Police Militarization and Excessive Use of Force

Excessive Use of Force and Police Militarization

Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, every city where similar incidents have happened, and the subsequent protests have been events that have instigated and highlighted certain responses and conditions such as police tactics, excessive use of force, and the rampant militarization of police officers. The normalizing response of law enforcement to use MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles), to bring in SWAT teams and arm every domestic officer with AR-15s and other high caliber assault rifles, to shoot peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas, when met with any civilian resistance brings an alarming up an alarming inquiry for basic human rights and safety.

Popular Press

"On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson," By Amnesty International 

Reporters from Amnesty International were present at the subsequent protests following the Ferguson Grand Jury decision not to indict officer Darrin Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown. From August 14-22, the reporters took note of the interactions between protesters and law enforcement authorities, capturing a multitude of human rights abuses by law enforcement, such as: excessive use of force/militarization of police at protests, infringement of the rights to free speech and assembly, and denial of media access. The lack of accountability by law enforcement on human rights abuses only add to the list problems already present in American race relations.

"The Risk of Using Ferguson As a Metaphor," by Jeffrey Toobin

This risk of using Ferguson as a metaphor, according to Toobin, is that while it is good that these cases help bring about a discussion of social injustice in America, it shouldn't take the death of young people of color to be a wake a call that there are systemic problems that need to be fixed.

"State Terrorism and Racist Violence in the Age of Disposability," by Henry Giroux

Giroux argues that on top of the injustices people of color face in the criminal justice system, the militarization of police and the use of violence and terror as a means of social control, not only protests zone, but also the general population have become a normative response and tool to solve all social problems. Protests against social issues around the globe have revealed a rise in totalitarian practices by authority as a means of social control, practices which lacks any responsibility and accountability, are indicative of a system that prioritizes the prison-industrial complex, targets minority groups in a society, and benefits from their incarceration.

"Ferguson-style militarization goes on trial in the Senate," reported by Niraj Chokshi and Sarah Larimer

The protests, in response to the events at Ferguson and other cities across the nation, instigated a militarized response from police that is becoming an increasingly normalized response by law enforcement. Federal policies that allow the allocation of old military weapons, vehicles, and equipment to law enforcement agencies, which have had little oversight, have escalated tensions and between civilians and police departments, causing outrage and highlighting the problem of equipping police departments like small armies. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Clair McCaskill (D-Mo) weigh in on the statistics of militarization and the consequences of using anti-terrorism tactics in zones of peaceful protest.

"This Country Needs a Truth and Reconciliation Process on Violence Against African Americans—Right Now" - written by Fania Davis

"The killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York have sparked a national outcry to end the epidemic killings of black men. Many note that even if indictments had been handed down, that wouldn’t have been enough to stop the carnage. The problem goes far beyond the actions of any police officer or department. The problem is hundreds of years old, and it is one we must take on as a nation. Truth and reconciliation processes offer the greatest hope."

Academic Articles

"The Biggest Gang in Oakland: Rethinking Police Legitimacy," a study by William Armaline, Claudio Vera Sanchez, and Mark Correia

"Literature defining ‘police legitimacy’ lacks qualitative research on those populations most often targeted by law enforcement agencies, including people of color in urban areas. This same literature defines police legitimacy as something unquestionable and automatic. Exploration of this concept is limited to strategies to increase public ‘trust’ in police, and public compliance to their authority. We address these limitations in the available scholarship through an analysis of interviews with a diverse sample of Oakland (CA) residents on their experiences with the Oakland Police Department (OPD). Their narratives are presented in the historical context of controversy, budget problems, federal investigations, and racialized violence that help to define the relationship between OPD and Oakland communities. Those interviewed universally observed OPD’s failure to address the most common crime problems in the city, while others, particularly people of color, found them to be a personal or public threat to safety."

"De-Provincialising Police Violence: On the Recent Events at UC Davis"

"On 18 November 2011, students at the University of California, Davis staged a protest as part of the Occupy movement. The reaction of the on-site police force was heavy-handed, and images of an officer pepper-spraying the faces of peacefully protesting college students provoked widespread criticism of the police’s repression of non-violent dissent. However, this reaction, the author argues, betrays a deeper racism in the consciousness of the US Left; while this particular scene of policing has provoked liberal anger, it has been isolated from the historical conditions that enabled it. The very similar policing of African Americans is excluded from the narrative of state violence, taking for granted the fundamentally racist structure of US policing. Is it possible, asks the author, that the critical response to events at UC Davis is actually condoning this racist structure rather than challenging it?" - Sage Publications Ltd.

"The Determinants of Deadly Force: A Structural Analysis of Police Violence"

"Political or threat explanations for the state's use of internal violence suggest that killings committed by the police should be greatest in stratified jurisdictions with more minorities. Additional political effects such as race of the city's mayor or reform political arrangements are examined. The level of interpersonal violence the police encounter and other problems in departmental environments should account for these killing rates as well. Tobit analyses of 170 cities show that racial inequality explains police killings. Interpersonal violence measured by the murder rate also accounts for this use of lethal force. Separate analyses of police killings of blacks show that cities with more blacks and a recent growth in the black population have higher police killing rates of blacks, but the presence of a black mayor reduces these killings. Such findings support latent and direct political explanations for the internal use of lethal force to preserve order. Although violence by social control agencies in advanced states is comparatively unusual, that does not make it ineffective"