The Washington Post

Photos of the day: Scenes from a militarized America

Part of an ongoing series.

These were sent to me by criminal defense attorney Rick Horowitz (who is also a photographer). The police in the photos are guarding the Fresno County, California jail.

photo 1-3

photo 3-4


Horowitz writes:

About 20 people, perhaps — maybe less, I didn’t count how many were protesters and how many were passersby like me — mostly marching around in a circle with signs, with a few others standing around with signs, protesting deportations of undocumented prisoners.

You know, just in case someone tried to rush the jail, I guess, and break through four layers of security into the cells, and free prisoners.

In too much of the country, dispatching intimidating shock troops in riot gear has become the default response to protest. (For more on the topic, I recommend this excellent book!)

But it isn’t like this everywhere. Last year I interviewed Salt Lake City, Utah police chief Chris Burbank. He takes a much different approach:

“I just don’t like the riot gear. Some say not using it exposes my officers to a little bit more risk. That could be, but risk is part of the job. I’m just convinced that when we don riot gear, it says ‘throw rocks and bottles at us.’ It invites confrontation. Two-way communication and cooperation are what’s important. If one side overreacts, then it all falls apart.”

“I think it should be applied everywhere. That’s exactly how we as a nation should approach these events. We should approach it asking, ‘How can we best facilitate these people’s free speech?'”

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 · January 13, 2014