A Review of the Militarization of the Police Force 

Subject: Political
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 712
Topics: Military Science, Public Policy, Social Issues, Statistics

Table of Contents

Scope of the Problem

American civilians had been protected by Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 against excessive police force until 1981 when the Congress signed the Military Cooperation Law Enforcement Officials Act (MCLEA) to establish police reliance on military assistance. This Act allowed sharing of equipment between the military and the domestic police units. Further laws such as Program 1033, USA PATRIOT Act 2001 and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encouraged training of police, military assistance in narcotics operations and information exchange. While these procedures were implemented to facilitate war against illicit drugs and terrorism, it instilled practices that are in turn threatening the safety of citizens. It is no wonder the New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, boosted of his own army in the New York Police Department that was as large as the seventh biggest army in the world (Seifman, 2011). Falcone, Wells & Weisheit (2002) state that about 17,000 domestic police forces are presently in possession of powerful weapons such as tanks, ballistic missiles, Blackhawk helicopters, machine guns, grenade launchers, battering rams, explosives, chemical sprays, rockets,  body armor, night vision, rappelling gear and armored vehicles. The table below shows that NYPD apply sophisticated military equipment in an environment where crime rates are falling.

Figure 1: NYPD Stop and Frisks vs. Crime Rates

Source NYPD Statistics (2014)

Source: NYPD Statistics (2014)

Several states and local law enforcement agencies have also acquired and retained police paramilitary units (PPUs) and or special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Kraska &Kappeler (1997) reported that 59% of American police forces had implemented PPU by 1982. This number grew to 78% in 1990 and reached 89% by 1995. The New York City Mayor’s claim as well makes it clear that fear is already rising over militarization of the domestic police forces (Coleman, Gochenour, Lawryszek, & Chandnani, 2010). Police militarization is encouraged by the easy accessibility of funds because of the several programs that have been formed to support the process. Program 1033 for example led to allocation of $212 million in 2010 and $500 million in 2011, for purchase of police equipment. The program had ensured transfer of more than 5 billion to purchase equipment for the local police since its establishment in 1990s. DHS contributed $250 million for drone manufacture between 2005 and 2013, and a further $248.9 million for production of unmanned aircraft in 2011 (Hall & Coyne, 2013). In 2014 alone Urban Areas Security Initiative gave $179 million to the New York City and the Justice Department grant offered $376 million (The New York Times, 2014).

It is remembered that the traditional role of police was based on democratic roles such as serving needs of citizens and private groups, accountability to the law and not government, protection of human rights to political activity, and adherence to transparent activities (Walker & Katz, 2008; Katel, 2014). According to Hill and Berger (2009) however, the current police operations has gone against the former principles and is now military-like. It is true that police activities have been improved by these practices but they are applying the force on the wrong targets. There have been several incidents when the police caused injury or even death to unarmed, peaceful and innocent citizens (Wood & Malcolm, 2014; Talvi, 2003). Sodomy and killing of unarmed, peaceful civilians are the main cases of police brutality in New York City. Cganemccalla (2008) gives the examples of Michael Mineo who was sodomized with a baton at Brooklyn, Abner Louima who was beaten by a police officer due to mistaken identity and Sean bell, among others, who was shot without committing any crime. A study by Delehanty, Mewhirter, Welch & Wilks (2017) links police brutality with increased militarization of local law enforcement agencies. The study found that American counties that did not receive military equipment had 0.287 chances of civilian killing per year while those with full access to the equipment had 0.656 possibility of civilian killing. The researchers concluded that increased expenditure on weaponry raised civilian deaths by approximately 129%. This study thus finds the review of current policy of militarization of the police necessary in ensure reasonable use of force by the police and adherence to constitutional policing. This is achievable when the police officers exercise equal treatment of all citizens, ensure appropriate use of force and become accountable for their conduct.

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