Police Tactics

December 12, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 44
Has U.S. law enforcement become militarized?
By Peter Katel


A helmeted, heavily armed police officer stands watch during demonstrations (AFP/Getty Images/Michael B. Thomas)
A helmeted, heavily armed police officer stands watch during demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., some violent, after the deadly shooting on Aug. 9 of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white officer. The massive response to the demonstrations by officers in armored vehicles and military-style garb raised concerns about law enforcement tactics and what some see as the militarization of police. (AFP/Getty Images/Michael B. Thomas)

The killing in August of an unarmed, black 18-year-old by police in Ferguson, Mo., has intensified a long-simmering debate over how police do their jobs. The shooting of Michael Brown by white officer Darren Wilson has led to angry and sometimes violent protests, initially heightened when police in military-style gear and armored vehicles responded to the unrest. The tactics highlighted what some criticize as the “militarization” of America's police forces, fueled by a Pentagon program that supplies local police with surplus weapons and vehicles. Others say police overuse SWAT teams to serve warrants and enforce drug laws. The Ferguson shooting and other recent high-profile police killings of unarmed African-Americans also has ignited a national outcry against what many say is disproportionate police action against black males. Police respond that low-income communities of all races have the highest crime rates and that they need military-style equipment to defend themselves in a heavily armed society.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Law Enforcement
Oct. 09, 2020  Police Under Scrutiny
Apr. 21, 2017  High-Tech Policing
Sep. 16, 2016  Jailing Debtors
Jun. 07, 2016  Crime and Police Conduct
Dec. 12, 2014  Police Tactics
Apr. 06, 2012  Police Misconduct
Oct. 14, 2011  Eyewitness Testimony
May 06, 2011  Business Ethics
Mar. 17, 2000  Policing the Police
Nov. 24, 1995  Police Corruption
Sep. 06, 1991  Police Brutality
Apr. 19, 1974  Police Innovation
Sep. 02, 1966  Police Reforms
Jan. 12, 1954  Federal Police Activity
Apr. 01, 1932  Proposed Expansions of Federal Police Activity
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Crime and Law Enforcement
Defense Industry
Domestic Issues
Federal Courts
Protest Movements