Fortress America: Bringing the war back home
Controversy regarding police enforcement is at an all time high due to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Police enforcement is under scrutiny for numerous reasons, and the sweeping coverage of Brown's death is instrumental in demands for change and justice. protests are no longer solely focused on Brown's death, but have turned into a nation-wide debate regarding demands for demilitarization.
Police militarization is a prominent topic of discussion due to the extensive money spent needed to finance military-grade weapons and resources, and the contemptuous dynamics between enforcement and the public as a result. The American Civil Liberties Union states that "the war comes home" with "the excessive militarization of American policing."
The public fear that what once was a protective power has turned into a war-minded force, bearing irrefutable consequences.
The fear of racial profiling is not a newly generated fear; in small towns such as Ferguson with a prominently black community being run by a majorly white over-populated police force, convictions of injustice happen all too often.
Statistics show a progressively higher trend in action taken against black men ages 18-34, much like the Brown incident.
What statistics? Sources? Beliefs that police disproportionally target young black men and other men of color has been an ongoing certainty in communities, and the war-like tactics being practiced recently are leaving an even higher level of fear in citizens.
SMC student Ryan Miles believes there's a "higher level of aggression and assumption towards people of color."
She says that "for as far back as [she] remembers, there's always been reports of unwarranted action taken against non-white people." Admittedly not knowing hard details, Miles comments that "there is a greater fear of police, and an uncertainty of whether they're for or against us."
With such turmoil and concern regarding police, the government should be taking action in attempts to resolve a historically high profile matter.
In spite of prudent attempts for change, there has been less than satisfying results; such as Brown V. Wilson, a lack of cold, hard evidence is upheld in court, rather than witness reports with discretionary inconsistencies.
It's no coincidence that when asked of the publics confidence in police ethics and honesty, 45 percent of blacks answered yes compared to 59 percent of whites. The ACLU commented that police militarization "unfairly impacts people of color and undermines individual liberties."
Looking at the bigger picture related to distrust in the policing system, militarization is at the core of the matter. An East Los Angeles Police Officer, who wished to remain anonymous due to the current sensitivity in the matter, said, "[he] understands the controversy and the outrage, but in the broader spectrum, the change and accessibility of military-grade weapons needs to be taken in account. If someone dangerous may be in possession of a weapon of that nature, [he] needs to feel secure in the ability to protect."
The need to feel secure arguably plays a big part in the matter at hand. Furthermore, though, is the cost of arming these forces with such weapons.
Back in 2011, reports of the Department of Homeland Security showed at least $34 billion dollars have gone to supplying military equipment. Property foreclosures have brought millions more to finance the change.
In 2014 alone, an estimated 22 percent of federal spending goes to defense. Ever since the war on terror in 2001, money toward national defense has skyrocketed. The war on drugs only adds to the expenditure and in turn continues to create a police force that could easily be mistaken for a military unit.
There is a sobering acceleration of the number of SWAT raids in the 1970s compared to recent years. From what was once only a few hundred annually, by 2005, an average of 50,000 raids take place per year. The majority of these raids are due to nonviolent crimes and to make matters worse, black and latinos account for about 50 percent of the raids.
As debates of police militarization and discrimination spiral out of control, the problems are likely to get worse. With no reformation, and as sensitivity on the matter rises, conclusions of racial targeting and brutality will be made with or without substantial evidence due to an unheard nation.
The police must actively be demilitarized and once again become a protective force rather than an intimidating one. Money, rather than being spent on weaponry, should begin funding education and other various systems that lessen the number of participants in the drug trade. Race must become an unconsidered factor in policing tactics.