Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces

Radley Balko, Author
Radley Balko. PublicAffairs, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61039-211-2
Reviewed on: 06/03/2013
Release date: 07/01/2013
”Are cops constitutional?” It’s a bold and provocative question, and the more Balko (Overkill) delves into the history of law enforcement, the more that question seems worth considering. And yet it’s not the mere presence of a police force that concerns the Cato Institute policy analyst (he readily concedes that one is necessary to any functional society); it’s the force’s gradual militarization that bothers him and many who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of a SWAT team. Our country’s “founding statesmen were adamant about the dangers of armed, standing forces,” but Balko argues that we have strayed far from their vision. From the creation of the first SWAT teams in response to the violent riots of the 1960s, to the literal war on drugs, the much-publicized crackdowns on the Occupy movements, and the increasingly frequent deployments of heavily armed units to address minor incidents (underage drinking, anyone? unlicensed barbers?), the list of questionable tactics and militarized raids has grown longer with each passing year, especially in the wake of 9/11. The problem, Balko insists, is that we “tend not to take notice of such long-developing trends, even when they directly affect us. The first and perhaps largest barrier to halting police militarization has probably been awareness.” After reading Balko, you’ll be aware, alright—and scared. Agent: Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon. (July 9)
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