Occupied armies are walking America’s streets. Right now, a 1-year-old toddler with severe burns is clinging to life in a Georgia hospital, after a SWAT team barged into the house where he and his family were staying, and mistakenly threw a flash-bang grenade into his crib. This past Wednesday, members of the Cornelia, Georgia police department’s SWAT team entered the house where the toddler and his family were staying, searching for an alleged drug dealer who they say was living in the home as well, and who was armed and dangerous.
Because the suspected drug dealer had previous weapons charges, the SWAT team members had a no-knock warrant, which meant they could enter the house without warning, and without checking to see if there were children inside the home. Now, a little boy is struggling to survive. Unfortunately, incidents like this are becoming all too common in America today.
That’s because America’s police forces have become like occupied armies, hyper-militarized for the benefit of our nation’s military industrial complex. All across our country, local cops are kicking in doors, SWAT teams are carrying weapons of war, and warrants are becoming things of the past. Fortunately, there’s a way to change all of this, restore sanity to local policing, and to put weapons of war back where they belong.
Back in 1994, the Clinton administration created something called the COPS program. The federal Community Oriented Policing Services program provides resources for local police forces across America, intended to help those forces become more involved in their communities.
The goal of the program is to create more police officers like Madison, Wisconsin police officer Katie Adler. Unlike regular patrol cops, Adler spends much of her time in crime-ridden at-risk neighborhoods, getting to know the people she serves, and building lasting relationships along the way. She is the perfect example of community policing.
Meanwhile, European countries have been relying on community policing for years.
Take Sweden for example. Back in 1972, the Swedish government created a national center for research, development and coordination of policing, with the goal of fighting and reducing crime at its social and community levels. And in 1992, local policing committees began popping up across Sweden. These committees, in 200+ communities across Sweden, work hand-in-hand with local police forces, community leaders, schools and other groups to improve living conditions and to reduce crime.
Unfortunately, funding for community policing back here in America has seen a steady decline since the COPS program was first introduced. In 2010, $792 million was allotted in the form of federal grants under the COPS program for local police forces across the country; By 2012, that number had shrunken to just $199 million.
Now, there are fewer and fewer Officer Katie’s, and more and more hyper-militarized local police forces, that are breaking down doors first, and asking questions later. Rather than being viewed as community members, America’s police forces are being increasingly viewed as occupying armies, and that needs to change.
Community policing needs to be a priority in our country once again. But the changes shouldn’t stop there. We also need to put weapons of war back in the hands of real military forces, like the National Guard, and pay our cops better while holding them to higher standards. Only then can we make sure no more1-year-old toddlers are hanging on to life by a thread because a flash-bang grenade went off in their cribs.