Dear Dirty America


The Sneaking Militarisation of Police

February 21
18:00 2012
Blairgowrie, Scotland

Credit: Dave Morris
For many years I have watched many public riots take place. Not only here in Britain, but in the USA. One thing that stands out is the levels of violence from both sides.
Now, I know America has a pretty violent reputation when it comes to quelling disruption. In Britain, up until relatively recently, police appeared to take a more laid back approach when dealing with rioters. There were always a few hotheaded cops who saw this as an excuse to “crack a few skulls.” These guys were, thankfully, in a tiny minority.
America is somewhat different. I can only go back as far as the early sixties. I remember watching with horror as police brutally put down protests on segregation. We here had never seen violence like that on television. How could peaceful protesters be battered bleeding to the ground for wanting equality? 

The American police used the same level of violence on students protesting about the Vietnam war. They seemed to be immune from any type of prosecution! 

We had lots of huge marches. Like, Ban the Bomb, Poll Tax, Miners Strike etc. Oh, there was some violence. But not on the horrific scale of the American police action. Mostly they were policed in a good-natured way. Almost a mutual respect.
In the US, there was mutual hatred. 

In the 1970s, there was an upsurge in strikes. Mostly in automotive industries. But by the late 70s almost every union in the country was on strike. This brought a change in the relationship between police and protesters.  Much more anger, on both sides.
The 1984 coal miners strike was the time when this relationship broke down completely. This pitted town against town. Village against village. Street against street. Brother against brother. The few men who wanted to work versus the majority who didn’t. This was a poisonous and toxic mixture. 

Policing of this ruinous strike was more brutal than anything which had gone before. The police went in with batons drawn, and they used them. Hand to hand fighting was common. What strikes me, looking back, is that the police still wore their normal uniforms. No special gear at all.

In America, the police were starting to have specialist units to deal with every event. There was starting to be a more paramilitary look about their uniform. Quite a sinister look! I used to say, “that could never happen in Britain.”

Credit: Dave Morris

Riots in London, usually hijacked by unwashed, bedraggled, dope smoking tree-huggers who in turn were hijacked by anarchists who made the tree-huggers look bad, were policed by what looked like Robocop! Dressed in all black, with armour underneath. Large metal batons, modeled on US police clubs were swung indiscriminately at the nearest head or arm. This was more like all out war on the protesters.

Of course some the protesters were far from innocent, but the police were out for blood!

Here in Scotland, I’ve noticed that most normal police officers are wearing a uniform which looks more paramilitary than friendly. Older people think they look menacing. Of course, that might be the whole idea!

So here we are in 2012, with police, not just in Britain and America, but worldwide, looking more like the army than the police I used to know. At one time only dictatorships had their police looking like this. Now so called civilised democracies have the same look.

We should be worried, very worried, at this sneaking militarisation of the police. Speak up and speak out before doing so becomes a crime!

Michael J Blair can be reached at:

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