So, this week I will tap into a very hot and sensitive topic: Are our police forces becoming militarized?
There is a ton of buzz around this topic, and every time something happens we get into this conversation. The incidents in Ferguson, Mo., is the latest event to stimulate this conversation while simultaneously calling out the actions of police departments around the country.
Let me break this down into a few pieces, the first being the attacks on our police departments. I’m not suggesting that police action is defensible all the time, but we need to remember all news is delivered in snapshot images and attention-grabbing headlines. Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite and "That’s the way it is," because news outlets hardly just tell you what’s going on. What they do now is pump all this information into a marketing machine that will spit out a strategy to keep you from tuning out. For example, a simple weather event like a huge snowstorm becomes a media event that strikes fear into the hearts of men and women. During the Blizzard of ‘78, I got a T-shirt that said I survived. The only thing I remember about it is my father looking out the window, sipping his coffee and swearing. So, when we hear of a police action taking place, let’s remember we’re never going to hear the entire story in the first 48 hours -- never.
Second. Are our police departments becoming more and more militarized? Well, you could make that argument; even our very own Windham County Sheriff’s Department has a Humvee which is basically just a military vehicle.
Yes, we can have a socioeconomic conversation about oppression and keeping people down, and trust me when I tell you that I could make an argument for it or against. But when you’ve got a man with a family making on the average in the mid to upper 40s annually, then I think it’s our responsibility to give him or her every tool required to get back to their families at the end of the day.
But let’s address the "standards" piece of this. Everything is being taped, recorded and videotaped so it’s easy to take someone and hold them accountable. When I was growing up, police officers would put on bulletproof vests to enter into a situation. Now they wear Kevlar under their uniforms at all times. Why? Times changed; the bad guy doesn’t have a level of "standard" and that forces our police to take appropriate action (such as Kevlar).
Now will they always do things correctly? Nope, they won’t. Are there some bad seeds in the police department scattered around the U.S.; you can count on it. If you are fortunate enough to identify that person before something happens, you’re lucky. But just like that kid that can walk into a school and open fire, you unfortunately don’t know who is who until the preverbal spit hit’s the fan. Still, I’m pretty sure we don’t condemn all kids for the action of one, so why would we condemn all cops for the action of a few? I’m not sure, but we do.
Again, I’m not defending anyone. Anyone who has acted inappropriately must face the consequences. But if a stronger showing on a local level keeps it all from happening and everyone can act accordingly, then I say have at it. What the hell is up with that?