Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Police Militarization

This picture via Kim du Toit and Radley Balko shows it pretty well:

That's a South Carolina sheriffs department. I'm assuming the guy in the shirt and tie is the Sheriff. Those guys breaking multiple firearm safety rules by pointing their rifles at the camera? The deputies. Kim had this to say:
You know, this kind of militaristic bullshit overreach is one day going to call for a law which would require that any such equipment requests should be accompanied by a “clear and present danger” justification from the LEO in charge.
I have a better idea. We should pass a law that states that any equipment the police have access to should be accessible to the public through, at most, a simple licensing system to weed out the criminals and crazies. That means the more you militarize the cops, the more the populace can militarize itself in response to these newly shod jackbooted thugs.

Police officers are not some sort of super citizen. They're civilians just like us. They ought not have more rights than you or I except those ceded to them while on duty enforcing the law and the courts for the public's benefit. As Sir Robert Peel stated when he founded the first modern police force:
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
That is the seven of Peel's nine principles.

UPDATE: As I said, I agree with dropping immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for botched raids. More importantly, I think self defense should be a positive defense if police are shot in no-knock raids. If you don't let people know you're cops before you break in, then you should not be able to charge them with shooting a cop after they defend themselves accordingly.

I also think technology has reached the point that we can start recording cops on the job a lot more than we do. Interrogation rooms ought to be video and audio taped at all times with the tape accessible to prosecution and defense. SWAT officers (at least) should be required to wear audio recording equipment, if not compact audio-video recorders. In college a friend put together a wearable audio recording system using binaural mics and a Sony minidisk player. She used it to bootleg Broadway shows 10 years ago, but I'm sure you could put together something similar today (probably even more cheaply with mp3 player parts) to record evidence for or against an officer. You could even build them into the next gen communications gear for beat cops.

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