Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Serve and Protect: The Militarization of Police Forces in the U.S.

The re-imaged version of Battlestar Galactica serves as one my favorite TV shows of all time. I appreciate the show for many of the same reasons that many others have stated -- the depth of character and relationship development; the exploration of various responses to complex interests and ideologies; and the ethical dilemmas raised, regarding the responsibilities of people serving in competing roles in civil society. However, this last reason probably intrigues me the most. An exchange between Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) provides a classic example of this. In this scene (Moore & Grabiak, 2005), President Roslin suggested that since the admiral had people under his command who possessed weapons and the knowledge to use them that the military should police the fleet, during their collective journey, across space, in search of a new planetary home. Adama's reply included: "there's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state; the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

Of course, two of the basic societal questions that underlie this answer, include: how much freedom do people have to sacrifice for safety and will the sacrifice of freedom actually result in the establishment of more or less safety. For example, people in the United States have seen an increase in the militarization of police forces, across the country, especially since the 9/11 attacks (Horne, 2014; Shackford, 2014). Arguably, people have allowed or even invited this to happen, as a hopeful response, to increase the overall safety within the country. However, journalists have reported, with increasing regularity, about SWAT teams, armed with automatic weapons and dressed in full body armor, who have entered homes, with "no knock" warrants, for transgressions of lesser and lesser magnitude. Certainly, in situations where enemies of the state hide among the citizens of the state, the role of the military becomes clouded; since we need the military (and maybe members of the federal law enforcement establishment) to defend the state from those domestically located enemies. However, if we continue to militarize the police and, as a result, they increasingly view everyday citizens as potential enemies; who will stand with these everyday citizens and serve to protect them, their freedom, and their interests?


Horne, M. (2014, August 14).  USA Today tries to blame Ferguson riots on police militarization. Political Outcast. Retrieved from

Moore, R. D. (Writer), & Grabiak, M. (Director). (2005). Water [Television series episode]. On R. D. Moore and D. Eick (Executive producers), Battlestar Galactica. Universal City, CA: Universal Television.

Shackford, S. (2014, August 14). Obama speaks on Ferguson events; has nothing to say about police militarization. Reason. Retrieved from


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