The Paradox of Police Militarization



St. Louis County Police (From Johns Hopkins Magazine/ Bret McCabe)

聖路易斯警察 (取自Johns Hopkins Magazine / Bret McCabe)


Militarized police is often associated with “paramilitary”, though militarized police is considered paramilitary, paramilitary is a much boarder term and includes other unarmed disciplined units and services.  An example would be the Hong Kong Government Flying Service or the Hong Kong Fire Department.



Militarized police strictly refers to police forces with equipment and tactics on par with the military, including stun grenades, lethal and less-lethal firearms and sometimes tear gas.   Police officers given with military grade equipment and trainings are often tasked to tackle violent confrontations with criminals, like armed drug dealers or terrorists. Depending on the situation, sometimes riot police are also given said equipment to trainings to handle protests, demonstrations or riots.


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Two West German policemen in the Munich Massacre (AP)

慕尼黑慘案中的兩名西德警員 (AP)


In 4th Generation Warfare, tactics like terrorism rose and it became necessary for some police to become militarized to fight a war without borders and frontlines.  One of the most recognized, renowned elite tactical unit, GSG9, of the German Federal Police, was established after the Munich Massacre, which the German police failed to tackle due to their lack of training and equipment in anti-terrorism situations, resulting in 17 casualties.  Truly a heartbreaking lesson that taught people the importance to the militarization of police.


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A black person surrendering to armed police (AP / Jeff Roberson)


Though police are militarized to better maintain order and to protect the community, some concern that the drift towards militarization will damage the relationship between the police and the community they are supposed to protect.  Karl Bickel, an senior policy analyst of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in the US, wrote that military-like trainings, deep coloured battle dress worn and a “warrior” mindset instead of a “protector” mindset, could alienate them from their community, and promotes a dominating, “us vs them” approach of law enforcement.  According to the Reuters in 2010, a group of police raided 40 barber shops in Orlando, Florida, and arrested almost three dozens of people of colour without announcement or warrants. The police participated in the raids drew the guns against the innocent barbers and brought along police dogs, and some wore masks to hide their identity.

將警察軍事化的原意的確是為了能更有效地保障國民的生命和財產,但亦有聲音認為這趨勢對警民關係弊大於利。美國社區警政署資深政策分析師Karl Bickel認為軍事式訓練、深色戰鬥服和警員所抱「戰士」而非「衛士」的心態會令警方和他們所保護的社區關係疏離,以及強烈的「不是你死就是我活」的二元思考模式。據路透社報導,在2010年的美國佛羅里達州奧蘭多市,一群警員在沒有搜查令,沒有事前通知的情況下強行攻進40間理髮店,無理逮捕逾三十名有色人種。其實,相關警員曾以槍械指嚇,又有戴上面罩,令其身份難以識辨。


What do you think?  It is important for the police to have better weapons and trainings to tackle serious criminal offenses? Or is it more important to build trust between the police and the community through community policing? Or is there a way to achieve the best of both worlds?




Extensive reading: Community Policing in Hong Kong by Hong Kong Police College