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
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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
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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