Monday, August 25, 2014
The better the equipment, the less safe the Police
Anyone who contemplates facing a riot can be forgiven for wanting the best equipment possible. If it happens to have been designed for a war zone, all the better. However, if police need war equipment they've already failed at their job.
Thanks to the US having been at war for many years, there's a lot of military equipment available to police -for little to no money. Cash strapped police departments are quick to pick up these “force multipliers.” They have some idea that equipment will make cops safer.
They are wrong. What actually works is having police on the ground interacting with people on a day to day basis. There's nothing as effective as the humble beat cop doing his daily rounds. He soon knows his neighborhood very well and they know him. Small problems are less likely to turn into large problems.
Unfortunately, beat cops cost money. Cops in cars can cover a lot more territory. While they can cover more miles, they do a lot less actual police work. Imagine shopping yard sales at 40 mph and you get some idea how effective it is.
When you put police in armored vehicles, they are even less connected with the community. You are an invading force. Policing from armored vehicles has been done before. Apartheid South Africa comes to mind. How did that work out for them in the end?
Yes, being a beat cop is a tough job. It is totally exposed and his life is on the line. If you don't like that don't be a cop. It's like wanting to be a fireman and not wanting to go into burning buildings. There's a level of risk that proper police work demands.
A cops best protection is a civil society. When he's thought of as part of the community doing an essential service he's in less danger. Problems arise when he's thought of as a enforcer for an unfair political/economic system. Politicians who only cater to the rich and influential's rights are the one's putting cops in danger. No amount of armor can replace social justice.