"There are always risks in challenging excessive police power, but the risks of not challenging it are more dangerous, even fatal."—Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century
I have known a lot of good cops, I have defended a lot of good cops, and I have been fortunate to call a number of good cops friends.
So when I say that warrior cops—hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge—have not made America any safer or freer, I am not disrespecting any of the fine, decent, lawful police officers who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace.
My beef is with the growing squads of warrior cops who have been given the green light to kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens in the so-called name of law and order.
These cops are little more than vigilantes with a badge.
Indeed, it is increasingly evident that militarized police armed with weapons of war who are allowed to operate above the law and break the laws with impunity have not made America any safer or freer.
Don't take my word for it.
A new study by a political scientist at Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams "provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction."
In fact, according to researcher Jonathan Mummolo, if police in America are feeling less safe, it's because the process of transforming them into extensions of the military makes them less safe, less popular and less trust-worthy.
The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that "police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed."
In other words, warrior cops aren't making us or themselves any safer.
Consider that not a day goes by without reports of police officers overstepping the bounds of the Constitution and brutalizing, terrorizing and killing the citizenry. Indeed, the list of incidents in which unaccountable police abuse their power, betray their oath of office and leave taxpayers bruised, broken and/or killed grows longer and more tragic by the day.
Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.
The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is "not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it's that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone."
This battlefield mindset has gone hand in hand with the rise of militarized SWAT ("special weapons and tactics") teams.
Frequently justified as vital tools necessary to combat terrorism and deal with rare but extremely dangerous criminal situations, such as those involving hostages, SWAT teams—which first appeared on the scene in California in the 1960s—have now become intrinsic parts of local law enforcement operations, thanks in large part to substantial federal assistance and the Pentagon's military surplus recycling program, which allows the transfer of military equipment, weapons and training to local police for free or at sharp discounts.
Ponder this: In 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the US.
Incredibly, that number has since grown to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year.
There are few communities without a SWAT team today.
Where this becomes a problem of life and death for Americans is when these SWAT teams dressed, armed and trained in military tactics are assigned to carry out routine law enforcement tasks, such as serving a search warrant.