It is an oxymoron to use the term Militarized Police! The military is to defend the citizens of the nation and the borders of the nation from organized, armed aggression on the level of some entity that has organized command structure and is probably supported in part or whole by an outside body. The military is to be the defense of the citizens against even its own national level government if need be.
On the other hand the police are to keep the peace in the communities that they serve. That is why they were called peace officers originally. They were to be men that were deemed fair and just and honorable. They were trusted by the persons of a specific location to protect the persons, property and interests of that community. They were to ensure that the spirit of the law was applied appropriately in all instances. They were the first contact with the justice system and it was intended that in most cases they be the only contact one had.
Seeing on TV the ‘old’ shows where peace officers did a lot of just talking to parties involved in a situation and then sending them on their separate ways was not just for TV it reflected the reality of life in that period. Yes, those same ‘old’ TV shows would also show the peace officers ready to use force in extreme situations, but never as a first response. When they approached an incident they seemed to assess it and enter with confidence but not arrogance. They spoke with those involved with a calm authoritative tone but not barking orders and yelling. Their job was keeping the peace and they knew it and valued it. Most importantly they were men of and from and in the community.
How can you be a truly effective and trusted peace officer of a people that you do not respect enough to be a member of their community. When you drive two or more towns/cities away for your ‘job’ as a peace officer and spend your shift trying to keep peace with people that do not know you, so they cannot respect you cause you are truly not part of their community, it does not matter how well intended your motives are you will fail more often than you will succeed. This is a primary reason that elected officials have to reside in the community/district that they represent the conclusion being that it is their community too and they will do what is best for THEIR community. It should be a more obvious need when it comes to those public servants, peace officers and teachers that have a more direct impact on the daily health of a community. When this is not the case as with most communities in this nation, especially poorer ones, there is a division. Those public servants are seen as outsiders not as part of the community. Thus to increase your success rate you have to go from being a peace officer helping the community live in the spirit of the law to being a police officer enforcing the letter of the law!
That truth was evident during the unrest in Ferguson last week. When the overwhelmed, police officers of the Ferguson Police Force tried to handle the situation they had no option, in their mind for success, other than to make sure their understanding of the letter of the law be enforced strictly and swiftly. That led to even more unrest, however, when the State Troopers were brought in under the command of a man whom had grown up in the community there was less unrest. That fact was cause the members of the community could look at that Officer and say he is one of us, he is from here, he knows and understands us.
But there is more to it than simply having the peace officers of a community be from the community. That is a huge start though. Next, it is important for the community to be proactive in being part of the spirit of the law of the community as well. The health of a community depends on ALL members of the community participating in all the activities of the community. The healthiest communities are the ones where there is NO them and us, but EVERYONE is US! The members of the community have to engage the public servants as well, not violently or only when something happens, but every day. If you have a concern about something on your block stop the patrol officer and talk to him about it, learn what they can and can’t do about it, ask how can WE fix it. Go into the schools and ask how you can help. Say hello to your neighbors. Speak to the shop keepers. Suggest ways that churches or sports teams or civic groups can assist those that can’t, for what ever reason, help themselves. Most important DO NOT be afraid to be the good example in your own neighborhood!