|Montréal, 2 septembre 2000 / No 66||
by Ralph Maddocks
Unnoticed by most of us, probably because it has been happening imperceptibly over the years, police forces are becoming more and more militaristic in their approach to policing. When we see the police deployed to deal with some group of protesters we see policemen dressed as though ready for full-scale combat with a foreign army. The phenomenon is even more marked in the United States where the police often employ weapons carriers, grenade launchers and all kinds of military hardware to accomplish their tasks.
The last quarter of a century has seen the U.S. armed forces deliberately encouraged to supply equipment, training, and even intelligence to what are supposed to be civilian peace officers. Police forces now look more like army reservists. A recent survey in the U.S. showed that in cities with populations over
These para-military police forces train in sessions conducted by armed services groups such as Army Rangers and Navy SEALS. This is leading to an increased acceptance of the military model and, more insidious still, changes in the mind-set of the police, who now tend to look upon people not as individuals under their protection but as the
Those who believe that the U.S. is concerned about the liberty of its citizens may now begin to revise their opinions. The obvious reason for this change is, mainly, the unwinnable war on drugs, a policy upon whose idiocy I shall not dwell. The traditional view of the U.S. was of a state where they separated civil functions from the military ones. A view going back to the Revolutionary War when George III used British troops to enforce the law. In fact the U.S. Declaration of Independence refers to such practices, chastising the king for
To some extent this concept of civil-military separation first broke down during the Civil war when Lincoln suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus, which resulted in civilians being tried by military courts. This led to military interference in politics and, as late as 1876, Federal troops were accused of stuffing ballot boxes leading to the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. The resultant row was settled when it was agreed that Hayes should be President, but that federal troops should be withdrawn. The origins of the Posse Comitatus Act, which effectively imposed fines and prison terms on anyone who used any part of the Army to execute the laws, lie in another attempt to impose civil-military separation.
Of course, federal troops have been used in a few cases to restore order in cases of industrial unrest. Older readers may also recall the Little Rock, Arkansas; Oxford, Missisipi and the Selma, Alabama civil rights problems in the late fifties and early sixties.
Almost twenty years ago, in 1981, Congress bypassed the Posse Comitatus Act when it passed a law authorizing the military to
This established separation is again beginning to become more and more blurred as military forces are increasingly deployed to perform what were the traditional functions of the police. In addition, presumably not to be left out of the distribution of new toys, both state and local police forces are adopting the military strategies, tactics and heavy equipment used by the armed services.
The actions, not to mention values, of a police officer ought to be dedicated to keeping the peace, not engaging in war. Peace has to be maintained, but assuredly not by any means at all. In accordance with the constitution, lawbreakers are to be arrested with the minimum force being required to bring them before a court of law. On the other hand, a soldier is trained to inflict maximum damage on the enemy, including death. It is this confusion of roles which now begins to threaten the civil liberties of the citizenry, and everyone ought to be worried about it, especially those who are responsible for bringing it all about.
Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton’s appointment of General Barry R. McCaffrey, a former military commander, to the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy speaks volumes. Policing the drug trade has gone from a civilian operation to a military one. Special army units being sent after drug dealers in foreign countries and, according to one report, are operating radar stations in Central America to monitor possible drug flights.
In the USA today, SWAT teams are equipped with amphibious armoured personnel carriers; helicopters with night vision capability;
Even where no obvious militaristic approach has been used to arrest a suspect we see an increasing use of substances such as the pepper spray. The use of such sprays – that’s the stuff Jean Chrétien says he likes on his plate – are not without risk. A couple of recent incidents have shown this clearly, although doubtless the matter will be carefully covered up. Even our Department of Fisheries uses it against those native fishermen it considers to be fishing illegally. There is now talk of using
Toward a New World Order
The attempts to register the guns of their citizens being made by democracies like Australia, Canada and even the USA are making it possible to begin the process of civilian disarmament as has already happened in England. Once they know you have one they can always come and get it. The result of disarming the civilians actually has resulted in the increased use of weapons by criminals in Australia. If they take the criminal’s shotgun, handgun or rifle away, and his opponent – the policeman – is armed with automatic weapons what do you think will happen next? Automatic weapons, which are unlikely to be registered by their owners, will come into play as heavily armed criminals respond to heavily armed police.
A couple of years ago a report was published by the European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Directorate B, The STOA (Scientific and Technological Options Assessment) Programme, directed to Members of the European Parliament. Most of the equipment and techniques described in that report were developed in the United States. A great deal of the stuff was found to have been developed via military contract, at the direction of the U.S. Department of Justice. A major benefit of the report was that it identified the exact origin of all the equipment and techniques described, as well as their effectiveness in actual field use.
In Australia a few weeks ago, a Bill was passed in their House of Representatives which seeks to allow their armed forces to shoot civilians during times of so-called
In this changing world of ours, as we seem to be descending slowly into a state of insanity, these changes are yet another step forward on the road towards totalitarian government; steps which are essential for those who look forward to creating a New World Order.
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