How September 11 helped militarize U.S. law enforcement

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Through four presidents, the United States has spent Billions dollars on the war in Afghanistan, fighting terrorist groups and trying to help stabilize and control the region. As the approximately 800,000 American troops have returned to the United States over the past 20 years, what happens to all the military equipment they have used? Well, it often gets transferred to law enforcement agencies.

Federal Programs, such as the 1033 and 1122 programs, provided billions of dollars in military equipment to law enforcement agencies in the United States. The 1033 program allows the Ministry of Defense to transfer military equipment free of charge to the police. In 2020, nearly 65% ​​of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies received equipment from this program. The 1122 program allows law enforcement agencies to purchase military equipment with their “own funds” (taxpayers’ money) at the reduced military rate. Some of this equipment includes ammunition, weapons and tactical armored vehicles.

Some activists noted the link between military equipment and the use of force by the police, especially during racial justice protests like the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. In response to some outcry and student protests, some the universities have given in of these federal programs. In doing so, universities aim to send a message about the juxtaposition between law enforcement and public safety.

Access to military equipment has helped to change the organizational culture of law enforcement, which has changed training and tactics. First the “warrior”Has emerged a culture that often sees community members as the enemy. This cultural perspective facilitates the use of force by altering the type of training tactics used by law enforcement, such as the many chokes that are prohibited by cities and police departments across the country.

Second, the acquisition of military equipment often results in a larger deployment of that equipment, even when it is not justified. Therefore, police services with more military equipment are more likely to kill civilians. Look for other documents indicating that more militarized police services are less likely to prevent crime or have local residents feel more secure. Instead, militarized policing ultimately appears to damage the reputation of law enforcement.

And, these deleterious results are not evenly distributed to all Americans. Blacks, compared to whites, are disproportionately more likely to be killed by police and to use force. They are also more likely to have SWAT deployed in their neighborhoods. In fact, police are more likely to use force against protesters for racial justice than those aimed at maintaining white supremacy. Moreover, September 11 transformed not only what is perceived as a threat, but also who is perceived as such. Even when a person is a US citizen or has a visa, “looking like a foreigner,” especially from the Middle East, can have serious consequences. consequences because brutal police tactics often fall on the most marginalized, the most vulnerable and the most exposed.

On September 11, 2001, I was watching Sports Center presenter Stuart Scott in my University of Memphis dorm room when he abruptly stopped his comment to urge viewers to turn it on on a local news channel. I remember being shocked and dismayed when I saw the second plane crash into the Twin Towers in New York. As a resident counselor, I remember helping some of my residents who were called up to active duty. I remember the call of my God brother, Thomas James, who decided to enlist in the US Air Force and then was deployed six times to the Middle East over the next few years.

For those of us who were able to welcome our loved ones into our homes after our military deployments, most of us did not expect their equipment to be in our local police departments and on the streets of our neighborhood. . It is clear that the militarized police are an indirect effect of American foreign policy which has shaped domestic policy in a negative way.

As we face the mark of 20 years of a tragic terrorist attack that forever changed America and the Middle East and led to the loss of loved ones for families, policymakers should reassess critically the benefits or costs (financial and human costs) associated with military equipment. law enforcement programs. The data clearly shows that these programs are not beneficial to public safety. Establishing federal policing standards and certifications can help ensure that the warrior culture is replaced with a guardian perspective that prioritizes public safety over militarization.

Part of this essay appears in Maryland Today at the University of Maryland.


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