The antidote to militarized police

December 7, 2011

As Occupy Wall Street protests have multiplied across the nation, we’ve seen a lot of pictures of paramilitary-looking police officers on the streets of American cities. The Reuters photo above was taken in Oakland, but it just as easily could have been shot in any number of cities. What most of these pictures have in common is that local law enforcement is dressed in military equipment and look ready to take on an army of invaders rather than peaceful protesters. It’s a big evolution from when police cracked down on the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago wearing their everyday street uniforms.

Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle who oversaw the police response to the WTO protests there in 1999, regrets the growing militarization of police forces. He writes in yes!:

There will always be situations—an armed and barricaded suspect, a man with a knife to his wife’s throat, a school-shooting rampage—that require disciplined, military-like operations. But most of what police are called upon to do, day in and day out, requires patience, diplomacy and interpersonal skills. I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing. But that will not happen unless, even as we cull “bad apples” from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten.


The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders—a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood—is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country.

Stemper’s argument that police departments have grown more insular since the 1990s sounds plausible — funding for militarized training and equipment has swelled in the aftermath of 9/11, and police in a number of states are cracking down on citizens who attempt to videotape police officers’ actions. But a democracy in which significant parts of the population distrust the state’s extension of its authority into the community is not stable.

In an open society transparency is likely to be the proper antidote to police departments “blue wall of silence.” Here are several simple actions police departments or citizen groups could take to increase transparency:

  • Police officers must always display their badge numbers or respond to citizen requests for their badge numbers
  • Police departments must post the names, photos and badge numbers of every uniformed officer on a public website
  • Police departments must open the citizen complaint process to public scrutiny. If they are unable or unwilling then citizen groups should create open source wikis or websites to collect and expose complaints against officers.
  • The chief of police should make a year-end report available to the public detailing citizen complaints

There is no easy way to reverse the massive tide of police militarization, but transparency is generally the best disinfectant. If we want fair policing in our communities we need to open the doors to our police departments.


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Serve and protect. Right? Norman Rockwell. The cop and the kid with the ice cream cone.

Pete Seger once asked “Where have all the flowers gone?” What he didn’t know then, but what we should all know now, is that they have been trampled by the Patriot Act which has turned our nation into a condition of permanent defacto Martial Law.

Our corporate owned and xenophobia fueled polititions, with the tacit approval of an uninformed and media numbed populace have allowed us to throw off nearly every protection that our forefather’s risked their lives and fortunes for over two hundred years ago.

The TSA is a prime example. Because you can’t predict when a bad guy might make his next move, we’ll just throw out the right to privacy in our persons and belongings. The recent over-reach during the OWS protests are just an extension of the same thing. When did peacable assembly become a crime worthy of such violent response?

Rather than Tories vs Loyalists, we now have Americans turning on Americans. And, unlike in times gone by, the odds are now stacked very much in favor of the controllers. They have all the toys.

What a shame. In a little over two hundred years, we have come full circle. We are now our own worst enemy. We can try to blame it on terrorists or drug cartels. But the blame (unless, of course, you think this is all OK) falls squarely on the shoulders of the American people. We have not been vigilant on our watch. And, right under our noses, the Constitution has evaporated.

The author of this article wants the police to open their doors. But their doors are open. We see what is happening already. It is not the cops we need fear. It is their handlers. When Monty Burns releases his hounds, the hounds are just doing what hounds do. We need to open Monty’s door. That is where the ultimate answer lies. And Monty’s address is Wall Street.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Thomas Jefferson

Posted by BillAmerican | Report as abusive d=5490

My name is Patrick Meighan, and I’m a husband, a father, a writer on the Fox animated sitcom “Family Guy”, and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica.

I was arrested at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with 291 other people at Occupy LA. I was sitting in City Hall Park with a pillow, a blanket, and a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Being Peace” when 1,400 heavily-armed LAPD officers in paramilitary SWAT gear streamed in. I was in a group of about 50 peaceful protestors who sat Indian-style, arms interlocked, around a tent (the symbolic image of the Occupy movement). The LAPD officers encircled us, weapons drawn, while we chanted “We Are Peaceful” and “We Are Nonviolent” and “Join Us.”

When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor.

It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.

Read the rest: d=5490

Posted by Cate_Long | Report as abusive

Anyone who follows the local Columbia media knows that Chief Burton has been under fire as of late. He has never been popular among the old guard, rank and file officers, but lately the local public sector police labor union, the Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA), a national police labor union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and a group centered around a fired, former CPD Officer, Rob Sanders, and his former police dog Fano have all been on the attack. port-for-chief-burton/

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