Rising Militarization Of Law Enforcement

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Unity Group is greatly concerned about the rise in the militarization of law enforcement tactics that we are witnessing both locally and on a national basis. We do not condone violence or the destruction of property on any level. We do advocate for all vested parties to remain peaceful during acts of civil discourse and disobedience, and in exercising those democratic citizenship rights that derive from the Constitution of the United States, including the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, due process and equal protection under the law, We would hope that our law enforcement engagement and public policy pronouncements readily affirms and respects these vanguards enshrined in the Constitution.

A 2018 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asserted, "Aggressive policing strategies have historically been disproportionately applied to citizens of color in ways that serve to preserve race- and class-based social hierarchies. The normalization of militarized policing in the United States has raised concerns that a new, heavy-handed policing strategy is being used in similar ways and is eroding public opinion toward law enforcement, but law enforcement administrators defend the tactics claiming they can deter violent crime and protect police. This study marshals an array of data sources and analytical techniques to systematically evaluate these claims."

The ACLU went further in the 2014 report, "WAR COMES HOME The Excessive Militarization of American Policing" when it contended, "American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war, with almost no public discussion or oversight. Using these federal funds, state and local law enforcement agencies have amassed military arsenals purportedly to wage the failed War on Drugs, the battlegrounds of which have disproportionately been in communities of color. But these arsenals are by no means free of cost for communities. Instead, the use of hyper-aggressive tools and tactics results in tragedy for civilians and police officers, escalates the risk of needless violence,destroys property, and undermines individual liberties."

The National Initiative for Building Community Truth and Justice is just one agency who advocates for  trust-building interventions with police departments and communities based on three pillars:
· "Enhancing procedural justice: the way police interact with the public, and how those interactions shape the public’s views of the police, their willingness to obey the law, and their engagement in co-producing public safety in their neighborhoods."
· "Reducing the impact of implicit bias: the automatic associations individuals make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups, and the influence it has in policing."
· "Fostering reconciliation: frank engagements between minority communities and law enforcement to address historical tensions, grievances, and misconceptions that contribute to mutual mistrust and misunderstanding and prevent police and communities from working together."

In the wake of the untimely and disturbing George Floyd incident, and on the heels of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the scores of law enforcement related incidents that have led to the unjustified and unwarranted deaths of numerous black, minority and poor individuals throughout the course of the last decade, the Unity Group renews its call to ban the excessive use of force, racial profiling, and broken windows style policing. We denounce the growing militarization of the nation's law enforcement agencies because these are often specifically tailored and targeted towards minority and poverty stricken communities which more closely resemble war zones and police states, not flourishing democratically populated areas. We call for the peaceful practitioners standing for justice to be extended those freedoms enshrined in the constitution, namely the freedom of assembly, speech, expression, due process and equal protection. We do urge them to act within the frame of the law and guard against individuals whose objective is to provoke civil unrest, not a message that will achieve justice and meaningful change that would build up the Beloved Community. We call for the policies and procedures of law enforcement agencies to become fully reflective of the principle, "protect and serve," which must be rooted in procedural justice. In the aftermath of  the latest untimely killing of an unarmed black citizen, it will be incumbent and paramount on the community at large to repair the great erosion of mistrust that this incident and this growing military style escalation may cause in the minds of a future generation. America must stand for all the people, but as it conveys in the preamble, in order to form a more perfect union we must first have justice.

Unity Group of Chattanooga
Sherman E. Matthews, Jr. Chairman
Eric Atkins, Corresponding Secretary

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