militarized police by commons.wikimedia.com
Americans are used to this nation's military being engaged in wars across the world; wars against nations and enemies "over there." But what we are not at all used to is what is happening here in America today as we witness more and more incidents of overly aggressive police actions using deadly force in situations that simply do not call for anything of the kind.
I'm talking about what might accurately be described as an uncivil war. If you look up the definition of uncivil you will find that it means barbarous, uncivilized conduct, not conducive to civic harmony and welfare. Well those words could certainly be used to describe the many recent incidents involving extremely violent measures taken by police in this country against its very own citizens.
Americans watch with an increasing sense of apprehension at what just happened in Ferguson, Missouri where Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by a police officer who found him walking down the middle of the street and then confronted him.
The latest reports indicate that this young man was shot six times, twice in the head. That community is on the verge of exploding, to the point that the Missouri National Guard has now been mobilized; and that's another great mistake.
In mid-July in New York City we saw another black man, Eric Garner, confronted by police and accused of illegally selling cigarettes. He was wrestled to the ground and one of the officers applied a choke hold that resulted in his death. That situation could and should have been handled by using either mace, pepper spray or a taser if competent, trained officers were involved; but they weren't.
These kinds of confrontations involving the use of deadly force are becoming far too common in America and when they happen they often set off a firestorm of protests from those in the community who are incensed by these brutal police tactics.
Something very troubling, very frightening is going on in America, something we have never seen before to this extent. Police swat teams seem to be everywhere, in large cities and small towns and when we see them on the TV they look like storm troopers. Many of them brandish high powered assault-type weapons and even some types of machine guns. An increasing number of police units around the country have obtained monstrous armored vehicles handed down to them by the military.
We must not minimize or dismiss what is happening; Ferguson represents an ominous sign of the great chasm that has developed between the police and the people of this country. This, unquestionably, is a war of sorts with the vast majority of firepower possessed by this new-type quasi-military police force. If something is not done to address and solve this problem, and soon, then this country is in danger of becoming a full-blown police state.
These are the latest examples of a long succession of overly aggressive police actions and they are certainly not limited to black people. For example, not that long ago members of the Occupy Movement, primarily in New York City as well as a few other areas of the country, were harassed and abused by the police for demonstrating against what its members felt were abusive and unethical practices by the government and Corporate America. Then there was the incident in which University of California campus police sprayed huge amounts of pepper spray directly into the faces of students sitting on the ground peacefully protesting.
What is going on, why are we seeing the growth of all these highly aggressive police units? Does the level of crime in this country call for that degree of force ready to go into action at any given time with so much firepower?
I recall, in the aftermath of the 911 attacks on the WTC, hearing the words "America will never be the same" and those words were certainly prophetic. In fact we might say that ever since America entered the 21st Century it has never been the same. These heightened police actions are proof of exactly that.
Let's look at this problem in more depth. Psychological studies have determined that there is a condition that affects certain individuals who have in their genetic code what is referred to as a "Warrior gene." It's a condition in which higher levels of aggressive behavior can surface at any time if such an individual is subjected to some form of direct provocation.
It seems that in these persons there is a high degree of anger that is always simmering just below the surface and can erupt any a moment's notice. In fact, as brought out in this ABC News article and video, "Scientists say one-in-three western men have a 'warrior gene' that predisposes them to violence."
This country cannot let its primary law enforcement agencies become a subsidiary of the military. There has always been a great danger that the U.S. military could be used in enforcing the laws of this country on a state and local level and so Congress enacted the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 as a means to prevent that from ever happening. Here is the key premise of this law:
"Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
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