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
Feb. 11, 2022  Cultural Appropriation
Jan. 22, 2021  Corporate D&I
Oct. 30, 2020  Systemic Racism
Oct. 16, 2020  Monument Protests
Oct. 09, 2020  Police Under Scrutiny Updated
Aug. 23, 2019  Reparations for Slavery
Sep. 07, 2018  The STEM Gender Gap
Jan. 19, 2018  Future of Puerto Rico
Nov. 17, 2017  Affirmative Action and College Admissions
Jul. 28, 2017  Muslims in America
Mar. 10, 2017  Charter Schools
Sep. 23, 2016  Women in Leadership
Aug. 05, 2016  Diversity in Hollywood
May 13, 2016  Women in Combat
Jan. 08, 2016  Racial Conflict
Dec. 11, 2015  Transgender Rights
May 01, 2015  Community Colleges
Apr. 24, 2015  Native American Youths
Apr. 03, 2015  Latino Voters
Dec. 12, 2014  Police Tactics
Sep. 14, 2007  Racial Diversity in Public Schools Updated
Dec. 12, 2003  Black Colleges
Oct. 10, 1997  Diversity in the Workplace
Jan. 20, 1971  Ethnic America
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Crime and Law Enforcement
Defense Industry
Domestic Issues
Federal Courts
Protest Movements