Criminology Police Militarization
by
Scott W. Phillips
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0249

Introduction

Police militarization has been a background topic of research in law enforcement for several years. That is, only a small number of scholars explored militarization in the past, providing a foundation for understanding the issue. The subject, however, did not receive widespread attention in policing scholarship. The law enforcement response to public protests in Ferguson, Missouri (2014) is arguably the inflection point for greater attention of police militarization, at least in the United States. During the weeks following events in Ferguson, there was an explosion of media attention at the national and local levels; in less than a month the US Senate held hearings in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, in the few years since 2014, there has been only limited empirical research exploring this topic. Another limit of the research is that a clear definition of militarism or militarization has yet to be offered. While there is some guidance in the research, these remained vague and indeterminate concepts. One of the most common conceptions of militarization deals with how the police appear. But there are serious questions regarding the validity of using this to measure militarization. One topic that received sizable attention, particularly in law journals, was the United States government’s legislation and funding providing local police departments with military-style equipment. Commonly referred to as the 1033 program (although there are other lesser-known programs), it is suggested that police agency accessibility to military equipment was made primarily through this program. While there is no empirical evidence that this is the case, there are questions regarding the propriety of the federal government supporting a militarized approach to policing. This bibliography provides a review of the available research focusing on police militarization. It will attempt to frame the existing scholarship within a number of themes, although it might be argued that some of the material could be placed in multiple topics. It should also be noted that the current body of scholarship dealing with police militarization is somewhat limited, but it is expected to slowly grow over time.

General Overviews

Beck 1972, an examination of the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, offers a fundamental understanding of why a militarized approach initially developed in policing. Bernstein, et al. 1977 is critical of the growth of policing as a means for dealing with domestic social disorder, including the use of SWAT. Some of the scholarship regarding police militarism or militarization, such as Auten 1981, Kraska 1996, and Kraska 2001, was framed as if to determine how this newfound issue fit within the larger policing field. More contemporary work, including Campbell and Campbell 2009, Fisher 2010, Koslicki 2017, and Kraska 2007, offers general assessments of militarized policing. A few works, such as Radil, et al. 2017, provide rudimentary data analysis to explore the relationship between the 1033 program and militarization. Bieler 2016 offers a summary of many of these works. Finally, Balko 2013 is included here, although its academic and empirical contributions are rather limited to a full understanding of police militarization.

  • Auten, J. H. 1981. Paramilitary model of police and police professionalism. The Police Studies: The International Review of Police Development 4:67–78.

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    This article provides a general overview of the early history of policing and its relation to a military model for organizational construction. It provides a detailed discussion comparing specific functions of military organizations, as well as individual soldiers, with the expectations of police organizations and individual officers. Each of these comparisons are then used to discuss the police effectiveness.

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  • Balko, R. 2013. Rise of the warrior cop: The militarization of America’s police forces. New York: PublicAffairs.

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    This book argues that politics and policy have resulted in an increase in the use of SWAT in American policing. It used, however, a selection of anecdotal stories to describe the deleterious impact of the political shift toward aggressive enforcement tactics.

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  • Beck, G. N. 1972. Los Angeles Police Department: SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics teams). FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 41:8–10.

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    This article provides a historical examination of the development of police SWAT units. It is helpful for anyone who wants to compare current standards of police tactical units with their original framework.

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  • Bernstein, S., L. Cooper, E. Currie, et al. 1977. The iron fist and the velvet glove: An analysis of the U.S. police. 2d ed. Berkeley, CA: Center for Research on Criminal Justice.

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    This book takes a Marxist criminologist approach to understanding the police role in society, arguing that coercive policing serves capitalists in a democratic society. Public services, such as helping or protecting people, mask the repressive role of the police. A section of the book suggests that SWAT teams are a refined approach to coercive policing.

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  • Bieler, S. 2016. Police militarization in the USA: The state of the field. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 39.4: 586–600.

    DOI: 10.1108/PIJPSM-03-2016-0042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a review of police militarization scholarship. It explores definitions, organizational values, influences, and the impact of a militarized approach on the police field.

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  • Campbell, D. J., and K. M. Campbell. 2009. Soldiers as police officers/police officers as soldiers: Role evolution and revolution in the United States. Armed Forces & Society 36:327–350.

    DOI: 10.1177/0095327X09335945Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors consider the adaptation of both police and the military of each other’s characteristics. The authors discuss the political, legal, management, and social implications of the convergence of role characteristics.

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  • Fisher, J. 2010. SWAT madness and the militarization of the American police: A national dilemma. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

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    This book provides a review of the use of SWAT as a tool for enforcing lower-level criminal offenses. It then examines the use of tactical units as part of the War on Drugs and the increase in the level of violence associated with SWAT units.

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  • Koslicki, W. 2017. SWAT mobilization trends: Testing assumptions of police militarization. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 40.4: 733–747.

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    This article uses time-series analysis to examine if federal grant funding can explain the growth of SWAT units in American police agencies. Contrary to what was expected, there was a decrease in the creation of new SWAT units, and a decrease in their use for narcotics raids. The research is important for those wanting to understand the evolution of SWAT teams and their relationship to notions of police militarization.

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  • Kraska, P. B. 1996. Enjoying militarism: Political/personal dilemmas in studying US police paramilitary units. Justice Quarterly 13:405–429.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418829600093031Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author provides a qualitative discussion of the socialization of officers assigned to tactical units. The article considers militarization against the notion of framing social problems as post–Cold War issues, as well as revitalizing militarism in popular culture.

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  • Kraska, P. B. 2007. Militarization and policing: Its relevance to 21st century police. Policing 1:501–513.

    DOI: 10.1093/police/pam065Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author provides a discussion of the distinctions between militarism and militarization, and examines the blurred lines between the police and military. He argues that the changing nature of modern policing accounts for the shift toward an increased use of military tools and tactics in law enforcement.

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  • Kraska, P. B., ed. 2001. Militarizing the American criminal justice system: The changing roles of the armed forces and the police. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

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    This book offers several chapters addressing militarization from various thematic frameworks, including an overall shift in criminal justice ideologies. Chapters also specifically address the militarization of the police in several contexts: for example, its function as a standard law enforcement approach, its use in community policing, and its role in changing police organizational structures.

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  • Radil, S. M., R. J. Dezzani, and L. D. McAden. 2017. Geographies of US police militarization and the role of the 1033 program. The Professional Geographer 69.2: 203–213.

    DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2016.1212666Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article examines the 1033 program, which is the primary federal government program providing surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies. The authors argue that the lines between the police and military have blurred, resulting in increased militarization at the county level. They also suggest that the presence of SWAT units does not explain the increase in militarization.

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Theoretical Discussions

A variety of works have examined police militarization from a conceptual or theoretical perspective. Waddington 1987, an examination of militarization, and the 1993 debate between Jefferson and Waddington in the form of Jefferson 1993 and Waddington 1993, might be considered a seminal exploration of militarization in British policing. Hills 1995 then adds to this British perspective, which is complemented by the militarization scholarship being developed in the United States, such as Kappeler and Kraska 2015 and Haggerty and Ericson 1999. Comparative discussions of militarization can also be found in Herzog 2001. Interestingly, the debate about precisely how to define and describe police militarization continued with the recent work den Heyer 2014 and the response Kappeler and Kraska 2015. Most recently, discussions of national security (Hill and Beger 2009) and the police need to overcome resistance (McMichael 2017) are considered as explanations for police militarization.

  • den Heyer, G. 2014. Mayberry revisited: A review of the influence of police paramilitary units on policing. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 24:346–361.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2013.784304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines prior studies of police paramilitary units and counters the narrative that policing has become more militarized. It suggests that the move toward a militarized approach to public safety is the result of an increase in professionalization. Further, it is suggested that a militarized approach is simply a natural progression as policing evolves.

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  • Haggerty, K. D., and R. V. Ericson. 1999. The militarization of policing in the information age. JPMS: Journal of Political and Military Sociology 27.2: 233–255.

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    The authors examine the technological advancements used by military organizations. They argue that the extensive tasks of policing, and their need to demonstrate effectiveness in these tasks, justify institutionalizing military technologies in local police agencies.

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  • Herzog, S. 2001. Militarization and demilitarization processes in the Israeli and American police forces: Organizational and social aspects. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 11.2: 181–208.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2001.9964861Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article considers militarization as more than an issue of appearance, but an ideological framework for police agencies. It considers the increasing militarization in the United States, and compares the demilitarization of policing in Israel. The article will be helpful to those examining the issue from a theoretical perspective.

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  • Hill, S., and R. Beger. 2009. A paramilitary policing juggernaut. Social Justice 36:25–40.

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    The authors consider theoretical explanations for the increase in militarization in the United States. It is suggested that aspects of globalization have shifted the focus on police from a local law enforcement function to a national security role. It is also contended that the policies of American policing will encourage this shift in other nations.

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  • Hills, A. 1995. Militant tendencies. British Journal of Criminology 35:450–458.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjc.a048526Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author first attempts to define police militarism, suggesting that the term is more than a simple metaphor for how the police appear. Rather, the police as a paramilitary organization, with an increased use of military tools, is a domestic substitute for full-time military units.

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  • Jefferson, T. 1993. Pondering paramilitarism: A question of standpoints. British Journal of Criminology 33.3: 374–381.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjc.a048331Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author is engaging in a debate with P. A. J. Waddington regarding the definition, fact, and viewpoint of police militarism (Waddington 1993).

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  • Kappeler, V. E., and P. B. Kraska. 2015. Normalising police militarisation, living in denial. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 25:268–275.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2013.864655Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article offers a response to den Heyer’s examination of police militarization. The authors discuss the theoretical, temporal, and causal errors they find in den Heyer’s critique (den Heyer 2014).

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  • Kraska, P. B. 1999. Militarizing criminal justice: Exploring the possibilities. Journal of Political and Military Sociology 27:205–215.

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    The essay is intended to examine the notion of martial concepts and terms in contemporary criminal justice discussions. It reviews the impact of militarization on modern policing, and suggests that this approach is intended to enhance the security and social control functions of government.

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  • McMichael, C. 2017. Pacification and police: A critique of the police militarization thesis. Capital & Class 41.1: 115–132.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309816816678569Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article critiques the police militarization narrative, questioning the notion that the police/military lines are blurring. The author suggests that a society’s capacity for war-making and police power now overlap as a means to pacify a society.

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  • Waddington, P. A. J. Winter 1987. Towards paramilitarism? Dilemmas in policing civil disorder. British Journal of Criminology 27.1: 37–46.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjc.a047650Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article discusses the police paramilitary response to civil disorder. It is suggested that a tactical response in these incidents threatens police legitimacy, and may lead to allegations of brutality and biased policing.

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  • Waddington, P. A. J. 1993. The case against paramilitary policing considered. British Journal of Criminology 33:353–370.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjc.a048330Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author is engaging in a debate with T. Jefferson regarding the latter’s scholarship critiquing paramilitary policing.

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National Risk

The notion that policing now includes aspects of militarization has been conceptualized in relation to globalization. It is suggested that increased movement across borders, international terrorism, and the human migration patterns have increased risk in various nation-states. These factors, it is argued, have resulted in blurred lines between the roles played by domestic policing and military protection. Greener-Barcham 2007 suggests that the blurred lines are more theoretical then empirical. Lutterbeck 2005, however, indicates that the historic disconnect between internal policing and a military focused on external needs is shifting back to a melded relationship. Lutterbeck 2006 suggests that human smuggling across European countries contributes to the blended roles of the police and the military. These perceived threats to national security allow governments to act in ways that would normally be considered extraordinary (McCulloch 2004).

  • Greener-Barcham, B. K. 2007. Crossing the green or blue line? Exploring the military–police divide. Small Wars and Insurgencies 18.1: 90–112.

    DOI: 10.1080/09592310601173246Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article suggests that the post–Cold War and post–September 11th world environment has conflated the security demands of the police and the military. The author argues that while there are areas of policing and military roles that are similar, such as the need for security in extraordinary situations, the actual beliefs and tasks of these groups remain distinct.

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  • Lutterbeck, D. 2005. Blurring the dividing line: The convergence of internal and external security in Western Europe. European Security 14.2: 231–253.

    DOI: 10.1080/09662830500336193Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that the traditional separation of policing and military duties was the result of modern nation-state societies. The erosion of the distinctions between the police and military is taking place because of the cross-border world, which reduces the distinction between internal and external demands for security.

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  • Lutterbeck, D. 2006. Policing migration in the Mediterranean: Essay. Mediterranean Politics 11.1: 59–82.

    DOI: 10.1080/13629390500490411Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, the author suggests that transnational migration and human smuggling increase the risk to European nations, particularly in the Mediterranean region. These nontraditional external threats call for a law enforcement response more than military action. Still, the tools needed by the police to deal with this type of security risk require military hardware and tactics.

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  • McCulloch, J. 2004. Blue armies, khaki police and the cavalry on the new American frontier: Critical criminology for the 21st century. Critical Criminology 12.3: 309–326.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10612-004-3892-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author discusses the impact of the 2001 terrorist attacks as precursors to a blending of internal and external security tasks of the police and the military. It is suggested that fear is used amplify security risks, and political freedom is traded for safety, justifying the blending of police and military responsibilities.

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Empirical Assessments

A few works explore the size and scope of militarism within police agencies. In the United States, aspects of militarization in police agencies serving smaller jurisdictions (Kraska and Cubellis 1997) and mid-to-larger cities (Kraska and Kappeler 1997) were studied. Kraska and Paulsen 1997 used a mixed-methods approach for an in-depth understanding of militarism in policing. Two Canadian studies, Roziere and Walby 2017a and Roziere and Walby 2017b, suggest that features of militarism may contribute to policing tactics, but may not be important to police culture. While Waddington 1999 is not empirical, it is a direct critique of Kraska and Paulsen 1997, which led to the retort Kraska 1999. Turner and Fox 2017 explores the opinions of police executives and legislators to better understand the views of those who directly impact the issue on officers and the public.

  • Kraska, P. B. 1999. Questioning the militarization of U.S. police: Critical versus advocacy scholarship. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 9:141–155.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.1999.9964809Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay is a response to Waddington 1999, which commented that militarization is more in appearance than in substance. The author suggests that Waddington’s critique misunderstands key concepts related to militarism as well as the social-political framework that supports the argument that policing has become more militarized.

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  • Kraska, P. B., and L. J. Cubellis. 1997. Militarizing Mayberry and beyond: Making sense of American paramilitary policing. Justice Quarterly 14:607–629.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418829700093521Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The study measured the use of paramilitary units in police agencies serving smaller communities. The authors argue that this increased use of a militarized approach in policing is related to the original military approach to organizing police agencies, as well as the War on Drugs and the popularity of militarization in society. They also suggest that state-sanctioned violence is more accepted in modern democracy.

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  • Kraska, P. B., and V. E. Kappeler. 1997. Militarizing American police: The rise and normalization of paramilitary units. Social Problems 44:1–18.

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    The authors measure the use of paramilitary units in police agencies serving mid-to-larger cities. They suggest that the diffusion of these units is related to the normalization of violence in policing and a relationship between the police and military. They also propose that these units are somewhat hidden behind the suggested increase in community policing.

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  • Kraska, P. B., and D. J. Paulsen. 1997. Grounded research into U.S. paramilitary policing: Forging the iron fist inside the velvet glove. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 7:253–270.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.1997.9964777Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors use a multi-methods approach to examine the use of paramilitary police units in a single police organization. They found several cultural dimensions, including a militaristic culture and preoccupation with danger, as likely drivers toward the increased use of paramilitary units to deal with tasks normally handled by patrol officers.

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  • Roziere, B., and K. Walby. 2017a. The expansion and normalization of police militarization in Canada. Critical Criminology 26.1: 29–48.

    DOI: 10.1007/s1061Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article demonstrates that in Canada SWAT units are increasingly used for routine police activities such as warrant work, community policing, and domestic disturbances.

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  • Roziere, B., and K. Walby. 2017b. Police militarization in Canada: Media rhetoric and operational realities. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice.

    DOI: 10.1093/police/pax075Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors define militarization using police cultural dimensions. Analyzing the discourse of police and media outlets, they conclude that arguments of militarization are not well supported.

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  • Turner, F. W., and B. H. Fox. 2017. Public servants or police soldiers? An analysis of opinions on the militarization of policing from police executives, law enforcement, and members of the 114th Congress US House of Representatives. Police Practice and Research 1–17.

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    This article collected data from members of the US House of Representatives, police executives, and local officers regarding their opinion of police militarization. While there were favorable views of this approach by officers and policymakers, there were differences between members of Congress and law enforcement in oversight of procurement programs, application of the military-style equipment to street-level events, and overall support for militarization.

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  • Waddington, P. A. J. 1999. Swatting police paramilitarism: A comment on Kraska and Paulsen. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 9:125–141.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.1999.9964808Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author addresses the empirical research suggesting a shift toward police militarism. It is proposed that the research findings are indicative of changes in appearance rather than substance.

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Impact on Crime

It is somewhat surprising that the issue of a militarized police framework has only recently been assessed as a crime-control tool. Klinger and Rojek 2008 gathered data from police agencies to better understand the use of SWAT teams. Bove and Gavrilova 2017, as well as Delehanty, et al. 2017, utilized national-level data on the distribution of military aid from the federal government to local police agencies. Findings suggest a relationship between increased aid and reductions in crime and violence. Yet research using local-level data in Buffalo, such as Kim, et al. 2016 and Phillips, et al. 2016, does not support the utility of using SWAT teams as a crime reduction tactic.

  • Bove, V., and E. Gavrilova. 2017. Police officer on the frontline or a soldier? The effect of police militarization on crime. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 9.3: 1–18.

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    This study examined the impact of surplus military equipment used in policing and its impact on crime rates. Using a quasi-experimental research design, the findings indicate that military aid reduces street-level crime and provides a deterrent effect. The research can be helpful to those using a macro-level assessment of the utility of military equipment on crime.

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  • Delehanty, C., J. Mewhirter, R. Welch, and J. Wilks. 2017. Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program. Research & Politics 4.2: 1–7.

    DOI: 10.1177/2053168017712885Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the relationship between the equipment accessed via the federal government’s 1033 program and officer-involved shootings. The authors found significant relationships in all their models.

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  • Kim, D. Y., S. W. Phillips, and A. P. Wheeler. 2016. Using “symbolic” SWAT raids as a crime reduction strategy: Are their effects “instrumental” in nature? Criminal Justice Policy Review.

    DOI: 10.1177/0887403416664567Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article provides an empirical examination of the deterrence effect of using SWAT teams for drug raids. Results show no evidence of a deterrent effect on drug arrests and calls for service. SWAT intervention, however, indicated an abrupt and temporary decrease in street crimes involving property. This research can be helpful for those examining deterrence policies and programs.

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  • Klinger, D. A., and J. Rojek. 2008. Multi-method study of special weapons and tactics teams. NIJ # 223855. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

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    This report provides descriptive survey results from a random sample of American police agencies regarding the use of SWAT teams, as well as the policies and equipment related to those units. The information would be helpful for those seeking to understand the makeup of tactical units.

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  • Phillips, S. W., A. Wheeler, and D. Y. Kim. 2016. The effect of police paramilitary unit raids on crime at micro-places in Buffalo, New York. International Journal of Police Science & Management 18:206–219.

    DOI: 10.1177/1461355716660568Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors examine the use of SWAT teams as a means of deterring crime in areas with homes known for drug dealing. The findings indicate a short-term deterrent effect on Part 1 crimes, but calls for service and drug arrests increased. It is suggested that citizens may be motivated to contact the police after seeing SWAT raids, which resulted in the increased calls and drug arrests.

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Legal Discussions

While there are a few legal journal articles exploring militarization included here, there are many others that are available. Dansky 2016; Denbeaux, et al. 2014; and Endebak 2014 focus on the federal government’s 1033 program. The overall themes of these articles suggest an evolution in policing, including an expectation that police to deal with drugs and violence, which serves as a justification for using military-style equipment to reduce the risks involved in some aspects of policing. There is also the notion that military-style equipment has contributed to a shifting role in policing, one that moves away from a community policing focus, toward a traditional “law enforcement” approach, and even toward a more questionable surveillance role.

  • Dansky, K. 2016. Local democratic oversight of police militarization. Harvard Law & Policy Review 10:59–75.

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    This is a legal review providing a historical context to the development of SWAT units. It argues that the War on Drugs has contributed to militarization. The author then suggests that local police executives have accessed federal programs that incentivize the use of surplus military equipment.

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  • Denbeaux, M., J. Dack, D. Gallivan, L. Morgan, J. Stepp, and J. Wirtshafter. 2014. Costs and consequences of arming America’s law enforcement with combat equipment. Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 2492321.

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    This legal report provides an extensive examination of the various federal grant programs providing funding or equipment to police agencies. This paper would be helpful to those wanting more understanding of how federal funding has contributed to the shift toward a military and surveillance role of local police agencies.

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  • Endebak, J. A. 2014. More bang for their buck: How federal dollars are militarizing American law enforcement. John Marshall Law Review 47:1479–1506.

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    This is a legal review of the federal grants that incentivize the use of military tools in policing. It assesses how these tools have created a shift in policing, and discusses reforms that may move the police toward a more traditional role.

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Patrol Rifles

The issue of police patrol rifles as a component of militarization requires an expanded conception of the issue. As mentioned in Herzog 2001, and by Hills 1995 (cited under Theoretical Discussions), the issue of militarization, because it is poorly defined, commonly focuses on the appearance of the police. Patrol rifles (e.g., AR-15 and M-16 rifles) possess a military-style appearance. In fact, a report by the federal government suggested that police officers carrying patrol rifles as a part of the police response during the public protests in Ferguson, Missouri, caused the public to believe the military had taken over the streets. Phillips 2016a, Phillips 2016b, and Phillips and Jarvis 2017 comprise the only available scholarship dealing with patrol rifles. These works provide a conceptual discussion of the justification for the police to deploy with patrol rifles, a theoretical examination of the diffused use of these firearms across American law enforcement agencies, and a descriptive study of police agency policy related to these weapons.

  • Phillips, S. W. 2016a. Myths, militarism and the police patrol rifle. Policing & Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 26:185–196.

    DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2014.922088Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author provides a review of policing myths (e.g., crime fighting, danger) and the increased justification for police paramilitary units as a logical argument for allowing stress-level officers to deploy with patrol rifles (i.e., military-style assault rifles). The article would be helpful to anyone seeking an understanding of policing evolution and their assumed rule in modern society.

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  • Phillips, S. W. 2016b. Military-style weapons in policing: A limited test of diffusion theory. Administrative Theory & Praxis 38:168–187.

    DOI: 10.1080/10841806.2016.1173943Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article provides an empirical examination of the application of patrol rifles in policing using diffusion theory to explain their place in policing. Findings suggest that police agencies adopt patrol rifles through a learning process, but there may be some level of imitation in the diffusion process.

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  • Phillips, S. W., and J. P. Jarvis. 2017. The police patrol rifle: Training standards in American law enforcement agencies. International Journal of Police Science and Management 19.2: 72–80.

    DOI: 10.1177/1461355717695321Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using a large nonrandom sample of police agencies from across the United States, the authors examined training and other policies related to the use of patrol rifles in policing. Findings indicate that 95 percent of police agencies allow street officers to deploy with patrol rifles, and training is more likely provided internally, or by another local police agency.

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Reports

An important source of understanding for police militarization at the macro-level is a small number of reports provided by the government or public interest groups. These reports complement the theoretical and empirical research, but also provide an opportunity to consider the somewhat jaundiced information in the public sphere. The descriptive information provided by Dansky, et al. 2014, like several of the empirical studies listed earlier, does not provide a clear definition of police militarization. The outcomes, however, offer a comparison to Klinger and Rojek 2008 (cited under Impact on Crime). The Institute for Intergovernmental Research offers a thorough and comprehensive examining of the police response to the public protests in Ferguson, Missouri. It gathered information from the public, media, and the police to better understand the behavior of each group during the protests. The US Senate hearing document Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement provided a distinct political view in some of the written statements, but also included frank perspectives from policing experts. Finally, the report from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing places police militarization within the larger framework of American policing in general.

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