We’ve all seen the pictures presented by those who decry the “militarization” of American police forces. Typically, these pictures juxtapose sophisticated police equipment and weaponry with a crowd that is peacefully demonstrating or just milling about.
But what does a “demilitarized” police force look like when the crowd is less peaceful? This video of an angry, jeering mob forcing the police into an ignominious retreat through the streets of London provides one example.
I understand and respect the arguments made by those who argue that some of our police forces have become “militarized.” However, I’ve seen no evidence that the fancy equipment possessed by these police forces has caused harm.
There will always be incidents of police brutality and over-reaction. But has the “militarization” of the police led to more such incidents? Has the specific equipment that people object to the police now having been misused in ways that have caused more damage than the more traditional equipment that (I hope) is considered unobjectionable? Not that I’m aware of.
As a general matter, I think it’s desirable for the police to possess overwhelmingly more force than those who may confront it. That way, you probably avoid scenes like the one in the video I posted above.
Arguments for proportionality in the use of force have merit in the context of policing. (We wouldn’t want the London police, for example, to mow down the crowd in the video above). But arguments for proportionality in available force are less persuasive and fail, in my view, absent evidence of a pattern of abuse.
Via Bill Otis at Crime and Consequences.
JOHN adds: Some years ago, I quoted Napoleon’s “whiff of grapeshot” on this site, and noted that traditionally, looters have been shot. This was greeted with squeamishness on the part of some readers, but I don’t think much has changed since Napoleon’s time. Rioting and looting (as opposed to demonstrating) are antithetical to public welfare in any society, and the first duty of any government is to maintain order. I can’t see that methods of controlling rampaging mobs have changed much in the last 200 years.