Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program

In the United States, police officers use lethal force more than in other countries. There’s an epidemic of police killings. In some jurisdictions of the United States shooting to kill is accepted police practice. However, every state fails to comply with international standards for use of lethal force.

Police forces are becoming militarized, essentially paramilitary forces. The Department of Defense supplies surplus military equipment to police. Former President Obama refused to curtail the Department of Defense’s program of militarization “choosing instead to focus on improving the training of officers given access to high-powered weapons and [armored] vehicles previously used in Iraq and Afghanistan.” We are fast becoming a police state where governments’ interest is protecting itself but not its citizens. And a considerable part of the problem is the preponderance of guns in our society. When presented with combative encounters a police officer’s first response is to aim for center mass -- shoot to kill and not disable -- just as in military training. In all the result is an increase in extrajudicial killings by police.

Robert Reich:

How to reduce civilian deaths by police?

New research (below) shows that more-militarized law enforcement agencies are associated with more civilians killed by police. When a county goes from receiving no military equipment to $2,539,767 worth (the largest jump in the data), more than twice as many civilians are likely to die in that county the following year.

This is important, because the 1996 National Defense Authorization Act allowed the Secretary of Defense to give local law enforcement the Department’s excess military equipment at no cost— and the such transfers have soared. In 1998, about $9.4 million in equipment was transferred to 290 law enforcement agencies. By 2014, 3,029 law enforcement agencies received transfers nearing $800 million in value. Just between 2006 and 2014, local police received military equipment worth over $1.5 billion: more than 6,000 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 11,959 bayonets, 50 airplanes, 422 helicopters, and $3.6 million in camouflage and other “deception equipment.”

Bottom line: If we want to reduce civilian deaths by police, we need to demilitarize them.

Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program

By Casey Delehanty, Jack Mewhirter, Ryan Welch