At bottom, law enforcement agencies, including the military, accomplish their goals using the tools they have been given and have been trained to use. Force, violence, fear, uncertainty, and doubt are the necessary tools of their trade. Law enforcement accomplishes its goals by imposing restrictions and curtailing the individual liberties that it deems hazardous. It is called to action when softer diplomatic efforts have failed to realize its objectives.
We need to recognize that these same tools can be used to further law enforcement expansionism and militarization. Police budgets rarely shrink, even when crime is down and though a plague of austerity has descended on the city. Elected officials are on the Chief’s wavelength when she announces she will acheive fiscal responsibility (imposed by civilians) through a program of “strategic and surgical” budget cuts. Her subtext telegraghs hardship for the electorate and pain for the politician. Though police departments may have copied this tactic from other civil-service labour unions, elected government reprentatives know in their hearts that, on a bad day, the “thin blue line” is all that stands between them and an angry mob. As Caesar noted, it is prudent, and far easier, to keep them fat and happy.
This is not to say that individuals in that community are bad – far from it. However, the culture of law enforcement does have a particular prism for looking at the world, and that prism does colour their interpretation of what is best for everyone.
The key thing to remember is that our lawmakers need not accept law-enforcement’s cultural biases. Law enforcement must be our servant rather than our master. We need lawmakers who can maintain a healthy skepticism about the advice they receive and the threats that are advertised. We need lawmakers who will take the twin threats of lost liberty and uncontrolled expansion at least as seriously as the enemy-du-jour.