The Morning Joe Rebuttal For August 21, 2014
There’s been a striking amount of favorable timing not just for Radley Balko but for the principles he has been fighting for on our behalf for some time. Earlier this week I tweeted an acknowledgement of that timing in a manner so cryptic only bees and dogs may have connected with it:
Now Joe Scarborough is on the bandwagon with a moderately spacious segment given to Radley this morning to talk about militarization of our domestic policing. For good measure Scarborough even lobbed a flash grenade at the atrocious use of SWAT teams to serve low level drug warrants rampant across the country.
I obviously think they could’ve devoted an entire hour to something this important. Maybe there is some calculation afoot? Maybe the anti journalist ‘axis of evil’ criticisms Scarborough weathered over his requests that journalist submit to law enforcement regardless of their free press duties last week stung him and this was him swinging his pendulum. Mr. Scarborough can swing a pendulum, it’s a gift.
Radley Balko was via timing, (maybe) necessity, and good fortune free to connect the dots with his Morning Joe airtime. Giving heavy armor to police undermines their central manifest to protect people’s rights, and serve the public interest. It provides the wrong sort of mission creep in police ranks amplifying militaristic urges to fight an enemy rather then form a community. Balko was easily able to find a forum on his segment to connect the two key principles of militarization and misguided SWAT raid employment as both derivative of federal provision.
The SWAT raids on disproportionately low level crimes and warrants aren’t random, they are specifically driven by a horrible legacy DEA program of providing federal money to local law enforcement to make drug raids. This phenomenon is routinely exasperated by the insane inclusion of Marijuana as a Class I drug (on par with heroin, more evil than meth by one, more evil than Oxycontin by 2), meaning you motivate law enforcement even in Colorado, Washington, and the grey area capital of the world California to ‘get that money’ by raiding marijuana use. Balko in his columns over the last several years have highlighted the unsightly human toll of SWAT raid justified shooting deaths, wrong addresses with dead innocents, warrants drawn from 7th grade science projects, and flash grenades harming toddlers.
Militarization has blurred the lines between your SWAT division and your whole police force. To the naked eye, Ferguson displayed this, the whole force of Ferguson and St. Louis County can militarize on demand. They can point their weapons on the community they serve without regard to propriety. This exists everywhere in America, and it took Ferguson’s outlandish display to drive it home.
The Republican party thinks they have found their calling to re-capture hearts and minds in the 53% of America no longer trusting them. They have Rand Paul authoring multiple bills to end asset forfeiture and reduce prison populations, and penning anti-militarization op-eds in Time. And now they have Joe Scarborough making it OK for the middle of the road GOP to question police roles in the whole country.
But before you relax, 'tough on crime' isn’t done with us. We will still have all sides fear mongering to placate the police lobby, the DEA lobby (which includes Purdue Pharma), the defense industrial complex, and the gun lobby. They are likely going to do what all good lobbyists do: play both sides of an issue to prevent progress, where the status quo is profitable to them.
Mr. Scarborough is great to have provided this forum today, let's hope the coverage can resist fading. I would reasonably expect that ‘whatever it takes to take the Senate’ is the prevailing wind here, and as soon as the lobby dominated non-presidential election cycle needs him, Scarborough will be silent on MRAP’s and SWAT. I hope not.
Mr. Balko on the other hand, is celebrating the paperback release of his book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces”. You release your paperback after you have sold enough hardcovers to justify publishing. That 14 months in this case has provided proof that this book flat out predicted Ferguson, and maybe the book’s other theories should be central to police planning and control going forward.
One lingering concern was the Thomas Roberts question: “In the wake of 9/11 isnt there a segment of the population that wants this heavy armor distributed across the country, and they just don’t want to know about it?”. I’m a Thomas fan, he is appropriately impatient when people don’t make sense with their messaging in interviews. But, man, what a collection of nightmares presented as normal American inclination: 'hide the truth from me', 'I’m still in a fear prison from 9/11', and 'let’s have a secret domestic army'. Hasn’t that question been asked and answered for well over a decade? Aren’t these the results?
This was a particularly good show. The hostage and ransom panel was another gem. That's a whole other column. It’s definitely the antithesis of a slow news day. I’m even a fan of the alternative ‘cold blooded bastard/son of a bitch’ references to the President (with famous suspended President insulter Mark Halperin at the table) to respond to the latest round of vacation shaming. But then again, any day Peter King can’t commute to the set in his personal MRAP and poison another episode of Morning Joe is a victory for all of us.
Read everything Radley Balko writes, it’s infuriating, but it’s the path back to domestic freedom.