A new study called on authorities to “curtail” militarized policing because it doesn’t work and targets Black communities.
Arming law enforcement officers with military equipment may look impressive to the law-and-order crowd, but it’s ineffective at decreasing crime, fails to protect officers and weakens the police’s public images—and it is totally racist.
“Taken together, these findings suggest that curtailing militarized policing may be in the interest of both police and citizens,” Jonathan Mummolo, an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, concluded in his study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The militarization of police departments became a national issue during protests over the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014. Images from the Ferguson, Missouri protests included officers in military armored vehicles ready for combat against unarmed Black demonstrators.
Former President Barack Obama issued a ban on transfers of certain military equipment to law enforcement departments. However, President Donald Trump reversed that decision in 2017 as part of his law-and-order agenda. Under Trump’s plan, police departments are allowed to receive surplus equipment that includes rocket-launchers, bayonets, armored vehicles and ammunition.
For his analysis, Mummolo created a nationwide model of nearly 9,000 law enforcement agencies. He also looked specifically at the use of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team deployments in Maryland, which is the only state that has a statute requiring every law enforcement agency to record SWAT activity.
He found that, on average, creating more SWAT teams and increasing SWAT deployments had little-to-no benefits on crime reduction or officer safety. And after controlling for social factors and local crime rates, he found that Black residents were more at risk for militarized policing than other communities.
“Given the concentration of deployments in communities of color, where trust in law enforcement and government at large is already depressed, the routine use of militarized police tactics by local agencies threatens to increase the historic tensions between marginalized groups and the state with no detectable public safety benefit,” he stated.