Disarming warrior cops
May 18th 2015, 15:26 BY THE ECONOMIST
ON MAY 18th Barack Obama will bar the federal government from providing some military equipment to American police departments. This is good news. The troubling militarisation of America’s police is something we’ve written about quite a bit. Body armour, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles have become far too common in police departments big and small, owing to tens of billions of dollars in federal grants since 2002 (something we explain further here).
The American Civil Liberties Union found that the value of military equipment used by American police departments has risen from $1m in 1990 to nearly $450m in 2013. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams (ie, paramilitary police units) were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year, often to handle relatively modest crimes, like breaking up poker games. Incidents of police violence and related protests in the past year have helped bring these practices to light.
The limit on using federal funds to buy equipment such as high-calibre weapons and camouflage uniforms is part of the president’s plan to build more trust between police departments and the people they are charged to protect. Mr Obama is making his announcement in Camden, New Jersey, a poor city that once had a reputation for being America’s most dangerous, but which has turned itself around with a new police culture that emphasises building trust with local residents.
Policing in America: What the cops say (April 2015)
America’s police kill too many people (December 2014)
The militarisation of American law enforcement is alarming and must be stopped (March 2014)
The militarisation of America’s police departments (March 2014)