Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces

by Radley Balko


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Now updated with new material, the groundbreaking history of how police forces have become militarized, both in equipment and mindset, and what that means for American democracy.

The last days of colonialism taught America's revolutionaries that soldiers in the streets bring conflict and tyranny. As a result, our country has generally worked to keep the military out of law enforcement. But according to investigative reporter Radley Balko, over the last several decades, America's cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops. The consequences have been dire: the home is no longer a place of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an other-an enemy.
Today's armored-up policemen are a far cry from the constables of early America. The unrest of the 1960s brought about the invention of the SWAT unit-which in turn led to the debut of military tactics in the ranks of police officers. Nixon's War on Drugs, Reagan's War on Poverty, Clinton's COPS program, the post-9/11 security state under Bush, Obama: by degrees, each of these innovations empowered police forces, always at the expense of civil liberties. And under Trump, these powers were expanded in terrifying new ways, as evidenced by the tanks and overwhelming force that met the Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020.

In Rise of the Warrior Cop, Balko shows how politicians' ill-considered policies and relentless declarations of war against vague enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have blurred the distinction between cop and soldier. His fascinating, frightening narrative shows how over a generation, a creeping battlefield mentality has isolated and alienated American police officers and put them on a collision course with the values of a free society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610392112
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.42(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Radley Balko is an investigative journalist and reporter at the Washington Post. He currently writes and edits the Watch, a reported opinion blog that covers civil liberties and the criminal justice system. He is the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, and the co-author of The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South. In 2015, Balko was awarded the Innocence Project's Journalism Award, in part for his reporting in Mississippi.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 From Rome to Writs 1

Chapter 2 Soldiers in the Streets 11

Chapter 3 A Quick History of Cops in America 27

Chapter 4 The 1960s-From Root Causes to Brute Farce 43

Chapter 5 The 1970s-Pinch and Retreat 81

Chapter 6 The 1980s-Us and Them 139

Chapter 7 The 1990s-It's All About the Numbers 177

Chapter 8 The 2000s-A Whole New War 239

Chapter 9 Reform 309

Conclusion 333

Notes 337

Index 369

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