My classmate at the University of Pennsylvania, Simone Weichselbaum, has co-authored an interesting article at The Marshall Project on the impact of the militarization of the police--not just in terms of equipment--but veterans who return and work in law enforcement. Below is an excerpt:
The debate over the militarization of America’s police has focused on the accumulation of war-grade vehicles and artillery and the spread of paramilitary SWAT teams. What has gone largely unstudied, however, is the impact of military veterans migrating into law enforcement. Even as departments around the country have attempted a cultural transformation from “warriors” to “guardians,” one in five police officers is literally a warrior, returned from Afghanistan, Iraq or other assignments.
The majority of veterans return home and reintegrate with few problems, and most police leaders value having them on the force. They bring with them skills and discipline that are regarded as assets. But a Marshall Project investigation indicates that the prevalence of military veterans can also complicate relations between police and the communities they are meant to serve.
To the obvious question — are veterans quicker to resort to force in policing situations? — there is no conclusive answer. Our investigation obtained data from two major-city law enforcement agencies, and considerable anecdotal evidence, suggesting veterans are more likely to get physical, and some police executives agree.
But any large-scale comparison of the use of force by vets and non-vets is hampered by a chronic lack of reliable official record-keeping on issues of police violence.
Some other conclusions about veteran-cops emerged more clearly:
· Veterans who work as police are more vulnerable to self-destructive behavior — alcohol abuse, drugs and, like William Thomas, attempted suicide.
· Most law enforcement agencies, because of factors including a culture of machismo and a number of legal restraints, do little or no mental health screening for cops who return from military deployment, and provide little in the way of treatment.
· Hiring preferences for former service members that tend to benefit whites disproportionately make it harder to build police forces that resemble and understand diverse communities. To read more CLICK HERE