Look, I am not anti-cop. I like cops and have always had pleasant interactions with them whenever I’ve talked to them. That said, this situation is much larger than that. We’re talking about the militarization of the police, the continued reliance upon SWAT teams for nonviolent offenders of miniscule crimes, and the abatement of our rights as American citizens.
Some charge that discussions about rights are silly because, “Nobody’s trying to take away your rights; it’s an abstract discussion.” Well, here is a very real and very tangible example of how our government through their armed enforcement officers are taking away our rights. Check out this example from The New Yorker:
Only then did masked figures with guns storm the crowd, shouting, “Get on the fucking ground! Get down, get down!” (I document the basic details of what happened in my story, in this week’s magazine, about the police’s use and abuse of civil-asset-forfeiture laws.) Some forty Detroit police officers dressed in commando gear ordered the gallery attendees to line up on their knees, then took their car keys and confiscated their vehicles, largely on the grounds that the gallery lacked the proper permits for dancing and drinking. (More than forty cars were seized, and owners paid around a thousand dollars each to get them back.) “I was so scared,” Wong told me. At first, she thought the raid was an armed robbery. “Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Paul getting kicked in the face.” In the dimly lit security footage, the scene looks like something out of a thriller about Navy SEALs. Paul said, “I was scared for my life.”
How is that not theft? So, the SWAT team, an extremely excessive show of force, bust down an event because of permit violations and seize the assets of all the party goers? They haven’t even been charged with a crime; it’s madness.
Radley Balko, the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, puts it just right, “Systems governed by bad policies and motivated by incentives will produce bad outcomes.” It really is that simple, but the consequences are dire.
This more localized situation in conjunction with the national (and really, global) issue of NSA surveillance comes back to one instrumental dichotomous struggle we need to find the answer to: public safety vs. personal rights. How much are we willing to sacrifice of the latter for the facade of the former?