Why Demilitarizing Police won’t Solve the Problem

Carey Wedler (The Anti-Media)
September 8, 2014

After years of the federal government funneling millions of dollars into militarizing local American police forces, that same federal government is eager for justice over the grotesque shows of force and brutality in Ferguson, Missouri this past August. It is so disturbed, in fact, that members of President Obama’s cabinet and of Congress are pursuing a policy of de-militarization. Image credit: wikipedia.org

Obama himself, an active proponent of militarization, tepidly stated:

SWAT_team_(4131372991)“I think it’s probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they are purchasing is stuff they actually need. Because there’s a big difference between our military and local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has said he is “deeply concerned” and last Thursday, launched a civil rights investigation into the events that took place in Ferguson. While these well-calculated words and actions indicate a step in the right direction, the ineptitude of government to regulate itself, the lack of consistent public scrutiny, and the glorification of violence in American society prevent a policy of de-militarization from creating a lasting solution to increasing waves of police violence and abuse.

The state is increasingly tasked with solving problemsoften ones it created or enabled. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 helped cause the Great Depression and for a century, this pillar of economic policy has widened the gap between rich and poor. When the economy collapsed in 2008 and the federal government took action, it did so by further strengthening the power of the banking elite with bailouts. After decades of “spreading democracy” by dropping bombs and toppling multiple democratically-elected leaders, the federal government continued to deal with the disdain it sowed by starting new wars and continuing foreign meddling in the 21st century. This perpetual policy has most recently reared its head in the form of the Islamic State.

Though the federal government was praised for ushering in an era of civil rights to combat racism in the 1950s and 1960s, it went on to institute prejudiced policies such as racially-motivated gun control following urban race riots in response to police brutality and institutionalized racism. Shortly after, the infamous and racist Drug War  commenced and continues today. When the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act was passed by Congress and met with public outrage over the government and president’s assertion that they could indefinitely detain American citizens, members of Congress seized the opportunity to “fix” the bill, only to use language that deceptively still allowed domestic use of the military.

This pattern of the state’s failed self-regulation holds true with the case of police brutality and militarization. When politicians and government bureaucracies who armed police in the first place are entrusted to rein them in, it is naive to assume their talking points and claims of concern will enact tangible change. Even if those intentions are genuine, the nature of bureaucracy and the drive of powerful agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and the Department of Defense make it difficult to effect real change in a timely or efficient fashion.

Any justice that the government may serve must be subject to never-ending oversight lest that policy be manipulated, overwritten or abused. In a “democracy” or “republic,” participation is required in order to keep the state in line. This was a basic principle in America as its founders understood the corruption and deceit inherent to authority and power. But in the early 20th century, Americans became simultaneously more dependent on government and increasingly apathetic towards its actions. Whether out of ignorance, fear, cynicism or blind trust, Americans are painfully disengaged. A majority of the population disapproves of Congress and the president and while most citizens are often bothered enough to demand tangible reform or to vote, they are not motivated enough to actively follow through and ensure that they the change they desire actually materializes.

While politicians may currently be spouting talking points about the perils of police militarization and take action to stop it, it is the nature of authority to shift back to its misdeeds when the public stops paying attention. Between this tendency toward corruption and American apathy, a perfect storm of perpetual police abuse will continue. However, while the tendency toward misconduct and the public’s acceptance of it is detrimental, the public’s endorsement and eagerness for violence solidifies the ultimate futility of even a policy as vital as police demilitarization.

When everything the state does is predicated on the threat of force to get its waywhether for taxation, healthcare, or war, it follows that violence will be employed. The aggression demonstrated by the United States military and eagerly consumed by Americans as “keeping us safe” and “spreading democracy” reflects at home. In a society where violence committed by government agents is glorified but condemned when committed by others, it should be no surprise that government violence runs rampant and authority is abused. When the American military is the (corrupt, violent, inhumane) policeman of the world, the policemen of America inevitably act like the militaryarmed with their weapons or not. Without vigilance over the crimes and misdeeds abroad of a government that claims to represent the people, this kind of destructive “representation” will continue within America’s borders. Without a rejection of violence as a means for progress, little progress will be made.

While police de-militarization is an absolutely necessary step in the right direction, history shows that long before police were militarized, they were harassing innocent and non-violent citizens based on their own prejudices and lusts for power. These aren’t just qualities of a heavily armed police statethough affairs have certainly worsened since this trend began. Removing the armored vehicles and military weapons will help decrease the shock and shame of overly armed police, but the fact remains that violence begets violence and the state is inherently impotent to regulate itself. Change can only come when Americanscurrently jaded by and disenchanted with political engagementstop tolerating authority through force and develop a more skeptical attitude toward government while actively holding it accountable.

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