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The Necessity of American Militarized Police in the 21st Century

Accused members ot the Zetas, arrested in Quintana Roo state, at a police press conference in Mexico City on May 28, 2011. (Jorge Lopez/Reuters)
Accused members ot the Zetas, arrested in Quintana Roo state, at a police press conference in Mexico City on May 28, 2011. (Jorge Lopez/Reuters)

PHOENIX, Arizona – On 23, March 2014 a statement was made in the Business Insider article (tagged along with The Economist) “Why America's Police Are Becoming So Militarized.” The statement of reference is ... “America's police have become too militarised.” But, have they really? The language used in the statement must also be scrutinized; as the word “militarised” is actually the spelling used by those residing across the pond. Granted – the presumably non-American author made attempts to understand what is occurring in America. However, a more complex situation exists on the ground in the States.

A blurry line exists for many in the police force. Not only are they called to be quasi-social workers; but are also tasked with the dangerous mission of dealing with crime and violence evolving at stunning levels. In the past officers were trained in understanding the 80/20 rule, crime fighting being 20% of the job and routine service related tasks 80%.

Yet, for police in some states the 80/20 rule may be outdated and a 70/30 or 60/40 rule more suitable. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report revealed that traffic stops were the number one cause of officer intervention. Disturbingly the New York Police recently released data revealing the number of street stops was on the rise. In 2013, Middlefield, Ohio Police Chief, Arnold Stanko stated “There’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop anymore - times have really changed…an AK-47 was used on my officers, that's a terrorist attack on my officers”

While this is alarming, how about this – Ambush attacks were the leading cause of fatal officer shootings in 2013. While firearm related officer killings have decreased since 1987, the gravity of killing tactics have changed. FBI statistics state “15 officer deaths by ambush occurred in each year of 2011, 2010 and 2009, and said that ambush situations were the biggest category of circumstance behind 543 officers feloniously killed between 2002 to 2011: Totaling 23.2%, with the next highest [category of fatality for officers] was an arrest situation.” The FBI’s definition of ambush killings is "Entrapment and Premeditation.” This occurs when "an officer is lured into danger as the result of conscious consideration and planning. These attacks are generally accomplished from cover or hiding; however, they can occur without cover or hiding," the agency said.

However, there is a flip side. Civil libertarian, and former police officer, Radley Balko, the author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop,” believes the American police are becoming too much like soldiers. Balko also states police opinion reveals generational differences. The older retired cops more readily disagree with the increased militarization of police. Yet, the younger officers generally feel fine with it. Perhaps the younger officers are aware of the increased level of violence arising among their generation.

The argument for more militarized police becomes more convincing when America’s Border States, such as Arizona, Texas and California are examined. These states are home to the drug wars, run by massive cartel crime syndicates. The syndicate crime operations far reach into American soil where police and firefighters are first on scene. Further, The Phoenix, Arizona area is said to be the national distribution center for drug transport to the United States.

Drug-related Crimes such as Home Invasion and Kidnapping are on the rise in local neighborhoods. Home invasions occur for various reasons, but stand assured – military style weapons and tactics are involved; and so are the local police. During one Phoenix home invasion, a group of gunmen, first thought to be military SWAT commandos, fired 100 rounds into a drug house in a Phoenix neighborhood. A Jamaican drug dealer was killed in this incident. He was targeted for money and drugs.

Paul Clinton of states “When a home invasion is a cartel operation, it can be as elaborately staged and planned as a military raid. Tactical entry crews are given military training, possess military-grade weapons, and use SWAT-like small unit tactics. They are often skilled at counter-surveillance and can pose as police units. They have even been known to wear jackets with "POLICE" on the back, drive vehicles painted in black-and-white color schemes, and yell "Police, open up!" or a variant of that phrase, hoping to scare their victims into submissive compliance.”

Kidnapping is also on the rise, and 90 percent are drug related. Due to the steady increase in kidnapping, the Phoenix Police Department created the Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement Unit (HIKE). Lieutenant Lauri Burgett, former head of HIKE stated "The kidnappings and home invasions are [conducted] by organized crews, and they seem to mimic tactics that are being used in Mexico.” Burgett and her team dismantled more than 20 cells.

According to current U.S. Department of Justice statistics “drug-related violence, including kidnappings, home invasion robberies, and increasingly gruesome murders, has skyrocketed in Mexico and along the American Southwest border, affecting such U.S. cities as San Diego, Laredo, El Paso, and, particularly Phoenix, which the DOJ has characterized as the ‘ kidnap-for-ransom capital of the United States.’ ”

The news from these Border States becomes increasingly intense. In the past few days, more drug-related deaths occurred on the Arizona/Mexico border at the Lukeville, Arizona crossing. Seven men were ambushed and killed by drug traffickers. The area their bodies were found is frequently used by U.S. vacationers traveling to the beach town of Puerto Penasco aka “Rocky Point.” Puerto Penasco is an area where heavy drug trafficking exists – en route to the United States. In December, 2013, it was also the scene of a gunfight involving Black Hawk Helicopters and Cartel bosses vacationing in the same area.
While these Mexican drug cartels operate heavily in the Border region states, they continue their operations throughout America. It has been stated they have published lists of certain American citizens and law enforcement officers to be targeted for assassination. A game where former American soldiers are now being recruited as hitmen. With the severity of tactics and weapons increasing; and the never-ending drug war now encroaching onto American soil, the statement broached in the Business Insider “America's police have become too militarised” needs to be re-examined. America’s Officer Friendly will be first on the scene, protecting the neighborhood, and he needs some backup.

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