The militarisation of the American police force is a story that has been rumbling for several years now. The US military’s overspending has led to surplus kit being sold to local, often small, police forces explaining why it looks like US cops sometimes appear dressed for combat. The consequences of this arming-up of a civilian law enforcement service have been serious and too frequently fatal.
At the same time there is an increasing awareness of how black lives are being cut short by those same armed police. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray are names that now ring with infamy. Now Keith Scott ‘s name has been added to the list. Last Tuesday Scott was killed by police, apparently without being armed and, indeed, whilst his wife was begging for police not to shoot her husband, who suffered from mental illness.
The image taken in Charlotte, where protests over the shooting brought people out onto the streets, seems to encapsulate both of these twin themes in recent American policing. The signs hanging over the heads of the advancing officers almost mocks them, and the chasm that has opened up between the police and the public they are paid to ‘serve and protect’.
The recent run of police-killings and their aftermath would be troubling enough in any year. Given this is an election year for the US, and there is a Republican candidate willing to do anything to stoke hatred and worsen division makes it an even graver concern.
Image credit: Police officers wearing riot gear block a road during protests after police fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Adam Rhew/Charlotte Magazine