Thursday, January 16, 2014
As the Cookie Crumbles: From Barney Fife to Urban Storm-Troopers
There's a meme circulating on F-Book in which the smiling visages of Martin Milner and Kent McCord in their "period," '60s LAPD gear are juxtaposed with a foto of a pair menacing, anonymous, black-clad, masked, helmeted SWAT deputies with automatic weapons in combat-ready position. Beneath is the legend asks, basically,
"When did the smiling faces morph into these masked warriors?"
Here's my timeline:
The transformation of the police from Barney Fife to Urban Storm-troopers started with SWAT teams, which came into being in the late '60s and '70s, primarily as a response to urban and campus, racial and student demonstrations and strife. The media jumped all OVER it, hysterically. Soon every town wanted a SWAT Team.
Then in the 80s, under deputy Raygoon Ed Meese, DoJ started "saving the Pentagon money" by acquiring 'surplus' DoD equipment--Armored Personnel Carriers, mainly--and spreading it around around to counties and municipalities, free to all takers, under the rubric of the War on Drugs, a very popular item in DC and on the hustings. Every 'Burg and 'Ville lined up excitedly. Politicians LOVE to be pictured with the latest LawnOrder gear...
Both police tactics and philosophy of policing soon adapted to the exciting, dynamic, really cool war toys in the department, and it wasn't long before the standard motto, "Serve & Protect," had become "Search & Destroy," as cops came to view themselves not as members of the community, but as "peace-keepers" in a no-man's land of insurgency. Insulated in heavily armed and armored cruisers, they patrol a sector, not a neighborhood.
This was exacerbated since 2002-03, by the placement of many returning Iraq and Afghanistan war vets in local cop-shops around the country on federally approved programs.
Ya gotta LOVE the logic: Let's don't wait for cops to develop PTSD in the line of duty. Let's hire people to BE who already HAVE it.
Gotta admire bureaucracies: Always trying to save money somewhere, innit, hippiez?