It’s not just libertarians who believe that police have become militarized. It’s police themselves. Last week, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite told his city council that he sees himself as a “soldier in an army” and his police force as “paramilitary organization” that is preparing for “battle.”
With the issue of police militarization still hot after the heavily-militarized response by the Ferguson, Missouri police, Hite’s comments come across as remarkably insensitive to the political climate. When asked by a city councilmember whether the police department needed a $29 million tax increase to fund its expansion, the police chief was terrifyingly blunt:
“I’m going to say something very candid to you my good friend, Councilman Robinson. As a 36-year veteran of law enforcement, never in my career have I seen public safety been politicized the way it has been in this country. Why I say that is because we have historically been a paramilitary organization…. I don’t know what we would do if we had to go to battle, and we had to make a determination, based on past practices, whether or not we wanted to go into battle. … I am a soldier in an army. We serve you in that way.” (2:39:00)
Let’s catalog these comments away for the next time there’s a large scale public disturbance in Indianapolis and see how the police force responds. The Rise of the Warrior Cop, to use the title of Radley Balko’s book, has not gone unnoticed within law enforcement. Rather, it has been encouraged and indeed used to justify an ever-expanding amount of resources being devoted to fighting various “wars” on citizens, whether in the name of eliminating “guns,” drugs, or terrorism.
Hite’s comments were also out-of-touch given the local news events as well. Two Indianapolis police officers were arrested just this month for beating a man unconscious outside a bar. Hite was reported to have said at a news conference that “days like this make us wonder how we’ve lost our way.” Given the stated ethos of his department, I, for one, am no longer wondering.
William Norman Grigg at the Pro-Liberate blog wrote about the incident this week, breaking down the relationship between the police department and the rampant abuse of civil asset forfeiture in Indianapolis. Hite’s predecessor was forced to resign after his department destroyed a blood sample of a drunk officer who killed a motorcyclist and injured to others. Hite formerly reigned over the notoriously deadly City of Baltimore, which earned him a job in Indianapolis.