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Police starting to protect and serve themselves

By Steven Beynon

Police used to look like Andy Griffith, now they look like SEAL Team Six.

On combat patrols in Afghanistan, I would carry a rifle with optics, at least 210 rounds of ammunition, zip ties, eye protection, body armor, a grenade and a helmet. Police in Ferguson Missouri looked shockingly similar as they attacked civilians and journalists alike in protests that followed the incident in which a white cop in that town killed an unarmed black man while he was allegedly surrendering.

We don't have the full story as to why Darren Wilson shot unarmed Michael Brown as many times as Dr. Loomis shot Michael Myers. Regardless of what happened, a cop with nonlethal weapons available decided to only use lethal force.

Before the Ferguson incident, there were news reports virtually every week of police brutality or murder.

This reminds me of another incident earlier this year when Albuquerque police shot and killed James Boyd. Boyd was equipped with two camping knives, but he surrendered. He was incapacitated by their stun grenade, then shot by five cops. His crime? Illegally camping in a park.

Video of the incident showed the man on his stomach struggling to breathe as police officers unleashed a dog after him and fired bean bag rounds at him. CNN reported 26 people have been killed by police in Albuquerque since 2010.

What if Brown looked like a white Miami Oxford guy with the short salmon shorts, the silly backwards cap and Sperrys. I suspect he would still be alive, even if he walked into that store with a duffle bag and stole the whole cash register.

Over the years there has been an excess in war supplies including weapons, body armor and mine resistant vehicles. Police departments can fill out a one-page document to request these items from the government. Heck, it's so easy to get an armored vehicle the Ohio State University campus has one. No 20-year-olds are drinking Budlight on those Campus Police's watch.

When did being a cop become a job with no risk attached? Being a cop or a soldier doesn't mean being completely safe. It can't be that way. Your job is to protect and serve us, not yourself.

Most states don't require police departments to report details on SWAT deployments. According to The Washington Post, the only state that has comprehensive statistics on the use of police is Maryland. Those numbers reveal that there has been an average of 4.5 SWAT raids a day in Maryland since 2009. Ninety percent of SWAT raids were to serve warrants and half of the raids were in response to non-violent suspects. About 15 percent of the raids ended with no confiscated contraband.

Radley Balko, writer for the Washington Post and Huffington Post just released his book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Force and cites that there are 50,000 SWAT Team deployments per year as opposed to only a few hundred in the 1970's. Most of these raids are to serve warrants and to catch the guy selling weed. You don't need a trained kill team with long range rifles to get that guy, just snatch him when he goes to Taco Bell.

Right now, violent crime in the United States is at a 40-year low. The FBI classifies violent crime as, murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.The New York Times reported that your chances of being murdered is less than half of what it was in the 1990's. Maybe giving the Police too much power is to thank for that?

Yet the whole "Liberty vs. Security debate" is old.

I want the police officers around me to be able to protect me and I want to support them, but when you give someone a new toy, they want to use it. I remember when our Sniper in Afghanistan got a new rifle, he was begging the Taliban to engage us. That's a situation where it's probably ok, but don't you think any cop who wants his chance to be the hero and use his or her cool gear?

Maybe we shouldn't be as quick to give police tanks, grenade launchers, and snipers. In 2011, the FBI reported 404 civilians were killed by police. Australia sat in second place with six people killed by police. During the same time period, 412 Americans were killed in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, it's illegal to shoot someone once they are unable to fight. We have Rules of Engagement, non lethal training and we don't point rifles at peaceful civilians. We also have plans to treat wounded enemies. It took almost six hours for Michael Brown's corpse to get an EMS unit. I've seen injured Taliban get care in less than an hour.

Perhaps I'm making too many parallels to the Army. But when I see Police dress, equip and act like they're doing a military job, comparisons need to be made.

The Conservatives have been screaming for years about the expansion of an overruling government. So, where are they now? The oppressive government they fear isn't going to come with health care and a background check, it's busting down your door with no warrant, a German Shepherd and a stun grenade.