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Originally published Thursday at TomDispatch, To Terrify and Occupy was completed by Matthew Harwood before Michael Brown was shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. Harwood is a media strategist at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. An excerpt:

The cancer of militarized policing has long been metastasizing in the body politic.  It has been growing ever stronger since the first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were born in the 1960s in response to that decade’s turbulent mix of riots, disturbances, and senseless violence like Charles Whitman’s infamous clock-tower rampage in Austin, Texas.

While SWAT isn’t the only indicator that the militarization of American policing is increasing, it is the most recognizable. The proliferation of SWAT teams across the country and their paramilitary tactics have spread a violent form of policing designed for the extraordinary but in these years made ordinary. When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide.  Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.

Nearly a half-century later, that’s no longer true.

In 1984, according to Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it’s still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.

Michael Harwood
Michael Harwood
As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.

In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.

Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime. In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort. In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.

On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.

Think of this as racial profiling on steroids in which the humiliation of stop and frisk is raised to a terrifying new level.

Don’t think, however, that the military mentality and equipment associated with SWAT operations are confined to those elite units. Increasingly, they’re permeating all forms of policing.

As Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst with the Justice Department’s Community Policing Services office, observes, police across America are being trained in a way that emphasizes force and aggression. He notes that recruit training favors a stress-based regimen that’s modeled on military boot camp rather than on the more relaxed academic setting a minority of police departments still employ. The result, he suggests, is young officers who believe policing is about kicking ass rather than working with the community to make neighborhoods safer. Or as comedian Bill Maher reminded officers recently: “The words on your car, ‘protect and serve,’ refer to us, not you.”

This authoritarian streak runs counter to the core philosophy that supposedly dominates twenty-first-century American thinking: community policing. Its emphasis is on a mission of “keeping the peace” by creating and maintaining partnerships of trust with and in the communities served. Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the U.S. government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them. They don’t command respect, the theory goes: they earn it. Fear isn’t supposed to be their currency. Trust is. […]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005The Many Democratic Parties:

It is no secret that I am a proponent of a politics of contrast for Dems, a Lincoln 1860 strategy. I am also a proponent of a Big Tent Dem Party. Are these two ideas mutually exclusive? I think not.

For example, while I am skeptical of a short term strategy that can deliver significant wins for Dems in the South, the medium and long term offer opportunities. But I think they come from the devolution strategy that Howard Dean is trying to execute, creating strong state Democratic parties that control their own local message. National branding still requires a national message and, more importantly, negative branding of the Republicans. […]

[W]e can win in PURPLE states. We can find a message that works in purple AND blue. And, to be frank, it is basically a negative message about the extremists that run the GOP. It is Lincoln 1860.

But that is not to say that multiple local messages are not also necessary.


Tweet of the Day
There are Americans who think a black teenager reached for a cop's gun, from 35 feet away, but demand further proof for global warming.
@michaelarria


On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin's back, but it's all about Ferguson, police militarization and political theory today. Reporters are getting arrested. Once (presumably, generously) cautious libertarians are finally beginning to issue statements. And we awaited the same from MO's governor. Meanwhile, should we expect a bolder Ferguson response during the "libertarian moment"? Or is that not a real thing? But the bulk of the show is given over to a discussion of the political dynamics of police militarization, how it happens, and why. I think we hit some points that aren't getting serious discussion elsewhere, if I do say so myself. And I just did.


High Impact Posts. Top Comments

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Comment Preferences

  •  1,084,579 registered users on dKos now. (11+ / 0-)

    Here are the 10 newest registered users on dKos.  Hope to see their comments and diaries here soon!  (If they're not spammers.)

    Progressive2014
    Tarah7g
    Denniskc5
    Myles25
    Joshua7148psj7
    David9852dtk2
    Antonyhhh06
    Teodorogg
    Sylviag8
    geronimoowen


    And since our society is obsessed with numbers that end in a lot of zeros as milestones, here's a special shoutout to users:
    #1,083,700: Linwood7 (already banned)
    #1,083,800: Rupert518u (already banned)
    #1,083,900: Wilbertsez (already banned)
    #1,084,000: Joseph9258lym7
    #1,084,100: William2820leh7
    #1,084,200: Nathan5665jbs7
    #1,084,300: Nathan1086dmw8
    #1,084,400: Tawnyaif (already banned)
    #1,084,500: alvestom729 (spammer)

    We've added 971 more users in the last 24 hours.  There's definitely been a recent increase in spammers in the last couple months, and it seems to be getting even faster now.  This is insane.


    And for your Diary Rescue music pleasure, here's Cascada's "Pyromania".

  •  and it can create television program content (13+ / 0-)

    As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.
    On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.

    Think of this as racial profiling on steroids in which the humiliation of stop and frisk is raised to a terrifying new level.

    http://www.aetv.com/...

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 08:37:21 PM PDT

  •  MSNBC: Ferguson, Missouri (14+ / 0-)

    Obviously the big news of the day was what was going on in Ferguson today.  Chris Hayes broadcast live from the town itself.  He spoke with Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Stefan Bradley, Maj. Ronnie Robinson, Trymaine Lee, Patricia Bynes, John Gaskin, Jelani Cobb, and Lizz Brown.  Lawrence talked with Jim Cavanaugh, Joy Reid, Mark Thompson, and then had on another eyewitness to the actual shooting, Tiffany Mitchell, along with her lawyer.  He then turned back to Cavanaugh and Lisa Bloom to discuss the legal side of all this.  Michael Eric Dyson, still filling in for Ed, talked with Trymaine Lee, Matt Pearce, Salamishah Tillet, Goldie Taylor, Marcia Dyson, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Mike Papantonio.  Rachel's show still hasn't been uploaded yet, but she spent almost 100% of her coverage on Ferguson as well.









    Michael also called out Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) for comparing the flooding in Detroit to a leak in his roof.  He then talked with Col. Jack Jacobs about the latest situation in Iraq.

  •  When a corpse has more rights than a woman (8+ / 0-)

    is the title of a provocative new diary by Rachel191.

    If you have ever flirted with Rand "Personhood Amendment" Paul, you might want to give this diary a look.  Or if you care about what is at stake in the next election should any Republican gain the White House, take a look.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 08:45:29 PM PDT

  •  I knew it wouldn't be long before the (13+ / 0-)

    Right Wing Noise Machine fingered the 'real instigator' of the Ferguson riots.....and sure enough.

    Laura Ingraham: Obama acting like ‘liberal commentator’ by addressing Ferguson protests:

    Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham accused President Barack Obama on Thursday of stoking racial resentment by making a brief statement regarding the demonstrations against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri.

    “He should stop micromanaging local police and stop playing the politics of division,” Ingraham said while guest-hosting The O’Reilly Factor.. “There is supposed to be a difference between being the President of the United States and a liberal commentator on Salon.com.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/...

    “When I think of right wingers I think of terrorists who plot to kill and terrorize the lives of Planned Parenthood practitioners." ― Kurt Cobain

    by Jeff Y on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 08:46:31 PM PDT

  •  Sun Down Towns (13+ / 0-)

    Rachel Maddow did a segment on Sun Down Towns and the meaning of the warning sign to AA's when they see a Black Mule  posted on the outskirts of towns across America.

    She noticed what the Mayor of Ferguson Missouri and the white council had to say to the Demonstrators:

    "We ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner." Participants should disperse well before the evening hours, the city says.

     - Mayor of Ferguson Mo. James Knowles III


    Here is a link to Injustice files with a video showing @ minute 2:10 the actual Black mule painted on a rock wall in Tennesse

    Sun Down Towns aka racial cleansing:

    Between 1890 and 1968, thousands of towns across the United States drove out their black populations or took steps to forbid African Americans from living in them. Thus were created “sundown towns,” so named because many marked their city limits with signs typically reading, “Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On You In Alix”—an Arkansas town in Franklin County that had such a sign around 1970. By 1970, when sundown towns were at their peak, more than half of all incorporated communities outside the traditional South probably excluded African Americans, including probably more than a hundred towns in the northwestern two-thirds of Arkansas.
    Rachel Maddow had Lizz Brown a St. Louis American columnist on her show recently who remembers these signs and has been keeping on top of the demonstrations over the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri.

    I'd bet there are many AA folks all over the country that also remember exactly what it means when told to leave or cease and desist after sun down
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    And militarization of the police in so many towns. A picture is forming. I wonder how the RWNJs @ F0x & friends will spin this - not really - f'ck em

    Thx MB

  •  Just a thought on police training (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk

    In my mind I see a grizzled, veteran cop at a community college bragging about busting heads to a bunch of burr-headed, power tripping wannabees.

    Please tell me this is wrong.

    A rising tide sinks all boats that are anchored to the bottom.

    by Zwoof on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 09:58:57 PM PDT

  •  Is the Overpass Light Brigade in Ferguson? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk

    I just saw a huge "don't shoot" picture that looks like them.

  •  What an F*-ing joke (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KJG52, GreyHawk
    Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the U.S. government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them. They don’t command respect, the theory goes: they earn it. Fear isn’t supposed to be their currency. Trust is.
    Yeah, sure.  Does anyone anywhere outside the toniest bankster suburbs know where things actually run like that?  Not sure if it's just foolish malarkey, or active propaganda.

    “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” —Aldous Huxley

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:11:56 PM PDT

    •  The entire piece is hardly ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, GreyHawk, JeffW, navajo

      ...malarkey or propaganda. Harwood never argues that community policing is actually happening in the places it most needs to. On the contrary. His point of view throughout is that the nation should be doing community policing instead of what it is doing. And that's no joke.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:11:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Time for a Change (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KJG52, Meteor Blades, Eric Nelson, JeffW

    It's time to completely revamp police in this country. Here are five steps that Congress should take to drag policing back into civilization:

    (1) Regular police uniforms. If you dress like you're in the army, you'd better be in the army.
    (2) No military weapons. There can be a local SWAT team. But that's for hostage situations and other extraordinary circumstances. Not for police on the beat.
    (3) No riot gear for protests. Unless an actual riot is happening, police should be wearing their normal (blue) uniforms.
    (4) No asset forfeiture. Police should not be allowed to steal things, and assets should only be taken after a conviction.
    (5) No no-knock attacks. If you're going into a home, you have to knock and you have to show a warrant. The excuse that someone might dispose of the evidence has gotten too thin.

    Obviously, this is in addition to decriminalizing most drugs. The cost to society has been way too high.

    I can see the situation spiraling out of control the way it was in the '60s. Only this time, the stakes are an order of magnitude higher. If we treat an area like an occupied territory, sooner or later the people there are going to treat us like occupiers. And if you start a war, you get a war.

    We don't have to walk right over this precipice. And if we do, it is the fault of Congress for not acting. They have the power and the responsibility to rein in these abuses. They better get with it.

  •  Thank you for the Ferguson piece (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, KJG52, shabbedolle, JeffW, navajo

    It really, really gets at what I have been trying to say on this site this evening when everyone is celebrating, which I feel is more of a distraction from the larger and more systemic problem than JUST Ferguson. Even if Ferguson winds up with the world's most transparent/fantastic law enforcement agency (which I admit I am skeptical about in the long term), that simply does not negate the very real problem of a generally widespread militarized police force throughout the United States, now a gold standard in policing, oddly enough.

    I want THAT to be foregrounded so that people wake up. Thank you for including a feature on this here, where hopefully it will get many eyes.

    "That nice, but how do we keep it from going back to business as USUAL?" - Elon James on Ferguson, MO

    by mahakali overdrive on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 11:57:46 PM PDT

    •  It's not the first thing I've included... (5+ / 0-)

      ...in my diaries here today that looks at the bigger picture.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:13:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Militarization of police: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW

        There have been a lot of diaries and comments this week on the militarization of the police; I haven't had time to read them all and perhaps this comment has been made elsewhere and I didn't see it, but I'm offering it here.

        I've been concerned about this trend for at least 20 years; I was a newspaper reporter back then, covering police, fire, and courts among other beats. As have others, I trace its beginnings back to the formation of 'elite' SWAT teams and their adoption of military-style gear--what we see now being sold by Cabella's and all those other 'sporting goods' stores that are branded as 'tactical' stuff: Guns, pants, shirts, boots, etc., all in black.

        Most commenters  point to the problem as stemming from the Dept. of Defense (DOD) passing along used/surplus military gear--arms, vehicles, etc.

        I think there's another dimension to the problem: The police themselves. This is my observation, based on what I've see here in my geographical area; don't know if it applies to other parts of the country...but here goes:

        A lot of cops belong to National Guard/Reserve units and a lot of them were called up to serve in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Many of the county sheriff's departments and city police departments in our area had as much as 10% to 15% of their sworn officers called to active duty. Also, a lot of veterans coming back from the wars chose to go into police work.

        Basically, they're using their experience kicking in doors and intimidating civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan as their model for dealing with citizens here at home.

        It's not just the equipment that's militarized--it's the cops themselves.    

        When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

        by wheeldog on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 07:32:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Follow up #2 (0+ / 0-)

    "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 12:44:10 AM PDT

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