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Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments

NCJ Number
Diane C. Weber
Date Published
August 1999
14 pages
Over the past 20 years, the U.S. military has been encouraged to supply intelligence, equipment, and training to civilian police; this development has spawned a culture of paramilitarism in American law enforcement.
The 1980's and 1990's have seen marked changes in the number of State and local paramilitary units, in their mission and deployment, and in their tactical armament. According to a recent survey, nearly 90 percent of police departments in cities with populations over 50,000 had paramilitary units, as did 70 percent of police departments in communities with populations under 50,000. The Pentagon has been equipping these units with M-16's, armored personnel carriers, and grenade launchers. The police paramilitary units also conduct training exercises with active duty Army Rangers and Navy SEAL units. State and local police departments are increasingly accepting the military as a model for their behavior and outlook. The sharing of training and technology is producing a shared mindset. The problem is that the mindset of the soldier is not appropriate for the civilian police officer. Police officers confront not only criminals but also individuals who are protected by constitutional rights. Confusing the police function with the military function can lead to dangerous and unintended consequences, such as unnecessary shootings and killings. 62 notes