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What’s Next, Police With Tanks?

What’s Next, Police With Tanks?

In the classic television series The A-Team, the eponymous heroes spend much of their time evading or thwarting the show’s stock adversaries, the ineffective Military Police. In a show notable for its lack of blood and gore, the MPs are waylaid by many a car crash, explosion, and unluckily placed boat pier.

How quaint that all seems today, when the creeping militarization of American law enforcement has at last begun to shock the conscience. Although many of us endure perennial mourning and outrage over the “senseless” acts of school shooters, most of us have more or less ignored the routine, all-too-logical bloodshed and injustice perpetrated by out of control SWAT teams, police forces equipped like armies, and cities and towns clamoring for materiel designed for military occupation, not public safety.

Talking heads and professional activists never tire of asking how many children must die before Washington imposes yet another round of constraints on the Second Amendment. But which leading voices wonder how many children must bleed in their own homes before Americans take action to constrain our officials from adopting a war footing in our neighborhoods?

At Salon, Alecia Phonesavanh recounts the latest gut-wrenching iteration of the pattern. “I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him,” she writes. “He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn’t see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he’d just lost a tooth. It was only hours later when they finally let us drive to the hospital that we found out Bou Bou was in the intensive burn unit and that he’d been placed into a medically induced coma.”

As the latest ACLU report on police militarization reveals, Americans are paying their police forces to assault their own communities—in bungling, overzealous, and unconscionable fashion. Sadly, this should not be news to state and federal lawmakers. The Washington Post’s Radley Balko, for instance, has sounded the alarm for nearly a decade, filing a CATO study in 2006 and writing a book on the “rise of the warrior cop” last year.

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