images that make my blood run cold

(via Radley Balko)

Students of history (or like me, viewers of HBO) may recall that Roman soldiers were not permitted to wear soldiers' clothes within the walls of the city during the days of the Republic, a tradition that ended right around the time someone declared himself Emperor...

I realize that police can and do confront dangerous situations that may call for specialized training, powerful weaponry, and military-like tactics. In fact, I've been in a building that was (legitimately) cleared by a SWAT team (nothing can prepare you for having eight high-powered rifles pointed at your center of mass, let me tell you). But these are the exception, not the rule. The increasing militarization of the police as standard operating procedure should scare the hell out of you.

And now, a word from the Old Man:

There’s a reason you separate the military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

Is it lame to quote Battlestar Galactica to reinforce one's argument? Most likely. But I don't know that I could have phrased it better in this case.


Gino said...

i think is an absurdity, and a bastardization, for cops to claim the same mantle of homage as those in the military.

cops tend to live lives of privilage among those whom they police.
military, no such luck.

Dave said...

I *really* dislike the use of military-like titles by police. Police adopt military trappings (uniforms, martial ranks, etc.) but do not accept the limitations on personal freedom that accompany being in the military. Police organize in unions and publically criticize their leadership, both within the police force and in the political realm. Police can quit their jobs at will and are not subject to enlistments. I suspect that most police are motivated by a sense of power whereas the military (at least in the US)attempts to foster a sense of service as a motivating factor. And most importantly, police are willing to organize to influence the political process - that is *very* dangerous. There is a reason that the military is not allowed to publically involve itself in politics - it is a very bad idea for people with guns who operate within a heirachical system to think of themselves as having a desire to collectively influence government. Where as the public must use persuasion in the public arena, organization and weapons provides an option for suasion, which is obviously not good for a representative republic.

Gino said...

and cops get free donuts and ticket fixing... while they prowl military towns to keep the soldiers in line.

Brian said...

"...it is a very bad idea for people with guns who operate within a heirachical system to think of themselves as having a desire to collectively influence government."This is really an excellent point.

I'm reminded in particular of DEA Adminstrator Karen Tandy's statement that the arrest and extradition from Canada of Marc Emery constituted a "significant blow to the marijuana legalization movement."

The comments I made about the DEA and Tandy in particular in response to that are big reason why I ended up deleting my non-anonymous blog.

Dave said...

I could understand a police organization that organizes to support each other and inform the public of the importance of police. But when police organize, they produce this: http://nycpba.org/pac/index.html Notice that under this link are two sections labeled "Who should I vote for?" and the other "What legislation is the PBA pushing for today?" At first, the voting instructions bothered me more, but when I thought about it, its actually the lobbying that is the most disturbing. Not surprisingly, the PBA is pushing for increased criminalization of anyone who does not obey police and increased restrictions on individual liberty. (I guess I can understand why a cop wouldn't want you to have a gun, but what *possible* justification is there for the state to prevent me from passively defending myself with a bullet-proof vest?) If I organized an organization called the Military Benefit Organization and then openly encouraged other active duty military members to vote a specific way or to lobby congress *as military members* I would be guilty of violating Article 92 of the uniform code of military justice, specifically failure to obey a lawful order - specifically this order: http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/defense_ethics/ethics_regulation/1344-10.html
And rightfully so. If I advocate a political opinion how can I be sure that someone who is sworn to obey me doesn't think he is compelled to support my position? How can I be expected to be seen as willing to obey orders from someone I've publicly argued should not be in office? B is completely justified to be completely creeped out by that PBA sign. It is a very unsettling sign that there is very little thought of professional ethics among NYC police. If they cannot operate under professional ethics in politics, what is the chance they will respect your civil liberties?