by Alexander H. Maurice
Just after midnight on February 4, 1999, four plainclothes police officers approached Amadou Diallo, a 22-year-old street vendor, as he returned home from work to his Bronx apartment building. He matched the description of a suspect the police had been looking for. Something, however, went horribly wrong. When he reached for his wallet to produce his identification, the officers opened fire with a total of 41 shots, 19 of which hit, and killed, Diallo. The officers were acquitted of all charges and have never faced any departmental discipline.
Amadou Diallo’s case is tragic, and as the recent spotlight on Ferguson, Missouri has revealed, it is far from unique. In the United States, one black man is killed by police officers every 28 hours. Despite the widespread attention Diallo’s case received over a decade ago, policing in the United States has not improved, and in many ways has taken a turn for the worst.
Security has become a top priority in post 9/11 America. One of the results is the increased militarization of police forces. This would be more excusable if the primary role of law enforcement across the United States was counter-terrorism, but further arming those meant to police the public has troubling consequences. The mass protests and rioting in the United States in response to the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson police has shown the extent to which the public demand proportionate and responsible police action. The excessive and unnecessary militarization of police only breeds more distrust. With climbing tension between minority communities and police, the next blunder will be much worse.
Police Force Tanks
In 1997, the Department of Defense (DoD) created the 1033 Program to transfer excess federal military equipment to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The program is operated by the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office, which operates under the motto “from warfighter to crimefighter”. The program has so far transferred over…
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