Why Police Demilitarization Is Necessary
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Politics and Activism

Why Police Demilitarization Is Necessary

A look at why we need the police to be demilitarized in order to move forward.

Why Police Demilitarization Is Necessary
Johns Hopkins Magazine

At the height of current tension between black and minority communities and police officers, there has been an increasing call for the demilitarization of the police. It is understandable that the initial reaction of someone hearing and reading these calls would be along the lines of “Wouldn’t that make police officers’ already dangerous jobs even more unsafe for them?” Well, I stumbled upon a meme (where I get my second most inspiration, after Netflix), that read

“The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying. If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. If they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy.”

If you have not yet watched Dr. Zimbardo’s "The Stanford Prison Experiment," I would highly suggest you do, as it is available on both Netflix and YouTube. The primary conclusion of the experiment was that roles define behavior. SimplyPsychology has a wonderful write up of the conclusion of the experiment on its website. It says,

“People will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play, especially if the roles are as strongly stereotyped as those of the prison guards. The “prison” environment was an important factor in creating the guards’ brutal behavior (none of the participants who acted as guards showed sadistic tendencies before the study). Therefore, the findings support the situational explanation of behavior rather than the dispositional one.”

Sound familiar?

Police nowadays are being given more and more freedom to do as they please, with little to no restrictions. This is reinforced even more so when officers blatantly murder, assault, or even frame members of the black community, and simply receive a paid vacation in return. I think the clearest example of Dr. Zimbardo’s conclusion happened less than two weeks ago. A black caretaker of an adult autistic man was shot in the street after laying down with his arms up, while trying to explain to officers that he was merely trying to calm the man down. When the caretaker asked the officer why he shot him, the officer replied “I don’t know.” This is the clearest example of group behavior being assumed by people with the same roles, a.k.a. police officers. SimplyPsychology also has a statement saying,

“The guards may have been so sadistic because they did not feel what happened was done to them personally – it was a group norm. The also may have lost their sense of personal identity because of the uniform they wore.”

Of course I do not believe that all police officers are bad or that they mean to have this bias towards minority groups, specifically black communities. I think that we have reached such an escalated point because police officers are succumbing to this group behavior. A behavior that can only be overturned with intense trainings and demilitarization.

The demilitarization of police would allow communities to work more for peace, as opposed to training themselves to be on their defense, for fear of being assaulted or murdered. It would allow cause leaders on both sides of this conflict to stand on a more equal ground. The goal should not be to crush the progressive movement for equality, but to get rid of these institutional biases that exist within our country. This starts with something as simple as letting the police only be police, and not trying to force them to be mercenaries that stamp out evil with no judge, jury, or trial.


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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