|Boston SWAT, April 16, 2013|
(Photo by Jozef Stazka/Flickr)
For a nation that's been at war for over a decade, perhaps seeing armored vehicles, assault weapons, and camouflaged police officers isn't a big shock. But it does give some pause.
One thing to ask might be: How did police forces end up looking like paramilitary units?
Michelle Alexander, in her book The New Jim Crow, offers some clues. The "War on Drugs" - that is by now seen as a colossal failure - began its life as a political utterance in the late 1960s, made a rhetorical device over the next decade, and then in the 1980s was institutionalized by the Reagan administration and foisted onto all levels of law enforcement, from federal all the way down to local/municipal departments. (It also had a racial dimension, which is key to her argument, but that's not this topic.)