Police Militarization

One of the most dangerous drug law enforcement tactics is the routine use of paramilitary-style SWAT raids to execute search warrants in nonviolent drug cases, often for simple misdemeanors. DPA is working to raise public awareness about these home invasions and to eliminate federal programs that create incentives for police to rely on increasingly aggressive tactics and utilize military-style weapons and tactics.

The huge problem of police militarization has received increased attention because of the 2014 events in Ferguson, MO, but DPA and others have been sounding the alarm for years. Journalist Radley Balko in particular has extensively documented the nexus between the drug war and police militarization in his writing, while the ACLU’s June 2014 report on this issue noted that from 2011-2012, 62% of SWAT teams were deployed for drug searches.

When police are told they are in a “war” and incentivized to acquire military equipment, arrest as many people as possible, and seize property without due process, it defines their role as warriors doing battle with evil. This alienates communities and justifies a warlike mentality that results in widespread use of force and a general distrust of law enforcement, particularly in the low-income communities and communities of color where these practices are concentrated.

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Radley Balko discussing police militarization and his book Rise of the Warrior Cop

Five Startling Numbers on the Militarization of U.S. Drug Policy

Police Militarization