I’m a fan of Radley Balko’s work (I quote him and hat-tip him a fair bit), so I’m looking forward to reading his new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Here’s a glowing review from Scott Greenfield:
The book, published by Public Affairs and scheduled for release on July 9, 2013, starts at the beginning, taking us from the days when Americans policed themselves to the birth of the occupation of policing. While I was well aware of Radley’s persistence and acumen at chronicling current events, I never realized what a thorough researching her is. The history of policing is remarkably impressive.
It’s critical to appreciate the history of policing, to understand that what we now see as normal and inescapable wasn’t always the case. For most of our history, this country did not have a group of people with shields and guns who wandered the streets ordering people about. The fall from grace, If you perceive it as I do, came fast and hard.
American attitudes toward police were built on images of Andy Griffith, strolling the streets of Mayberry to save random cats and, an allusion Radley employs, serving as guest umpire in the occasional baseball game. Good. Honest, One of us. This was the police officer upon whom we relied, and the one we pictured as we told our children that they were here to help us; they were our friend.
Starting in the 1960′s, Radley takes us decade by decades down the road to perdition. As he wears his libertarian politics on his sleeve, it came as no surprise that he gave the politics of law enforcement special scrutiny. His hatred of Richard Nixon for manipulating the silent majority’s hatred of hippies and counterculture into the War on Drugs is palpable. On the other hand, there is no reluctance to blame Bill Clinton for his deceitful abuse of the COPS program, and its infusion of billions into the drug war a few decades later.
Radley is not only a surprisingly good story teller, generally low key in recounting tales of individual harm interspersed with broad influences that gave rise to putting heavy weaponry into the hands of children. There are times when the narrative gets a bit breathless, trying hard to capture the confluence of political deceit on the part of some and ignorance on the part of others. Then again, the alternative would be to simply call out the liars and morons for their contribution to a state of affairs that served to put a naïve American public at grave risk for such puny and transitory purposes as winning an election.