Whether or not Iraq or Afghanistan will be able to maintain some type of semblance of stability in the years to come remains an open question, though the answer so far doesn’t look to encouraging. Regardless, the United States is trying to wash its hands of the wars. With America’s military being pulled back, America now finds itself the unwilling custodian of more machines of war than it could possibly use. Many of these weapons are finding their way into the hands of police forces, and according to a UCLA study, this is militarizing our police forces.

Military Donations

Military Donations: Equipment in Civilian Hands

The intentions are most likely good. The military now has more Humvees, armored vehicles, and other weapons on hands than it could possible need during peace times. Police departments across the country as struggling with budget cuts. So why not take unused equipment and donate it to police forces? Seems logical enough.

The world has a nasty way of defying simple logic, however, and researchers at UCLA argue that as police forces are increasingly utilizing military vehicles, they have been adopting an increasingly militant world view. Instead of seeing themselves as public servants upholding and protecting the law, some police forces seem to be viewing themselves as occupiers. Americans aren’t the people to serve and protect, but instead an enemy that must be crushed.

Now, some 500 different cities have MRAPS, or mine resistant, ambush protected vehicles. These heavy duty vehicles are nearly as intimidating as tanks and almost as heavily armored (no cannons attached, however). While it might be necessary to cruise downtown Bagdhad in one of these vehicles, patrolling the streets of suburban Houston has a tendency to incite fear and to instill a military mindset in police officers.

Besides vehicles, many police forces are receiving assault rifles and heavy duty combat weapons from the military. While such weapons might be necessary in the event of a school shooting, again it’s a lot of power to put in the hands of a police officer, and some police officers might let that power go to their head.

Military Donations: Do former soldiers make good police officers?

Beyond equipment, many police forces are hiring returned soldiers ‘en masse’, and why not? Most soldiers are trained with weapons, know how to search property and homes, how to detain people, neutralize threats, and to stay calm under fire. Still, while there are many parallels between military service and policing communities, there are also key differences.

Law enforcement probably is a good fit for returning soldiers. And given their skill sets, many of them would make great police officers. That being said, former soldiers need to be reminded that the people they are policing over were the same ones they were supposed to be protecting during their time in the military. Soldiers needs to be trained, retrained, and reminded that American citizens are not the enemy and that American soil isn’t to be occupied.