You may have heard this argument from Radley Balko or the folks at Reason and Reason.tv, but here’s Kristen Gwynnne at Alternet making a very Balko-sounding point about police militarization:
Retired law enforcement veteran Stephen Downing, former captain of detectives in the LAPD, says he has not seen proof that the police officers failed to adequately respond to information in this case; indeed, police cannot possibly crack every case and investigate every angle all the time. At the same time, we must recognize that police are incentivized to go after certain crimes — like drug crimes — and not other, far more heinous crimes, like rape.
In the first place, federal cash giveaways make police departments’ reactions to drug cases much more swift and severe.
“The statistical demands of the drug war and the grants that come from the federal government — all they do is incentivize our local police to chase drugs and chase seizures so they can supplement their budgets,” Downing said. “We call that ‘policing for profit.’”
Furthermore, allowing military training of local police has “turned our police into drug warriors,” instead of “police officers and peace officers.”
“Every police department, every sheriff’s department, and the federal government have personnel that are dedicated 100 percent of the time to drug enforcement,” said Downing, “and the result of that is to use police resources for that purpose.”
[. . .]
Praising the man who helped Amanda Berry escape, Stephen Downing also says police need to become more involved with their communities.
“The community is involved in solving these cases and the willingness of people is helpful,” he said. “If the police would recognize more the true value of their community — that the people are the police and the police are the people — rather than chasing drugs and asset seizures and policing for profit modalities, all our communities would be better off and more aware.”
Update: A few hours later, and Reason also links this piece:
At the crux of the drug war is the victimless crime of narcotics possession and use (and the sales that make that voluntary possession and use possible, tied to which are the weapons needed because of the business’ illegal status). Billions have been spent on law enforcement around the country to combat an essentially private, voluntary choice. Alternet ran a piece this morning explaining some of the perverse benefits for police to going after drug crimes instead of kidnapping, rape and slavery. The rescue of three women by a passer-by from a home police had been alerted to multiple times (and which was apparently occupied by the father of one of the girl’s self-described “best friends”), coupled with incidents like the suspected Boston bomber being spotted not by a massive manhunt but by a homeowner having a cigarette in his backyard and the thwarting of the Times Square bombing not by the heavily-armed and stationary police officers in the area but by local vendors going about their business suggests it’s not money or even manpower but good, alert police work that can solve and stop crimes. Instead, fueled by the militarization of police and the war on drugs, the beat cop’s disappearing while the war on what goes in your body continues, violently.