I picked a jury last week. During voir dire, I noted something that struck me as particularly interesting. I wondered if there was much to read into it.
I noticed most members of the panel drew no distinction between law enforcement experience and military service. When the judge asked the jurors if they or any close friends or family had any law enforcement experience, most people who answered in the affirmative did so because they had friends or family in the armed forces.
My impression was that they viewed the two as being the same because they view both soldiers and cops as protectors. I found the lack of distinction troubling.
Maybe it’s the libertarian in me, but I’m bothered by the increasing police militarization in this country. Every day, I read The Agitator. Almost every week, I read something there that makes me depressed about police militarization and the government’s war against its citizens.
The officers I encounter in my job look more and more militarized with each passing year. The evolution has been from simple uniformed public servant to basic tactical gear to full-on SWAT to military combat uniforms. Now, everyone who gets to wear a gun or even a taser looks to me like he or she is ready for battle. Maricopa County court security now wears something that looks more fitting for a person guarding Fort Knox than someone watching beltless lawyers amble through an overly sensitive metal detector.
It feels like we’re being groomed. The more the police look like soldiers, the more accustomed we’ll be to policing methods better suited to the battlefield. After we’ve gotten used to the militarized policing of ordinary citizens by police officers, how hard will it be to just cross the blurred line and use the military? Talking with the jury panel, I gathered it wouldn’t be very hard at all.