Give a boy a toy and he will want to use it at some point. When those toys are being bought for grown men and have the potential to hurt people, there is a greater likelihood that someone will get hurt. Police forces around the world seem to be increasing the number of toys they have.
It is understandable that we need some degree of protection. There are many good police officers walking the beat who fully intend on upholding the law to the letter. Unfortunately there are a number of officers who have brought the good name of the police to shame. A recent social media campaign by the NYPD backfired when they asked the public to share images of good police officers on social media. Instead of the good being performed by the police their Twitter feed was inundated with examples of police brutality and the use of excessive force.
With all the mass shootings that have taken place recently, the fear of the public is palpable and it is understandable that they might want to feel more secure. As a result of these, and other motives that may be more secretive, police forces have been noticeably expanding and making use of technologies and toys once thought to benefit only the military.
As Bill Maher mentioned recently, the job of the police is to protect and serve us, not them. Let us hope that amongst all of the heavily armed officers there remains self-control and humanity.
7) More Police Officers On The Streets
According to a 2008 census, the annual growth in police forces across the US exceeds the annual population growth of the country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, they grew 25% between 1992 and 2008. According to a 2011 report by Forbes, the Department of Justice has allocated $3 billion to spend on necessary tools ( some of which will be highlighted below). A similar trend has unfolded in the UK where they have some of the most expensive police forces in the world and experienced growth in police force over the last decade. They, on the other hand, are reducing expenditure on police force in the coming years. Russia tops the list of largest police forces per population with 546 officers per 100,000 people.
6) Purchase Of Tanks For Small Towns
It is not just the big cities that are receiving new police vehicles. Small towns have been receiving surplus military vehicles that once served in Afghanistan. Lenco Bearcats have been supplied to police forces around the US since 2001 courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security. There are more waiting to be distributed to cities around the country. With the rise in recent shootings there are many people who are comforted by the idea of these behemoths rolling around their city. Others are less enthusiastic and see it as a rise of a militarized state. How often will a small town need to use a vehicle that is able to withstand the force of the kinds of bombs that we hear being used in Iraq?
5) Increased Use Of Swat Teams
Special Weapons and Tactics Forces are increasingly being used for routine police work. Once reserved for the most violent of criminals, they are being increasingly used to deal with narcotic warrants. In the 1970s there were a few hundred SWAT team raids a year, by 2005 it was up to 50,000. Nonviolent drug offenders are now having to prepare for the fact that at any moment a team of officers adorned in bullet proof vests and carrying high powered weapons will storm into their home. Of course, just like any of us, the police are prone to getting things wrong, which has meant that raids are landing on the wrong doorstep and upsetting the life of innocent bystanders. Probably one of the most absurd raids that can be mentioned is one that happened in 2006, where the supposed perpetrators were Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while on a peace mission. Apparently it required the use of a SWAT team to subdue these peaceful tyrants.
4) More Brutality Caught On Camera
Forget any weapons, police officers themselves have been proven to be dangerous enough with their own bare hands. You only need to take a look at the recent video of a New York man being put into a choke hold by an NYPD officer, a chokehold that resulted in his death. When a police officer begins to feel fear creeping into his mind, he is most likely going to want to control that, and the way he does so has been often proven to be the use of excessive force. With more people having their cellphone videos at the ready it has meant that many of these events have been captured and sent to the media or posted on social media. It raises questions about the training of the police officers and what they are legitimately able to use. Of course, when the law is being enforced humanely it probably does not make the news and camcorders stay hidden.
3) Increased Purchase Of High Powered Rifles
Earlier this year media outlets aired video footage of homeless man James Boyd being shot by a police officer after a standoff in the foothills of New Mexico. That same Albuquerque Police Force is now investing in a two year contract for 350 AR-15 rifles, the same type that were used to shoot Boyd. Boston Police have been pushing their resistant mayor for a similar purchase of the same type of rifle in lieu of the Boston Marathon events. The police are not the only ones looking to up the anti. The US Department of Agriculture looking to purchase submachine guns for their agents and even the Department of Education have sought out suppliers of shotguns.
2) Drones For Surveillance
Most of our experience with drones is in hearing about them dropping bombs on sites around the world, often on innocent civilians. Now it seems North American police forces have become quite attached to the idea that they can spy on potential criminals more easily with this advancement in technology. Congress has agreed to allow the FAA to open the nation’s airspace for drone flights by 2015, not too far away. 7000 drones could be flying in the skies by the year 2020.
The Seattle police department did purchase two drones, but after protests from the people, opted not to use them. It would appear then that public opinion does sway, as long as people are willing to speak up against their use. Legislation around the use of drones is scant and law enforcement agencies are making policies that suit their needs.
1) CCTV Cameras Always On You
In collusion with software giant Microsoft, the NYPD has developed the Domain Awareness Software (DAS). Using this the police are able to compile information from CCTV cameras throughout the city and check information about you through multiple databases which notify them of any arrests.
Publisher Pam Martens says the NYPD surveillence control centre has seats reserved for members of the Federal Reserve, Goldman Sachs and Pfizer. The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg have been thrilled with the results and have every intention of making a profit selling their technology on to other police departments around the US. This does not surprise many, the NYPD seems to be operating as a business franchise, having operations in 11 foreign cities. Makes you wonder why they even call themselves the NYPD.