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Are We Militarizing Our Police Departments, And If So, Why?

It’s a fair question to ask because the trend appears to be real and the stories about it (and its excesses) abundant. They include things like battledress uniforms; military-grade weapons; armored vehicles; battering rams; paramilitary jargon and training; SWAT teams to serve every search warrant; and heavy-handed raids that terrorize people suspected of petty crimes or even regulatory offenses. And they seem to be occurring around the country in places like Texas, Wisconsin, IowaAlabama, Mississippi, and elsewhere, including here in Orange County.

These stories remind me of a memory from a few years ago. Some law-school buddies and I were walking around downtown Long Beach, and as we stood at an intersection waiting to enter the crosswalk, we saw a truck make a left turn in front of us and drive down the street in the direction we were heading. It wasn’t a Humvee, but it was a military vehicle with camouflage colors, and as it drove away from us, we could see a soldier sitting in the back. He was decked out in combat gear, his legs were dangling off the bed, and he was cradling a large assault rifle in his arms.

It was an intimidating sight to see in broad daylight on a busy street in Long Beach. It’s not that we had anything to fear, but it made you feel like you were somewhere else, not the United States of today, nor hopefully, the United States of tomorrow.

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