Scenes from militarized America

 

The group above just graduated from a special training school. Can you guess what that school was for? Perhaps some sort of Special Forces division within the U.S. military? Maybe a private seminar run by a far-right militia outfit?

No, none of those. These are cops with the Michigan State Police Emergency Support Team — basically the agency’s equivalent of a SWAT team. This photo got a retweet and plaudits from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

There are good reasons for state police agencies to have SWAT teams. In fact, it’s far preferable for a well-funded, well-trained, full-time SWAT team from a state police outpost to respond to emergency situations than for every small town in America to have a SWAT team of its own. (Typically, most places have both.) But until Canadian troops start marching on the Upper Peninsula, it’s hard to envision a scenario under which state troopers would need to don camouflage uniforms, face paint and ghillie hats.

Even if one could fathom such a scenario or two, it’s also regrettable that this is the face the Michigan State Police want to project to the public. These guys aren’t the military. Their mission is not to annihilate a foreign enemy on a battlefield. They’re domestic police officers who serve the residents of Michigan. Their mission is to protect the constitutional rights of those residents. It’s important that they, our elected officials and we all know and appreciate the difference.

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 · May 6