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article imageOp-Ed: Police shootings of unarmed citizens spark militarization debate

By Justin King     Sep 16, 2013 in World
In two shootings, one in New York and one North Carolina, law enforcement shot three unarmed people. In both cases, the citizens were unarmed. The outrage against military tactics in law enforcement increases.
The North Carolina incident involved police electrocuting and then shooting an unarmed man who appears to have been seeking help after an automobile accident. The officer that killed him has since turned himself in on charges of voluntary manslaughter. The case in New York, occurred when NYPD officers opened fire in crowded area one block from Times Square. They did not strike their unarmed target, who allegedly mocked them by pretending to shoot at them with his finger; however the NYPD did manage to shoot two other unarmed people.
Recently, cops in Escambia County, Florida entered a home and opened fire killing one of the occupants’ pets. The officers had no warrant to enter the home and no valid reason for breaking in. This incident occurred shortly after Escambia County Sheriff’s Deputies fired 15 rounds at an unarmed 60-year-old black male in his own driveway. Sheriff David Morgan, whose Department ranked number one on The Atlantic’s list of most notorious law enforcement agencies in Florida, said that real “tragedy of this is the noncompliance to the directions of law enforcement officers” and that his agency is “hobbled by the law.” To many, the Sheriff’s remarks are perfect examples of the current attitude in law enforcement; an attitude of being above the law, and that failure to comply with unconstitutional orders is grounds for lethal force.
The use of paramilitary SWAT teams has reached epidemic proportions; being deployed between 100 and 150 times a day or 50,000 times yearly, a stark increase from the 3000 yearly deployments of the 1980s when violent crime rates were much higher. In the time it takes you to read this article, somebody will have their door kicked in, a grenade thrown into their living room that blinds and deafens everyone around, and have their house filled with masked men waving guns at them, all without ever being convicted of a crime. Despite their constant use, they manage to prove that practice does not make perfect, as this map of botched paramilitary raids demonstrates. SWAT teams hit the wrong address and kill unarmed people with an alarmingly high frequency.
While many dislike the term “militarized police,” the term is completely accurate after examining the 1033 Program. The 1033 Program turns excess military items over to local law enforcement. Not many would dispute that rural local law enforcement with small budgets could benefit from receiving excess ammo to train with; it appears NYPD could use some more marksmanship training as well. The issue arises when law enforcement begins to deploy weapons of war on the streets of Small Town, USA. Gallatin, Tennessee recently took possession of a 19-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. The MRAP was designed for use in counter-insurgency operations. The population of Gallatin is 30,000 and it has zero recorded instances of roadside bombs in the city. Five other cities in Tennessee requested the vehicles.
The National Police Misconduct Statistical Report Project (NSMSRP) highlights other causes for concern about granting law enforcement more lethal weapons and allowing them to operate with more impunity. NSMSRP compiles statistics from the Department of Justice, self-reporting by various law enforcement agencies, and newspaper articles to provide a clear picture of law enforcement misconduct across the United States. Highlights of the project’s findings include:
On average, Law Enforcement misconduct is cited 17.9 times per day in newspapers.
A citizen is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted by a law enforcement officer than a member of the general population.
A citizen is almost three times more likely to be killed by fatal excessive force by law enforcement than by a murderer from the general populace.
While the bodies of unarmed citizens and their pets are piling up across the country, the national discussion over military tactics and equipment in law enforcement has never been more heated. State legislatures are passing laws to allow citizens the right to use lethal force against law enforcement aggression.
Perhaps it is time to add a little more Andy Griffith to the current Dirty Harry style of law enforcement.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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