, and the police, are supposed to serve different purposes.

  • A military protects anusfrom a “them.”

  • A police officer is supposed to be part of theus.”

  • But when police think of themselves as soldiers, that can change.

  • What is a police officer going to do with an assault rifle when he's facing a protest?

  • When you give someone a hammer, why are you surprised that everything looks like a nail to them?

This was a protest near the White House, on June 1st.

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Why America's police look like soldiers

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    lonybee posted on 2020/08/12
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