The disturbing messages in police recruiting videos

According to the New Mexico Watchdog Web site, this is a new recruiting video being used by the police department in Hobbs, New Mexico.

 

Note the aspects of policing the video emphasizes: Shooting stuff. K-9 enforcement. Nabbing the bad guys. The SWAT team. This is the first step in the process.

(There’s also the separate but related question of why Hobbs — a town of 35,000 people — needs a SWAT team in the first place. As the Watchdog reports, the SWAT team has its own page on the Hobbs department Web site, complete with a video of SWAT cops shooting and destroying things, set to heavy metal music. The statement in the video that “The rules of engagement of SWAT are simple: Defeat the enemy . . . any way you can” is also troubling. The mission of  a SWAT team ought to be to resolve volatile situations without force and violence whenever possible.)

Note, too, what’s missing from the recruiting video: Public service. Cops walking beats. Community policing. Helping people.

Now ask yourself:  What sort of person would be attracted to a career in law enforcement based on the images and activities depicted in that video? And is that the sort of person you’d want wearing a badge and carrying a gun in your neighborhood?

The video isn’t disturbing only because of the type of police officer it’s likely to attract. It also suggests that the leadership in the Hobbs police department believes that these are the aspects of police work most worth touting — that this is the face they want to project to the community.

Hobbs isn’t alone in this. It’s a trend in policing that I’ve covered for a few years and part of a general move toward more aggressive, militarized police forces. There are many other examples. Here’s one from Gainesville, Fla.:

 

Here’s one from Denison, Tex.:

 

The Vermont State Police:

 

Springdale, Ark.:

 

Brunswick, Ga.:

 

Newport Beach, Calif.:

 

You get the idea. But they aren’t all bad.  Here’s one that stresses all the public service components of policing. 

 

Unfortunately, that particular department is in Canada. (They’re so polite!) So let’s end on a good note from the United States.  Here’s one from Decatur, Ala.:

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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Radley Balko · April 16