Readers may remember that during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the Michael Brown shooting, many commentators complained about the “militarization” of the police — not just in Ferguson, but throughout the nation. President Obama, never one to resist calls to disadvantage the police, issued an executive order prohibiting federal agencies from providing local police forces with certain kinds of military equipment.
At the time, the “militarization” criticism struck me as naive, especially given that the Ferguson protests spilled over into looting. In my view, the police should always have at its ready disposal the overwhelming force needed to deter and, if necessary, quell the rioting and violence that often arise from angry protests. However, I understood the other side of the argument, and viewed the matter as one about which reasonable people could disagree.
After last night in Dallas, perhaps the argument should be considered settled. At the end of a peaceful protest, snipers ambushed the police with high-powered rifles. The police force, as I understand it, was outgunned, returning fire mainly with hand guns.
I recognize that there are limitations, both practical and prudential, on the amount of force the police realistically can display during a protest march. You can’t have tanks rolling down the street alongside peaceful marchers.
But I don’t think general argument that police forces have too much heavy equipment or that their footprint at protests needs to be smaller holds up after last night.
Terrorists and radical anti-police militants have taken things to a new level. In response, police forces need to have heavy weaponry and equipment readily available and on some sort of display when protests like the one Dallas occur. And police forces should be evaluating whether they need more heavy weaponry and equipment, not paying heed to those who say they should have less.
UPDATE: The Dallas police department ended the standoff with sniper Micah Johnson, and thus the threat Johnson posed to officers and the public, with a bomb delivered remotely by a robot. Well done!
This device is military in nature. It’s akin to a drone. Some experts say that use of such a device has largely been confined to the military.
Thank God the Dallas police department had this “military” tool so it could take out Johnson, after surrender negotiations broke down, without exposing officers to further danger.
Naturally, there’s some leftist hand-wringing about the use of this device. Elizabeth Joh, a silly law professor, seems to suggest that the police must have acted based on a threat to the robot, since the officers were out of the sniper’s range. She apparently believes that unless officers were within a range at which Johnson could have killed them, the use of the robot bomb to take him out may be problematic. [Note: I have modified the last two sentences since originally posting this update]
The absurdity of the professor’s analysis is obvious. David French does a good job of explaining the virtues of using the drone-like device in situations like the one last night.