Police Are Over-Militarized


  • Police are civilians – not a standing army
  • Military mentality is not the proper mentality for a civilian police force
  • MRAPS, BearCats and Robocop-style body armor create an unbridgeable gulf between the police and the public
  • Vastly asymmetrical force may lead to decreased restraint on the part of the police
  • The use of rifles in urban areas is very dangerous to bystanders and homeowners
  • In a democracy, giving the police the tools of a police-state is not wise

Police are civilians, not a standing army; and the legal and constitutional constraints under which they must operate are very different from those that apply to our armed forces.  The purpose of police is to deal with “ordinary” threats.  Police are not necessarily trained in the use of military equipment; and, conversely, military equipment is not designed to address ordinary civilian threats.  An over-militarized police force gives the public the impression that the police have – and will use –disproportionate force.  This fosters distrust and fear in the public of unjustified and disproportional treatment, which feeds a cycle of deteriorating relations between the public and the police, and actually can make the police and the public less safe.  Moreover, some police officers may feel that their job is to “control” the public, and they may be inclined to overreact and use disproportionate force “for the public good.”  Supplying these officers with military equipment may feed into that mentality and both exacerbate their perception of superiority and their perceived need for disproportional force, facilitating their acting on these impulses.  If circumstances in a community escalate beyond those that the police are equipped to handle, then other measures, such as use of National Guard troops, can be used to address them.  This would eliminate the casual or disproportional use of military force, and subject any decisions to use such force to a second layer of consideration beyond that of local police departments.


  • Better and increased military training will provide the police with increased capability for handling large-scale civil disorder
  • Better protection of police from threats
  • Deterrent effect to rioters, terrorists
  • Heightened sense of security by the public
  • Heightened confidence and response time by police in dealing with threats

Police officers are often required to handle extremely intense and potentially dangerous situations, such as mass protests, which would traditionally be handled (at least if they were prolonged) by the military or national guard, which are trained in the use of military equipment.  When faced with such situations, police should be provided with similar tools.  Having asymmetrical protection and firepower protects officers and reduces their stress levels in appropriate situations, and thereby allows them more time to make good decisions, rather than having to react too quickly, which could lead to erring on the side of taking inappropriate action, using deadly force, etc., for fear of their own personal safety and the safety of the public.  In addition, the existence of asymmetrical equipment on the side of the police in appropriate situations gives the general public a sense of security knowing that, if necessary, police can take swift and effective action to protect the public, rather than engaging in a “battle of equals” such as prolonged shootouts in public settings.  So long as police are properly trained on military equipment and it is deployed only when necessary and under reasonable procedures and guidelines, it is a positive tool for law enforcement.


Posted in: Point/Counterpoint

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