Last time I blogged about the use of pepper spray at UC Davis and about how that fits into larger trends in the use of pain compliance techniques. After that, a friend sent me a great Huffington Post article framing these incidents in terms of related trends in the use of SWAT teams and in the militarization of police. In it, Balko discusses the wide and unnecessary use of SWAT teams in searching premises where non-violent suspects are thought to be, as well as the use of SWAT teams to apprehend non-violent suspects. The grisly details of the raids really bring home the power of the state. For instance, Balko notes that it is routine for SWAT teams to shoot and kill all dogs on a property they are raiding. Imagine having your house raided (for cause or because the cops got someone else’s address wrong) and they kill your dog while they are at it? He also discusses the use of tazer’s, which are often used when a firearm would never even be considered. He notes that a number of law-abiding citizens are killed each year when tazered. None of this even gets to the psychological damage of being held at gun point.
So, what do I make of this? I think it is another sign that we need to consider the actual punishment that is in practice handed out during policing. If we could not sentence someone to something after being convicted of a crime, it makes one wonder why we can take those actions against almost anyone whenever they interact with police. This is ever more important where protesters are concerned since until otherwise proven, they are engaged in protected first amendment activity.