Post-9/11 conflicts have increased militarization of civilian police, new study finds

Brown University released a study Wednesday examining the correlation between US military conflicts in the post 9/11 era and an increase in police militarization.

The study revisits the notion of the military-industrial complex and its program focused on profit at the expense of civilian casualties in the United States and abroad. He draws a parallel between the military’s efforts to crush jihadists abroad and the growing role of law enforcement in the fight against domestic terrorism.

“Police departments have rushed to develop anti-terrorism systems; meanwhile, the scale and profits of military-industrial societies increased as the United States invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq, ”wrote study author Jessica Katzenstein. “These forces have converged with the growth of specialized police training and tactics to combat the growing number of mass shootings, and with more recent military withdrawals from active war zones, to significantly inflate an existing military pipeline. and from the federal government to the local police. “

Not only were military weapons manufacturers directly courting law enforcement agencies, the study says, but a secondary market for surplus military equipment was created under the Bill Clinton administration as part of the Defense Logistics Agency.Program 1033. “Its effects can probably be seen recently on city streets during demonstrations in the form of MRAP, or mine-resistant ambush-protected armored vehicles.

As of June, about 8,200 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies were participating in the program, according to the DLA.

Many demonstrations have elicited a more than local response, with the intervention of the National Guard and internal security. As a result, the public is often confused as to who is showing up to keep the peace.

National Guard troops in Raleigh, North Carolina, have been called to the streets for security reasons during recent protests against police brutality. (Video via NC National

Origins of the militarized police

Police use of military tactics has its roots in the Los Angeles Police Department Special weapons and tactics unit, or SWAT, developed and formalized in the 1960s.

After the Watts riots in August 1965, there were several incidents of criminal snipers shooting at civilians and police. Special teams of highly trained officers, many of whom were recruited because of their past military experience, were trained to handle sniper fire. SWAT units were then used to deal with a number of difficult situations, from bank robberies to, most recently, school shootings.

2015 President Barack Obama Executive Decree 13688 reviewed the 1033 program and added restrictions on the types of items that can be transferred, including grenade launchers and military aircraft. In 2017, President Donald Trump revoked Obama’s order.

Mission creep

The 1033 program has seen some $ 1.6 billion in equipment transferred to law enforcement since 9/11 and just $ 27 million before the terrorist attacks, according to the study. But according to the Law Enforcement Support Office, approximately $ 7.4 billion in equipment was purchased by law enforcement.

Despite all the criticism that local law enforcement agencies have received over the years for participating in the federal government’s transfer program, some of the equipment is used outside of crowd control and response to riots.

In addition to harmless items like office equipment, LAPD recently acquired three flatbed trucks to help move supplies in its COVID-19 response.

But the big cities are not the only ones to participate. In 2014, for example, the city of Dundee, Michigan, with a population of 3,900, received $ 2.7 million in excess military equipment, which included an MRAP armored vehicle.

So, does a well-equipped police force do more harm than good?

A American Economic Journal 2017 Study says military aid is cost effective and helps reduce street crime by acting as a deterrent. Conversely, the Brown study argues that the use of military equipment emboldens officers, many of whom are increasingly hired for their military experience than ever before.

Jared is a freelance journalist, former Marine and veterans advocate living in Los Angeles.

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