In the military, soldiers police citizens in occupied foreign lands. They need little excuse or provocation to exert army might. Keep the populace in line. If you’re running, it’s assumed you’re guilty. That solider has a right to pursue, subdue and even kill.
That’s what the military does — target, attack, seize and control. The use of excessive force is expected, a matter of routine. Secure the perimeter. Keep the citizenry — particularly those deemed as the enemy — in line.
Two years ago, the Trends Research Institute reported: “The military police now are the police. Showered with $35 billion from the Department of Homeland Security, virtually every town in America has SWAT teams equipped with sophisticated military weapons gear and armored personnel carriers.”
The institute’s analysis went beyond the obvious effects of militarization of police departments across the country, so evident in the aftermath of incidents like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The Cops Gone Wild trend line resulted in stories that warned, “the sheer scope of military might now in the hands of police departments across the country would embolden abuses not only in high-profile circumstances, but in generally innocuous circumstances, pitting innocent citizens against trigger-happy police thugs.”
Look at the many incidents grabbing headlines in just the last few months. While race and other factors are significant, it’s the power — both in equipment and mindset — in the hands of police that obliterated the line between military and community policing that transcends race.
Are these deaths occurring during shootouts or other flagrantly violent acts? Would reasonable people, with no stakes in one side or the other, argue that the death of Walter Scott, shot multiple times in the back while running away, was unavoidable? What about 12-year-old Tamir Rice, fatally shot for playing with a replica gun? Was that death avoidable? What about the deaths of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, James Boyd and Jason Harrison?
What about Francis Pusok, pursued and caught in California farmlands only to be beaten senseless by 10 San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies?
Of course, the majority of police are fair-minded and fair-acting. But the trend of unnecessary violence inflicted on citizens in normal, routine interactions is reflective of a broader, pervasive mindset.
The post-9/11 military “arming” of state, city and community police has reached its pinnacle. Too many police have the weaponry, unspoken license and mindset to deploy unnecessary force at the slightest provocation.
The wars and violence the United States exerts across the globe as the world’s police force creates a mindset that now pervades local police forces. Military violence has hit home. The fish rots from the head down.
If some recent horrific acts by police were not captured by citizens on their handheld devices, the rise of the Cops Gone Wild trend would accelerate. For too long, the most disturbing incidents of police violence against innocent citizens fell beyond the radar of national media. As the institute reported a year ago: “In the local communities where they occur, drastically depleted reporting resources at local newspapers and televisions stations mean these incidents either go unreported or barely reported.”
Trend forecast: We forecast that “in this media climate, using social media — crowdsourcing information and hard evidence of police abuse — can make a difference.”
It has done just that of late. And it has exposed not only unnecessary police violence, but a reflexive and brazen ill regard for the consequences of these actions. It exposed the military mindset that consumes too much of our culture.
Mean streets will get meaner as unemployment, dysfunctional families, and an entertainment culture of violence remain strong.