The problem with cops in camo

Why would police officers, as in those in Ferguson, Missouri, wear green camoflage jungle fatigues?  If it’s necessary to hide from urban bad guys, they should wear black, grey, and dirty white camoflage so as to blend in with asphalt, concrete, and dilapidated houses.  (Like this.)  The answer, of course, is that since most of our military’s fighting these days requires desert camoflage,  our government unloaded the jungle pattern for police departments and whoever else wants them.  So now the police are purposefully dressing up to look like soldiers.  This signifies a confusion of vocation.The problem with the militarization of the police is not just the military-grade weaponry.  I don’t want to begrudge the police the firepower they need if Mexican Drug Lords and ISIS come to town. If the police wore their usual uniforms–with bullet-proof vests and head protection as needed–the effect would not be so unsettling.

What bothers citizens of all persuasion is the primal fear of all free societies, that the nation’s honored military would be turned against its own citizens.  That is what happens in a dictatorship.  For this reason, the United States has a law against the military being used against civil disturbances.  When local police dress up like soldiers, the perception–indeed, the meaning–is that the community is under military occupation from its own government.

Police officers are supposed to serve and protect.  Soldiers make war on enemies.  When police are in military battledress, the message is that they are fighting a war against citizens.

The uniform is a symbol of vocation (a point that deserves a separate post).  Soldiers and cops both have their uniforms.  Cops wearing military uniforms indicates a confusion of vocation.


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