Talk of De-Militarizing Local Police Misses the Point

By Carla Murphy Aug 18, 2014

By this weekend, the show of military force by local police in Ferguson, Missouri, had prompted a response from Congress. The chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) promised to review the Pentagon program that since the 1990s has transferred $4 billion in surplus military equipment to police forces. But many concerned with the policing of communities of color are also saying that demilitarizing local police really isn’t the point–or, as comedian John Oliver says, it "would just change the optics." Writing for MSNBC, Columbia University professor Dorian Warren, a board member of Race Forward, which publishes Colorlines, explains:

"…the demilitarization argument does nothing to challenge or change the fact that ‘nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012,’ according to FBI statistics. …That’s everyday local policing, and has nothing to do with the militarization of local police forces….The choke-hold that killed Eric Garner or the multiple gunshots that killed Michael [Brown] were not military-grade weapons.

(h/t MSNBC)