According to a recent article in the Anchorage Daily News, the Anchorage Police Department has deployed its heavily-armored tactical unit 11 times this year. “Tactical unit” is a euphemism for what is essentially a tank. According to police Chief Mark Mewis these tanks along with SWAT gear and military-style weapons are needed to counteract potentials threats of extreme violence in our community. There’s a growing sense in our country that police equipped like soldiers are either unnecessary or being used too often in our community.
For instance, in a book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, Radley Balko argues that over the last several decades America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops in military combat. According to Balko, the consequences are dire: our homes are no longer places of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and policy today have been conditioned to see the citizens they are supposed to serve and protects as an other, that is, the enemy.
How did this happen? According to Balko, the unrest of the 1960s brought about the creation of the SWAT unit, which led to the debut of military tactics among police officers. Nixon’s War on Drugs, Reagan’s War on Poverty, Clinton’s COPS program, the post-9/11 security state under Bush and Obama have all expanded and empowered police forces at the expense of civil liberties. In his book, Balk argues that politicians’ poorly thought out policies and declarations of war against vague enemies like drugs, crime and terror have blurred the distinction between cop and soldier. Balko has an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that can be found here.
Balko is not alone in this viewpoint. A number of senators have criticized the growing militarization of America’s police forces and the ACLU has a thought provoking study as well. This is just the tip of the iceberg for someone who wants to explore this issue in more depth.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. Criminal convictions can result in, at the very least, substance abuse treatment and can affect employment applications. Contact the Law Office of Ben Crittenden at 907-771-9002 for a free case evaluation. We practice state and federal criminal defense. You can find more information about our criminal defense practice on our state, federal, drug, and DUI pages, in addition to our blog.