Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Militarization of Nashville Police: who are we trying to keep safe?

"If it were not for hope the heart would break."
 John Ray
The Metro Council voted unanimously on September 6, 2016, to provide $1 million to Nashville police for new military-style armor, flack jackets and helmets. Of course, we want our police to be safe if events unfold in Nashville like they have in so many other places. 

At the same time we are also concerned about the “militarization” of the Nashville police. What message are we sending to our citizens and how do we provide the best protection and safety for not only police officers but for all of our citizens? 

The police may be seen as preparing for a gun battle that may never happen, much like our highly armed United States military attempts to illustrate to the world that we can withstand any amount of force by spending billions of our dollars on the military. More recently, the U.S. has entered other countries, intervening in their local difficulties. Some think this is the way to protect our country against terrorists. But, when do we become active terrorists toward not only other countries but toward our own citizens? Violence can beget violence. 

The Council’s vote on this measure may be only a first step toward buying other military machines that many states proudly sport.

What kind of message does this send our children and grandchildren when the police dress in this new armor for all sorts of public events? Battle gear sends a strong message that we are assuming there will be violence even though some believe that these visuals will decrease violence.
Police are here to protect and serve. Instead we will see them ready for war. How many more black and brown children and adults will be killed as a result? 

Black Lives Matter states that “militarized weaponry... will only widen the racial divide and create massive distrust of police...” ( legislation-to-militarize-nashville-police?bucket=) Why use this money in this way? 

The ACLU states that: “Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform ‘normal’ police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence... [they] found that SWAT teams, which were originally devised as special responders for emergency situations, are deployed for drug searches more than they are for all other purposes...” ( issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/police-militarization) Let’s return to a more collaborative, less dangerous style of policing. 

After the recent Metro Council meeting, WPLN reported that Black Lives Matter protesters sported signs with, “Where is my jacket?” How will we protect our citizens from our militarized police? 

The Mayor and the Metro Council may be trying to make excellent decisions for the community to improve Nashville’s health and well-being. But, let’s not fool ourselves that while we are trying to prevent violence, we may actually be promoting more violence instead of de-escalating highly tense and potentially tragic situations.