De-militarize the Police Mindset

by William Norman Grigg
Sep. 01, 2014

Shortly after the creation of the city’s Police Department in the mid-1800s, the New York Times expressed misgivings about the agency’s use of lethal force in dealing with criminal suspects.

“The pistols are not used in self-defense, but to stop the men who are running away,” observed an 1858 New York Times editorial. “[The guns] are considered substitutes for swift feet and long arms… [W]e doubt the propriety of employing them for such a purpose. A Policeman has no right to shoot a man for running away from him.”

In fact, the paper’s editorial board expressed doubts about “the policy of arming our Policemen with revolvers.”  This wasn’t because defensive force would never be necessary or justified, but because of the promiscuous use of lethal force by police in circumstances where it was neither.

Two years ago, Chief Ken James of the Emeryville, California Police Department candidly stated that police don’t use guns for defensive purposes, but rather “to intimidate and … show power [and to] face any opposition that we may come upon.”

This is the mindset of an occupying army. It is that mindset, not just the hardware, that makes weaponry dangerous, regardless of the identity of its owner.







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