Should police be demilitarized?

A SWAT team in Mendota Heights. File, Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News
“The convergence of the progressive left and libertarian right over police demilitarization is yielding a liberal-tarian moment—and it’s brought to you by the Koch brothers,” writes The Daily Beast’s Tim Mok.

Kara Dansky, the author of a report on the militarization of police and a senior counsel at the ACLU, also said the time is ripe for potential cooperation between libertarians and progressives.

The right and left see the militarization of police differently, she said, with libertarians focusing on Pentagon equipment and federal grants for local law enforcement, and progressives taking issue with the “militarization of policing in communities of color.”

But regardless of their different lenses, she said, “there seems to be a convergence of interests” between the two sides.

Former LAPD Deputy Chief Stephen Downing traces the roots of a more militarized police force in Huffington Post, “The militarization of local law enforcement was seeded by the Nixon administration’s declaration of the war on drugs in the early 1970s, and took root in the 1980s as result of President Reagan’s escalation that poured millions into the drug war, shifting the focus of local law enforcement away from violent and property crimes to mostly small-time drug offenders.”

Today’s Question: Should police be demilitarized?

  • Jon

    Yes, end the drug war, it’s a waste of money and a human tragedy. Have a problem with drugs? Go to rehab.

    • David

      Watch “the Union the Business Behind Getting High” and “Breaking the Taboo” … let’s end the war on drugs and repeal the prohibition of the world’s most utilitarian plant (hemp aka Cannabis sativa).

  • Jim G

    Remember the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008? Fences, and citizens prohibited from using the streets by our local police force decked out in new black body armor set apart from the citizens they are paid to serve and protect. Fast forward six years…. military camouflaged combat outfitted police on top of armored vehicles pointing their machine guns at protesters… because they have become… the other. Yes, the police should be demilitarized. My law enforcement friends won’t like it, but it’s better for everyone to take these weapons away from our cops so that can go about their jobs…serving the needs of our citizens and neighborhoods.

    • Tommy H

      You say that the police need to focus on their job “serving thr needs of our citizens and protecting neighborhoods from all threats”, and I do not disagree with that statement; but the facts are that it is very dangerous to be a police officer.

      I am a police officer in a large city, so I know the dangers first hand. I knew the dangers when I became an officer, but at the end of every tour I want to go home to my family. We are tasked with the protection of the community, and that is a dangerous job where officers in the country are killed on almost daily. We use these weapons (hamdguns and M-4 rifles) and specialized uniforms (camouflage and tactical vests) to help us keep the members of community safe and keep our fellow officers safe.

      The military use the similar weapons and uniforms, but they are not the police. We are two very different entities that do two very different jobs, it just happens that some of the equipment is the same.

      The vast majority of police are good people who genuinely want to help the people in their communities.

      Bottom line; if the bad guys out there, who are preying on the weak, stop trying to kill us and stop using weapons themselves, then we can all put our guns away. We have to live and work in the world we live in, not the world you want this to be.

      • Jim G

        My friends in law enforcement include a retired DEA pilot, a St. Paul police Sargent, and a retired state trooper SWAT team member. All of these are honorable men and were a credit to their agencies. I said they would probably disagree with my assessment, but I am sticking with my answer. We must not allow our local police forces to become

  • David

    Yes, yes, yes. .. police officers are of the community. Military is to protect us from outside force. Both protect and serve.

    • David

      End the war on the American people. Watch “the Union the Business Behind Getting High” and “Breaking the Taboo” … let’s end the war on drugs and repeal the prohibition of the world’s most utilitarian plant (hemp aka Cannabis sativa).

  • Martin Niemöller

    It’s funny growing up during the cold war and being told about the militarized heavy handed USSR police state, and how they spied on their civilian population, how terrible it was. Now we have the same thing here in spades, and few if anyone says anything. Perpetual war, NSA spying, the highest percentage of its population in prison of any nation on the planet, and the general state of corporate tyranny, sounds a lot like fascism.

    First they came……

  • Jim, Va

    Of course police should be demilitarized.
    What real purpose does it serve to have MRAPs and assault weapons, bullet proof vests backed with the “search and destroy” and “you’re guilty until proven innocent” mentality police seem to have today?
    Police are claiming they have a right to this military paraphernalia so they can be assured they go home at the end of their shift. Really? Non-police don’t have that right? What is so important about a cop going home compared to “us” being safe in our homes and on our streets?
    Every unit receiving this equipment claims it will keep them safe when issuing warrants or during “civilian” uprisings. Uh-huh…
    We don’t need a “war on drugs” any more than we need adult baby sitters requiring military equipment to enforce nanny state laws. If the government wants a war on drugs, perhaps they should stop the pretend war they have now and go after the source(s) rather than the college kid on the street with two ounces of psuedo-drugs, or creating more criminals with new laws.
    Being a cop is a dangerous job, for sure. Why do they want to make it even more dangerous with their threatening attitude(s) and equipment?