How The War On Drugs Launched Militarized Police Forces In America

Image Is Everything

Anyone who looks at a modern day police force responding to an emergency involving gunfire or weapons might find themselves asking the question "Why is the army surrounding the bank." They're not. That is your local police force surrounding the bank.

In today's world in America you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a military unit and a police emergency unit because they look almost identical. Down to the combat boots and ammunition belts most police emergency SWAT units look just like a military outfit which is kind of scary. the reason being the military generally speaking is called upon to deal with a deadly enemy who may be planning or in the throws of executing a plot against the United States. But in the case of the police, the deadly enemy is U.S. citizens.

President Ronald Reagan

The War On Drugs

When president Ronald Reagan launched his war on drugs he had one thing in mind: to reduce the amount of drugs on the streets of America. And it was his hope that in reducing drug traffic he would also reduce the number of drug related deaths due to overdose and murder.

When the program was initiated it proved to be very successful. Large amounts of drugs were seized and many potential drug deals were eliminated. Everyone was happy except for the drug dealers and the drug users but soon that would all change.

And not for the better.

A SWAT Entry Team

Police Tactics

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Progression Toward Militarization

Initially drug enforcement entry teams were composed of regular police officers who were assigned to special drug units within their departments. They essentially wore plain clothes with bullet proof vests carrying for the most part, revolvers and some automatic pistols along with shotguns. They would knock to gain entry and if there was no response they would kick down the door using their feet as the battering ram. The unit would then quickly enter the home or building and secure everyone in it while doing a "sweep" of it. the process was short, sweet and to the point.

But most importantly it was successful.

All of that changed when drug dealers tired of losing product and personnel to jail stepped up their program by starting to purchase automatic weapons and military-like weapons and equipment to counteract what the police were doing. Pretty soon drug houses and facilities looked like well-armed fortresses more suited for war than living in. With reinforced doors and guard dogs like Pit Bulls roaming about drug dealers felt that they were better protected against the police.

And they were right.

Unarmed Citizen Confronted By Civilian Police Army

Civilian Military

The escalation of drug dealers' defense against the police proved to be quite effective. Reinforced doors now made foot entry by police an impossibility. This forced police to institute using battering rams designed to break down heavy doors. The problem with this was it took police much longer to break in a door if they broke it down at all. Some doors were so heavily fortified that the police could not breach them which allowed the criminals inside more time to cover their activities or escape altogether. In the instances where police were able to gain entry they were met with a number of obstacles including vicious dogs, stun grenades and heavy arms fire from automatic weapons. In short time the police figured out they were outgunned and they needed to regroup.

As a result of multiple injuries and deaths of police officers by heavily-armed drug dealers police departments were faced with the decision to either call off the war on drugs or escalate their own methods.

They chose the latter.

Before long police departments across America started to outfit their officers with automatic hand guns and rifles. They began to employ military weaponry like stun grenades, armor piercing bullets (many drug dealers wore bullet proof vests), armored vehicles and military style uniforms with ammunition belts and flack jackets. It wasn't long before they took on a full military look and feel.

SWAT (special weapons and tactics) teams were developed to deal with extreme criminal situations beyond the scope of the regular patrol officers. Soon bank robberies, hostage situations and drug raids were all handled by the militarily-equipped SWAT teams. But a problem developed within the police ranks.

After a while SWAT teams started being used to deal with routine police situations like serving warrants. When serving papers on criminals who were perceived to be dangerous the police would often use the heavily weaponed special units to perform the task. This resulted in numerous overzealous raids on private citizens who were not the intended target of the raid. As a result numerous ordinary citizens were injured and even killed in the process. the military branch of police forces were in overdrive and Americans were paying the price.

And still are.

Michael Brown: Unarmed Teen Killed In Ferguson, Missouri By The Local Police

We're In The Army Now

Fast forward to 2014 and Ferguson, Missouri where police have been confronting angry protesters to the shooting by police of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Almost daily since the story broke police in Ferguson have been in confrontational situations with residents angered over the killing of an unarmed youth who by all accounts was in a surrendering posture when he was gunned down. Instead of acting with reserve and control Ferguson police have doubled down by bringing out riot geared officers to deal with peaceful protesters. Although there were some incidents of aggression by some protesters those involved were believed to be outside agitators and not residents of Ferguson.

In their dealings with the protesters Ferguson police have displayed the same heavy-handed tactics that resulted in the death of young Brown with no seeming regret for their actions. In fact they have increased their efforts almost intagonistically toward the citizens.

These actions fly in the face of what democracy is supposed to be about. Citizens have the constitutionally guaranteed right to peacefully protest and any intrusion or restriction imposed is a violation of their civil rights.

Police are sworn to protect and serve but at the present time Ferguson police are doing neither. At least not for citizens. At a time when they should be exhibiting understanding and compassion they are showing disgust and intolerance which is totally inappropriate for the situation.

It is time for the Ferguson police and all policemen to realize who they serve at the pleasure of. In case they forgot, its the people that they are pointing their weapons at.

A SWAT Team In Action

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13 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

With ISIS moving in our borders at this very minute I am sure I think I will appreciate military police to protect me and the jury is still out on the Ferguson case. The only proof we have at all is a video of the boy two hours prior; that is all besides a claim the policeman was wounded and that pictures and hospital records will prove it. Don't we wait to see evidence anymore? Do we let a lot of men with a cause of their own stir up trouble and turn us against each other? The last thing America needs is for the citizens to be fighting each other; or is that a plan that will let government gain more control over us?


J R Ellis profile image

J R Ellis 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

The police have been militarizing for years now. It seems like every day I read about a swat team serving (illegal in my view) no-knock raids on the wrong house. Not only do they go to the wrong address frequently, they also kill innocent people all too frequently as well. In many cases these were to stop petty marijuana dealers which makes me sick. More people have now been killed by police officers than soldiers have died in Iraq. I always hear "not all cops are bad" which I feel is true, but then I ask myself, "why aren't the good cops arresting the bad ones?"


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

jackielynnley the police have tasers, batons and pepper spray to keep from using deadly force. Lethal force is supposed to be a last resort not a first and only choice. No effort was made to subdue that young man, who we now know committed no crime except being on the wrong street with that policeman. He had no weapon and posed no threat to anyone in the vicinity. In addition there was no need for the officer to empty his weapon into an unarmed person facing him with his hands up. Independent autopsies all confirm this fact. We cannot gloss over obvious problems with this situation. Policemen are trained to control situations without using force. It is standard training in all police departments. This officer obviously had an agenda and he carried it out with deadly force.


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

I also forgot to mention The National Guard and Coast Guard are the entities responsible for dealing with domestic threats from foreign powers within our borders not the police. That is what they were formed for, train for and are equipped to do. That is their primary duty, mission and objective, hence the names National Guard and coast Guard..


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

But "if" this young man inside the car as some have reported went for the officer's gun and smashed his face before escaping the car when that attempt failed; would that make a difference to you? Honestly?


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

"If" the young man had attacked the officer as some have alleged his hands would have had obvious bruising. No such remark was made in any of the autopsies done on him. I find it odd that someone who supposedly administered such a beating would have no bruising on his hands. Don't you?


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Did he have any bruising from the abuse he gave the shop owner? Would that action be OK to a law officer? Isn't everyone aware in this country that halt from a policeman means stop? His hands being up and his head down does not mean he was turning himself in. (I think there are different versions on that anyway.) It could mean more assault couldn't it? Why do so many have their minds made up. I mean if all I have to go on is facts all I have is a video of this young man assaulting someone. Do we all have to block that out? We need to get all the facts then leave it to the jury don't we and if not, why not? You are a minister and not for the judicial system working? If this man has a lot of witnesses then let them come forward then.


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

Witnesses have come forward and given testimony that supports this young man being murdered. Do you even have any facts? Have you bothered to follow the story at all? You seem to be supposing instead of relating facts. I've told you about the autopsies. Fact. I just told you about witnesses. Documented fact. But you have told me nothing but your opinion which is obviously biased for the policeman and against a dead unarmed young man. The police are not always right just like those who fall at their hands are not always wrong. The facts as they have come out so far support an indictment for at the least aggravated murder and at the most second degree murder. When I give a position it is based on fact not guesswork, innuendo or supposition. The facts thus far support unprovoked murder. I think it interesting that you would automatically side with the policeman without any examination of the facts related to the case. And when I reference facts I'm talking about information other than the falsehoods Fox News spews out on a daily basis.

**eyewitness testimony: http://bluenationreview.com/video-michael-brown/


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

Furthermore my position as a minister has no bearing on anything in relation to this case. I find it also interesting that you would attempt to use that as some type of leverage in your discussion. The facts and only the facts are all that should be entered into play here. I have stated documented facts where you have given nothing but biased opinion based on suppositions and hypotheticals. I also find it of interest that someone from the south would hold these views. the only reason I have engaged you thus far is to try to relate factual information to you because your discussion is really off track from the hub which was about the militarization of the police. I will now get back on that subject and off of this side street. Your jumping on this aspect of the hub is very telling as well.


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

Amazing. I believe the Lord said "you blind guides which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel" (Matt. 23:24) I devote all of two sentences to the actual shooting of Michael Brown and that is what you choose to latch onto. Th rest of the entire hub is about the development of militarized police forces. That gives great insight into your agenda and mindset. I have deviated from the topic of this essay for far too long. I shall now return to it.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

http://hubpages.com/living/Helping-Around-The-Hous...

This is what most policemen are all about if you care to read. If it bores you skip to the end. Most policemen are normal human beings. They give their lives for us...yes, just like the military do who get no thanks either. (Your pictures tell your story.)


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

Here is a non-black unarmed kid shot 16 times by police: http://thefreethoughtproject.com/ottawa-police-sho...

And as I previously stated I am done discussing a TWO SENTENCE snippet of a 1200 word hub. Your focus on TWO SENTENCES tells your story and mindset as well. (straining at a gnat while ignoring the elephant in the room)


TonyDan profile image

TonyDan 2 years ago from Toledo, Ohio Author

Feel free to troll someone else's hub space.

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