This week, America was treated to the spectacle of a small army roaming through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, teargassing people in their own yards and arresting members of the press for doing their jobs.
It was a bit out of hand.
The militarization of police in America is real and it’s not new. What happened in Ferguson is just part of a larger trend that will continue to have consequences both for civilians as well as for police.
Police have increasingly become hostile towards photographers, dogs, people sleeping in their own homes, and of course they’ve never stopped being hostile towards minorities. African Americans too often bear a lot of the abuse of the police just for being American while black. If you don’t believe me, you aren’t looking very hard.
It’s really part of a pattern of behavior and attitudes that come from the top down. We know the US government doesn’t trust us, they spy and lie and tell us it’s for our own safety. The Pentagon donates military equipment to local law enforcement, which encourages and creates a war zone mentality on the part of the police.
If you think your constituents deserve being spied upon because they can’t be trusted, you’ll inevitably come to view them as dangerous subversives. If you dress your police force up like an army and encourage them to point rifles at every person they encounter, they will wind up both learning and teaching hatred and divisiveness.
Our civil liberties are being increasingly disrespected, ignored, and eroded by people in authority who want us to believe it’s necessary and productive. It happens when the federal government spies on us, and it happens when local law enforcement gears up for battle and uses paramilitary “no-knock” police raids and militaristic responses in situations where they aren’t really warranted.
Disproportionate response becomes the modus operandi when you believe your citizens are all criminals who need to be contained and suppressed.