LEO42

Debunking The ‘Militarization’ of Police Narrative

I’ve noticed every time someone claims Law Enforcement is too militarized, they have never donned the uniform, much less served in combat.

It’s no surprise that a cop’s toughest critic is the person who’s never been one, but to go as far as comparing them to the military is mind boggling. 

What do they mean by “militarization”? Is it too many pockets on the uniform? Maybe the color of the thread? Is it the semi-automatic rifles or the armored vehicles? All these can be explained with minimal thought. 

UNIFORMS

First of all, whoever decided that police should be wearing slacks in the field is an idiot. Those uniforms cost $150 each plus alterations. They have to be ironed after every wash, they tear easily, fade quickly, restrict movement, and are not practical in the field.

This is why the military specifically designated the Class A Uniform apart from a field uniform. Pockets make life easier when you have a lot of stuff.

The uniform color issue is irrelevant. Uniforms are dark because dark doesn’t stain as easily and officers are safer at night not wearing a bright color.

Practical field uniforms would be 5.11 style tactical pants, a polo shirt and boots. These uniforms are cheaper, more durable and allow for better movement when climbing fences, pursuing suspects on foot, and wrestling to get a suspect in custody. The moral of the story is function over appearance.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Let’s talk about body armor. Exterior body armor is not “militaristic”. It’s practical and functional. It’s often the same level of armor as the vests worn under the clothing, but worn on the outside of clothing offers more free movement. It’s easy to remove in an emergency and are great for dragging out an injured officer. They also help reduce long-term spinal injuries. 

Cops wear 30 to 40 pounds of gear, most of which is centered around their waist. It’s no surprise that 62% of police develop severe back problems. Exterior body armor helps, allowing police to transfer tools from their belt to their torso. 

If you think helmets make cops look militaristic, then please jump on a rake. No one enjoys wearing a helmet. No one. It’s for safety and is only worn by bike cops, riot officers, SWAT during a volatile situation, and the poor saps directing traffic.

RIFLES 

Let’s be clear: no police have automatic weapons. The rifles used by police are semi-automatic. Any person without a criminal record can buy one at most box stores. As we learned during the North Hollywood Shootout in the 1990s (and explained in “Matching Firepower: Understanding Police Use of Handguns VS Rifles“), it is important for police to have the same tools being used to threaten the public and themselves. 

A lesser known secret is the use of suppressors. Yes, police departments do have suppressors, but I’ve only ever seen them used by K9 Units. The reason: to protect the dogs’ hearing. K9 officers train with their dogs, this includes range time, and a dog’s ears can be damaged by the loud bangs. We train as we fight. 

ARMORED VEHICLES

I imagine this is the biggest point in the “militarization” argument, but it’s wrong. Armored vehicles are nothing more than bullet sponges. They keep personnel safe and have no mounted weapons. Municipalities didn’t even have to pay for them. In most instances they are donated by the Department of Defense. 

In Albuquerque, it’s a moot point. The City of Albuquerque hasn’t received any military surplus since at least 2016, according to The Albuquerque Journal, and Mayor Tim Keller has vowed not to take any new equipment through the 1033 military surplus program.

Armored vehicles are only used during SWAT activations, riots, and community outreach events where kids get to run around and touch things.

Any veteran will tell you how comical it is when civilians refer to something being “military grade” as if that’s a good thing. Vets know that means the lowest bidder made the junk. Same thing applies when people claim the police are militarized. It tells us you have no idea what you’re talking about.

MILITARY TACTICS 

I doubt this is the issue but I’ll mention tactics while we’re on the topic. Law Enforcement officers practice tactics like room clearing. These tactics are not exclusive to the military, they’re the best practices to keep soldiers/officers safe during critical incidents. 


Note, Law Enforcement is para-military. Departments are structured like the military, police wear a uniform, have a rank structure, and attend entry-level training academies, but the similarities mostly stop there. Contrary to popular opinion, police ARE civilians.

Trust me, if they weren’t civilians, policing (and crime) would look a lot differently than it does today.

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