Friday, April 06, 2007

New Jersey Cops, or Army Soldiers?

In this photo taken from the New York Times story on the FBI Agent killed by a fellow agent while investigating a bank robbery, we see several heavily armed officers searching for the bank robbery suspect who got away. The official caption reads,

"Law enforcement officers searched a mobile home park in Branchburg Township, N.J., Thursday, after an F.B.I. agent, Barry Lee Bush, was killed while following three bank-robbery suspects." The photo is by Tim Larsen of the Associated Press.

While I realize the story isn't about drug policy, I am posting this because of the way the picture struck me. Change the background and you wouldn't be able to tell if those guys were cops from New Jersey, or infantry from Ft. Bragg. I'm no expert, but those look like M4 carbines that two of the guys are carrying, a weapon used primarily by the military. I have no doubt that in some situations police need or would be benefited by an automatic weapon, but this image haunts me.

Radley Balko, who writes The also wrote a great paper on the subject of the militarization of police in his paper, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

I wish the best for the grieving family of the slain agent, I hope the suspect is captured safely and afforded all of his rights upon arrest, and I hope we pull ourselves away from this trend of turning cops into soldiers.


800 pound gorilla said...

Can you say "arrested development"? It's exactly like playing cops and robbers when you were a preschooler. You dress up like real soldiers, get real guns, and you get the goods on the bad guys. There is very low risk of serious harm because your side has the element of surprise and you have far more heavy weaponry. If you are sadistic you get the thrill of terrorizing the bad guys.
There is no admission of wrongdoing in any raid. Those wrongful raids are just a part of being human and it is very petty of people to complain about someone not being perfect. It's the price we pay for protection from the harms of dangerous drugs. It is irrelevant - and petty for critics - to point out that those drugs were not serious problems before they were illegal. The fact is, now they are problematic now and the police are using whatever technology is available to protect us from these bad guys.
The fact that these drug problems are self-inflicted is irrelevant! We are not going to change the laws and there is a chance that legalization would validate criminal behaviors. Do you really want to take that chance!
Such is the appeal of modern day Maoism in both the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, that people often feel good about having lawmakers and law enforcers micromanage peoples' personal lives for the betterment of society. Remember that the only difference between Mao's battle against decadent behavior and the drug warrior's is that Mao blamed that decadence on western imperialists. Drug warriors here used racism instead. Mao would love the DEA!

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The balance between such delicate issues is seen in everyday life at every pace. Still the quality of the article is high and i am happy to have been able to read it.