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Radley Balko: “Why We Need To Stop Exaggerating The Threat To Cops”

Yesterday on his blog The Agitator, investigative journalist Radley Balko discussed the “war on cops” hysteria that has surfaced again after the recent murders of two prosecutors and a sheriff.  Balko has examined this claim before and has demonstrated that it is baseless.

Aside from being fraudulent, the theory that there is a “war on cops” in the US encourages further militarization of the police and makes it harder to hold officers accountable, according to Balko. Perhaps most dangerous, is the effect the idea has on police mindset. Balko explains:

But there’s a more pernicious effect of exaggerating the threat to police officers. In researching my forthcoming book, I interviewed lots of police officers, police administrators, criminologists and others connected to the field of law enforcement. There was a consensus among these people that constantly telling cops how dangerous their jobs are is affecting their mindset. It reinforces the soldier mentality already relentlessly drummed into cops’ heads by politicians’ habit of declaring “war” on things. Browse the online bulletin boards at sites like PoliceOne (where users must be credentialed law enforcement to comment), and you’ll see a lot of hostility toward everyone who isn’t in law enforcement, as well as various versions of the sentiment “I’ll do whatever I need to get home safe at night.” That’s a mantra that speaks more to self-preservation than public service.

Radley Balko is doing more than his share to enlighten people on this issue. He is also one of the foremost experts on police militarization in the US.  His book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, is due out in July.