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Perhaps police are being trained to overreact [ClearOnMoney]
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Perhaps police are being trained to overreact

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Commentary

Perhaps police are being trained to overreact

20 Nov 2011 by Jim Fickett.

Perhaps you've seen the videos of the UC Berkeley campus police ramming peaceful protestors in the gut with batons, or the UC Davis campus police spraying seated, peaceful protestors in the face with pepper spray (The Atlantic has a collection of videos of violent police reactions at Occupy protests).

Even if you have no sympathy with the Occupy movement, these incidents seem quite clearly to be an overreaction (Bob Ostertag, professor at UC Davis, compares police reactions in many times and places). I have been very curious about what is going on. Is the Occupy movement so threatening? Do some of those in charge have a need to stamp out any defiance?

I saw today the first explanation that makes sense to me. Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department, wrote quite an interesting article in The Nation, suggesting that the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” have changed, for the worse, the entire mindset of the police, leading to more violence. The whole article is interesting. Here is the money quote:

The counterproductive response to 9/11, in which the federal government began providing military equipment and training even to some of the smallest rural departments, has fueled the militarization of police forces. Everyday policing is characterized by a SWAT mentality, every other 911 call a military mission. What emerges is a picture of a vital public-safety institution perpetually at war with its own people. The tragic results—raids gone bad, wrong houses hit, innocent people and family pets shot and killed by police—are chronicled in Radley Balko’s excellent 2006 report Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

(The Balko report is from the Cato Institute.)