In an early scene from the classic dystopian film Blade Runner police Captain Bryant makes the retired cop Rick Deckard, an offer he can’t refuse in order to lure him back into the fold. Deckard appears to ponder it, tosses off the shot of whiskey that he had been poured and gets up. As he turns to leave, stating that he has had enough Bryant angrily raises his voice barking “Stop right were you are! You know the score, pal! If you’re not a cop you’re little people”. Fully understanding the gravity of Bryant’s words Deckard warily accepts his return to active duty as a replicant killer for one last job. It has come down to a few very basic but pitch black truths in our militarized fascist police state of the post 9/11 ruins of democracy – there are stark dividing lines between that haves and the have nots, there are elitists and peasants, victors and victims, vampires and cattle and most importantly of all cops and little people.
Each day there are tales of an increasing level of violence and malevolence amongst many of the nation’s police. Innocent people are gunned down out of haste, mistakes or just the raw power that possessing a badge and an itchy trigger finger brings to certain personality types, a good many of which are turning to police work. Ever more heavily armed cops have been unleashed by a society steeped in a culture of war and violence, in many areas the local police more resemble something that would normally be seen in a war zone than on the streets of an allegedly “free” country. The most recent police state murder to receive widespread media coverage is the unfortunate case of Miriam Care the 34 year old woman who for whatever reason became involved in a Washington D.C. car chase at the culmination of which she was gunned down while still in her vehicle by Capitol police, a child in the backseat. While there were stories in the state media insinuating that Carey had mental health issues it has come to this in The Homeland – the police are far too often acting as judge, jury and executioner. There are thousands summarily executed by police in this country who never get the media coverage that Carey did, it is a silent plague and the dark underbelly of the NSA surveillance state.
The September 11, 2001 attacks provided blanket justification to a future of wars, spying, secret courts, torture and most of all a brutal, paramilitary police presence. While the attacks themselves provided the impetus the police state would not be possible without cultural acceptance. Decades of movies and television programs have cemented into the consciousness a reverence bordering of worship of the police while the police have subsequently become armed to the teeth and transformed into paramilitary forces. This began with advent of SWAT teams late in the last century and now even Dogpatch USA probably receives war zone grade equipment from the government for their local cops. Libertarian Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop writes in his article A Decade After 9/11, Police Departments are Increasingly Militarized that:
Over the last several decades Congress and administrations from both parties have continued to carve holes in that law, or at least find ways around it, mostly in the name of the drug war. And while the policies noted above established new ways to involve the military in domestic policing, the much more widespread and problematic trend has been to make our domestic police departments more like the military.
The main culprit was a 1994 law authorizing the Pentagon to donate surplus military equipment to local police departments. In the 17 years since, literally millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on a foreign battlefield have been handed over for use on U.S. streets, against U.S. citizens. Another law passed in 1997 further streamlined the process. As National Journal reported in 2000, in the first three years after the 1994 law alone, the Pentagon distributed 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers, and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across America. Domestic police agencies also got bayonets, tanks, helicopters and even airplanes.
The September 11 attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America’s police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism.
Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads (featured most prominently during the 2002 Super Bowl) tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets.
In 2004, for example, law enforcement officials in the New York counties of Oswego and Cayuga defended their new SWAT teams as a necessary precaution in a post–September 11 world. “We’re in a new era, a new time,” here,” one sheriff told the Syracuse Post Standard. “The bad guys are a little different than they used to be, so we’re just trying to keep up with the needs for today and hope we never have to use it.” The same sheriff said later in the same article that he’d use his new SWAT team “for a lot of other purposes, too … just a multitude of other things.” In 2002, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida — which had all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade — were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”
Do you want to see the future of America? Think Boston in the day that half the city was placed under a state of de-facto martial law to chase down one deranged punk after the Boston Marathon bombing. The culture of acceptance of what should have been a shameful pox on the city’s history for the surrender to paramilitary forces has actually become not only acceptable but is honored. Note that after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series on Wednesday night that celebrations included fans gathering at the Boston Marathon finish line with some kissing the street. It was as though the championship of the local baseball team provided vindication to the massive lockdown and manhunt. This is a very frightening example of the degree to which martial law tactics have become commonplace in 2013 America. If he were brought to the scene that night Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would have been torn limb from limb in a drunken orgy of blood vengeance. The media of course pushes the narrative, that the Red Sox title has cleansed the city of the stigma of the bombing and put the stamp of approval on the tactics, the likes of which will become more commonplace as the economic deterioration accelerates leading to acts of desperation by a beggared populace. It is as the fascistic Orwellian term puts it – the new normal.
An even more distressing trend with the uptick in militarization and violence among police is the growing number of pet assassinations. Hulking cops adorned with heavy body armor are more frequently turning their firepower on hapless pets. It is quite the force multiplier when a beloved small animal is blown into chunks of fur and bloody fresh red meat in front of a terrified owner (bonus points for the cops who are able to pull this one off in front of children) who only moments before the paramilitary goons arrived had considered the little critter to be a family member. This is right up there with the actions of a stormtrooper when it comes to sadistic wanton cruelty and is indicative of a very dangerous and deeply disturbed individual armed and empowered by the state.
This is by no means an attempt to denigrate or smear all police officers , I would like to believe that the majority of them are decent men and women doing an often messy, thankless and at times brutal but still necessary job. The typical police officers often encounter people during their worst moments and for the most part are dedicated professionals. The paramilitary types are what I write of and the sanctioning of the state placed upon search and destroy style tactics of law enforcement better suited for battlefields than American cities. When the federal government ensures that there is a constant flow of money and military grade equipment into tactical units of police departments it also ensures that a very specific type of police officer is attracted to these units. The violence and the contempt for the law, the sheer ability to dominate the helpless with impunity is what leads to the cruelty and the shoot first and ask questions later or better yet, dead men tell no tales mentality.
There is really no way to stop this either, it has become embedded into our national DNA, our very own form of apple pie authoritarianism.