The thing is…I’m a comedian, not someone with a degree in criminal justice. I’ve never served a day as a cop. I’ve never walked a single beat, and to be honest and fair to the men and women who do that every single day, I genuinely don’t have any clue what it’s like to actually do their job. I have to imagine that being a police officer is pretty hard work, though. And I’m a big fan of cops, because I like, generally speaking, not being killed or robbed repeatedly.
All I’m asking is a very simple question. At least I think it’s simple. You tell me if you think it’s simple.
If we train and arm cops like we do the military, aren’t they just the military at that point?
President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice made the decision to stop allowing police departments across the country to purchase certain types of surplus military gear. After “funding” two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a glut of extra military-grade equipment, and the George W. Bush administration had allowed police departments to purchase that equipment to use on American streets. The argument Republicans seem to make is that our cops need to have better stuff than bad guys do, while the argument the Democrats make is that militarizing the police is dangerous and makes for excessive use of force being that much easier.
Clearly, my views are much closer to that of the Dems. I’m all for police officers having the equipment they need to stop bad guys, but at some point we have to realize that the military and our cops serve two totally different purposes and do not require the same exact gear. Otherwise, I keep coming back to my original question — aren’t cops who are trained and armed like the military just another military?
I’m asking this question now because the Trump administration has removed the restrictions on police departments. Now, in theory, there’s very little that a soldier can use in war that our cops can’t use on us. Obviously this is yet another step that Trump is taking to wipe out the efforts of Black Man McDemocratFace who came before him, but politics aside, I have to wonder if Republicans realize how anti-Constitutional, dangerous, stupid, nonsensical their obsession with militarizing our police force is.
The Constitution is ultimately what police are sworn to protect, because your constitutional rights are in question every single time a cop stops you, for any violation, really. Laws are important, but a cop can’t just violate your rights whenever they feel like it, in fact they aren’t supposed to violate your rights. Being convicted of certain crimes can do that, but nowhere in the Constitution does it say that a cop can strip you of your rights. How does giving law enforcement officers the equipment of soldiers not take them from being peaceful upholders of the law into armed authoritarian mode? It’s kind of stupid to even suggest it doesn’t.
It’s dangerous to keep making our cops act more and more like soldiers for one very obvious reason: We train soldiers to kill first and ask questions never. That’s now how cops are supposed to behave. Cops are supposed to be as methodical as possible. Cops are supposed to assess situations as they develop and change their behavior accordingly. Soldiers, for the most part, are not afforded that luxury.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying soldiers or cops are bad people. I’m just saying that it makes logical sense to have a force of trained, highly capable soldiers to defend your borders from foreign attack and to have a separate force of trained, highly capable police officers to defend our constitutional freedoms and uphold the law. It’s not just the equipment that matters; it’s the training. Letting ourselves be “protected” more and more by armed paramilitary police forces brings us ever closer to looking like a country in central America where shops are guarded by men in camouflage fatigues with automatic weapons.
I wonder if some folks truly think that there aren’t enough documented cases of police brutality. You and I know that there’s a really alarming trend with cops and black men, but take the racial element out of it, and you still don’t have to try very hard to find case after case of a cop beating up or killing someone he shouldn’t have. Seems to me like it’s time to start teaching our cops how to de-escalate situations instead of just handing them bigger and gnarlier weaponry and armor.
Cops aren’t soldiers, and soldiers aren’t cops. I’m only 36 years old, but I’m old enough to remember when Americans on all sides of the political compass understood this to be a fundamental principle of American life. We didn’t want our cops acting like soldiers and vice versa. Now, though, we have an entire political wing that thinks we might as well let our cop pretend they’re in the military.
It’s funny to me, because these are the same people who tell us rapists and domestic abusers deserve their Second Amendment rights, too. They tell us everyone would be safer with more guns on the street. But at the same time they’re giving cops better, more powerful guns while simultaneously dumping the same on the military, thereby rendering what they think the Second Amendment is for obsolete. What a fucking country to be alive and feel inside in, huh?
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m fairly certain “Making cops act like trained killing machines and give them the gear to do it with” isn’t it. You tell me though. Am I way off base for thinking it’s good to have cops and soldiers, not one, big amorphous blob with tanks.