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Washington and Lee Law Review Online

Abstract

We are at the dawn of a new era of policing in the United States. In recent months, images of armed police officers patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and of a toddler burned by a Georgia SWAT team’s grenade have been indelibly branded into America’s social consciousness. There is a unique bipartisan outcry from Washington in a time otherwise marked by bitter political divides. Politicians and journalists alike are questioning the efficacy of a militaristic police force and the path that led to this shift in the paradigm of policing.

This Essay examines the how and why of police militarization in the United States; it details some of the most egregious instances of police overreach, mission creep, and proliferation of military-style police units treating citizens as an enemy population. It seems all is quiet in Congress after a few seemingly futile hearings on militarization. The Executive Branch has released suggestions that are expected to manifest in an executive order any day. Unfortunately, all of these solutions are too little, too late. The streets of America are much more akin to a war zone than the democratic nation that our Founders envisioned, and it is up to the people, at a local level, to reclaim what was intended.

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