The US is known around the world as having a forceful military presence in nearly every major country in the world. Our military is known for being extremely well-trained, well-educated, and well supplied with the world’s most up to date equipment. What happens when that equipment also becomes available to our forces at home? When that military training is given to the forces implemented to keep us safe here at home?
As I have discussed before, the Drug War created and maintained an era of booming criminalization. Police forces in the United States began cracking down hard on drug offenders and tossing them into what is now the prison industrial complex. The very idea implemented first by President Nixon, that a heightened usage of illicit drugs here should be labeled as a “war” would become very dangerous. By cementing the idea that we were now at war in our own country, with our own people, it gave way to the thought of gearing up our police forces in preparation to fight violence.
Drug raids became a normal operation in every police force shortly after the declaration of the “War on Drugs”. No Knock Warrants were implemented in which officers were allowed entry into a suspects home without notifying the suspect in hopes they could avoid having evidence destroyed. Doors kicked down in the dead of night by SWAT teams suited up in bullet proof vests, masks, armed with semi-automatic weaponry and little to no information on whether or not the homeowners were actually involved in any high level drug crime became the norm. Arguably, one can imagine that this method of enforcement would create serious risks to public safety and to that of the officers.
In December of 2014, a Tampa Bay SWAT team raided the home of Jason Westcott on a tip from an informant that Westcott was a dealer of marijuana. The team claims that they announced the warrant at Westcott’s home and proceeded to clear it when they were met with Jason Westcott who was armed. They fatally shot him in his home and confiscated $2.00 worth of marijuana. The story quickly went viral and an inner departmental investigation of the police department was quickly cleared of any wrongdoing. However, the criminal informant of which the department relied on to raid Westcott’s home, came clean. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Ronnie Coogle, a consistent criminal informant consistently lied to the department and “One of those he lied about, he said, was Jason Westcott, a young man with no criminal convictions whom a SWAT team killed during a drug raid that found just $2 worth of marijuana. Critics from across the country condemned the Police Department’s handling of the case as an example of the drug war’s lethal excesses.”
Instances such as Jason Westcott’s are not uncommon and they are also not the only product of a militarized police force. Over the course of 2016 alone, there have been numerous deaths via legal intervention. Police brutality is rampant and protests have occurred after nearly every incident of a shooting death via police this year. Instead of protesters being met with an understanding government force, read to mend, correct, understand, or listen, they are met with a military. Officers show up in armored vehicles, bullet proof vests, helmets, protective masks, batons, and cans of tear gas. An outcry for justice and reform is met with callousness and armored men prepared for violence instead of a peaceful protest. The deaths of Samuel DuBose, Freddie Gray, Philando Castille, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, India Kager, Walter Scott, Eric Harris etc. deserve to be met with outrage. No one has been held responsible for these deaths. There The has been no justice. There has been not one change made.
The image above was featured on The Atlantic website and was described by the editor as “a remarkable picture. A single woman stands in the roadway, feet firmly planted. She poses no obvious threat. She is there to protest the excessive force which Baton Rouge police allegedly deploy against the city’s black citizens. She stands in front of police headquarters, on Saturday. And she is being arrested by officers who look better prepared for a war than a peaceful protest.”
When voices cry out, when people gather in the streets to let it be known that something needs to change, we deserve to be met with an audience ready to listen. Not a force prepared to attack.
I suggest to all readers that you purchase a book written by Radley Balko titled Rise of the Warrior Cop. Balko gives a phenomenal and unbiased view of the history and current state of America’s police force which left me stunned and frightened.