by Ivan Eland
July 26, 2016
Lately, the tactics of local police departments have been in the news because of mass shootings at Orlando and Fort Myers nightclubs, questionable police killings of civilians in suburban St. Paul and Baton Rouge, and retaliatory slayings of police in Baton Rouge and Dallas. Some commentators have argued convincingly that the militarization of police departments has caused the use of aggressive policing, which has in turn spawned counter-violence, resulting in the death of innocent police officers.
In the recent orgy of violence, one notable incident of police militarization was the jury-rigged bomb used in Dallas to kill a shooter of police. The police used C-4, a powerful military-grade explosive, that was attached to a police robot, normally used defensively to safely dispose of bombs, to offensively attack and kill the shooter. The use of such a questionable tactic was overshadowed by the deaths and funerals of the innocent slain officers.
Although before detonating the bomb, the Dallas police thought they had cleared the college building in which the shooter was sheltering; unbeknownst to them, students remained in the building. Also, in addition to the higher possibility of killing innocent bystanders than by killing the shooter with expert marksmen from a SWAT team, an even bigger danger of using a bomb is starting fires that can spread uncontrollably. In 1985, police in Philadelphia – seemingly the only other time in U.S. history that police have used a bomb against holed up criminals – dropped an explosive device from a helicopter on a house occupied by the Move group. The raging fire that ensued destroyed more than 60 homes over a multiple block area in that city.