Paramilitarization of Police
Radley Balko wonders why a catalog selling off duty noveltywear to police officers is doing selling “Death Dealer” t-shirts.
It’s just another sign, I’m afraid, of the paramilitarization of our police forces. Cops have long emulated the military, aping their uniforms, haircuts, rank structure, and customs and courtesies. Often, to a rather absurd level wherein chiefs of small police departments wear the stars of a four-star general.
In many ways, the military is a good model of a professional bureaucracy. And bravery, sense of duty, and calm while in harm’s way are things we want our police to aspire to. At the same time, however, the military’s warrior ethos is antithetical to what we want from domestic law enforcement.
Soldiers are trained to kill without hesitation and adopt a macabre sense of humor as part of that transformation. Images of skulls and cutesy slogans about killing are often seen on t-shirts and bumper stickers.
- Airborne: Death from Above.
- Marine Sharpshooter: One Shot. One Kill.
- Army Rangers: If we weren’t supposed to kill people, God wouldn’t let us be so good at it.
- Special Forces – Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest.
And my personal favorite:
- Join the Army: Travel to exotic distant lands. Meet exciting, unusual people. And kill them.
Cops, though, aren’t trigger pullers by mission. Desensitizing them to violence probably isn’t a good idea.