The Standing Army

As I’ve watched the ongoing militarization of American policing, I’ve become fairly convinced that law enforcement is the “standing army” that our founding fathers were worried about.

A new documentary, Do Not Resist, doesn’t make that exact point – but it’s a short jump to it.

The New York Times reviews the movie. One of many money quotes:

The striking thing about the footage is, again, the utter mundanity of the raid. A family was just violently raided over an immeasurable amount of pot. A man was arrested over that pot. The money he needed for his business was taken from him. Yet there’s no shame or embarrassment from the officers. There’s no panic that the whole thing was captured on video. That’s when it hits you. They don’t think they’ve made a mistake. This is what they do. The lead officers later tells the camera, matter-of-factly, that the raid turned up “a personal use amount of marijuana.” Perhaps realizing that he was also on camera back at the police station promising a much larger stash of drugs, he adds, “It happens. Drug warrants are, you know, 50-50.”

Wants to feel depressed about modern law-enforcement? Read the whole thing.

Yes, I know – most cops are good people, doing a dirty job on behalf of a population that hires them to do the dirty work they don’t want to. I get that.

And I grew up in a time and place where supporting the police is pretty much what good people did, and to do.

But this really is pretty awful.

9 thoughts on “The Standing Army

  1. In dealing with cops the best a citizen can hope for is neutrality;

    you don’t want officers who are filling a quota (yes quotas do exist)
    you don’t want officers playing with their new toys (SWAT/HRE teams for traffic warrants
    you don’t want an officer who is turning his job green (a lot goes missing between confiscation and the property room)
    you don’t want the officer/body-thumper looking for a workout
    you don’t want the officer with a grudge
    you don’t want the officer looking to move up professionally or politically
    you don’t want the officer who abuses his authority cause he can
    you don’t want the officer who wants to get his weasel greased
    anyone who thinks a police dept/sheriffs office with more than 20 officers will have most if not all of the above on the payroll – granted not all the time, not every opportunity, but things can go sideways fast. The best you can hope for is an officer who’s not having a bad day who does his best to stabilize and resolve a situation in everyone’s best interest – but this is getting to be a rare occurance.

  2. It strikes me that a documentary, no matter how well done, cannot help but present things in an emotional, rather than a factual manner. So while I am also no fan of the militarization of the police, I also have to note that this film is going to present what they’re doing in the worst possible way.

    I think it’s more of a question of asking whether a given tactic is allowable, under what circumstances, and what punishments are available if the tactic is misused. For example, if I’ve got a department that finds bupkus in 90% of SWAT raids, then I start reviewing how they justify them and make necessary changes. It used to be that one could sue for a wrongful invasion of one’s home–we need to bring that doctrine back, I think.

    And regarding Grossman, what he’s saying resembles little so much as how he used to train soldiers to kill, and how Chuck Colson described the mood of soldiers coming out of a battle. And yes, that’s something we need to look into as well. Is it desirable that police would have the psychological characteristics of soldiers?

  3. Bikebubba wrote:
    “And yes, that’s something we need to look into as well. Is it desirable that police would have the psychological characteristics of soldiers?”

    Police officers and military veterans are kindred spirits. Both wear their uniforms with pride. Both don their uniforms to be part of a larger team of professionals protecting those who can’t protect themselves at great personal risk. And both operate within a rigid command structure.

    So it’s natural that many military veterans seek employment in police ranks when they rejoin the civilian workforce. That’s what is happening right now in numbers unseen since the closing days of the Vietnam War. The result is a job market flooded with well-qualified police officer candidates who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  4. On the 6 o’clock news tonight. Deputy attempting to serve a warrant on a man run over by the perp in his Cadillac. Fortunately, not seriously hurt. And the pukes at the Times want cops to be less aggressive. Sorry. I can’t disagree more.

  5. Not all law enforcement is in favor of this kind of militarization. But it is aggressively pushed on sheriffs at the county level and local cops as well.

    I am as concerned as you are about this, and for the same reasons.

    One thing that each of us can do proactively is to support those candidates seeking election to law enforcement office that OPPOSE militarizing their staff. To borrow from an old movie title, “support your local sheriff”.

    Oppose militarization spending by your local cop shop. Their budgets are subject to approval by elected officials, make your voice heard. We do not have to accept this without objecting. We do control the purse strings, even when it is indirectly.

    Well done!

  6. We can “oppose police militarization” all we want, but when people are deciding to ambush officers, getting the police union to sign on to that is going to be tough. There is simply a point where they’re right to say “hey, don’t send me out there without what I need.” Keep it in line with the Constitution and all, but we’ve learned some things as the DOJ has decided that black lives really don’t matter, as well as blue lives.

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