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Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces Paperback – August 26, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
“The best and most comprehensive account of the dangers of police militarization.”

Sarah Stillman, NewYorker.com
“A fascinating and at times wrenching new book.”

The Daily Beast
“Virtually peerless as a writer on the issue”

The Economist
“Mr Balko manages to avoid the clichés of both right and left, and provokes genuine outrage at the misuse of state power in its most brutal and unaccountable form: heavily armed police raiding the homes of unarmed, non-violent suspects on the flimsiest of pretexts, and behaving more like an occupying army in hostile territory than guardians of public safety. “Rise of the Warrior Cop”, Mr Balko’s interesting first book, explains what policies led to the militarisation of America’s police. To his credit, he focuses his outrage not on the police themselves, but on politicians and the phoney, wasteful drug war they created.”

Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyer, Guardian columnist, and New York Times-bestselling author
“Vibrant and compelling. There is no vital trend in American society more overlooked than the militarization of our domestic police forces, and there is no journalist in America who is more knowledgeable and passionate about this topic than Radley Balko. If you care about the core political liberties of Americans, this is a must-read.”

Charleston (WV) Gazette
“For Americans who care about their core political liberties, Balko's book is a must-read.”

Pacific Standard
“Fascinating and sometimes terrifying”

"Jack Dunphy" (nom de plume of a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department), National Review Online
“For all my cop's quibbles with Rise of the Warrior Cop, I was struck by how much I found to agree with in the book. Balko makes a compelling case that in America today there are too many SWAT teams operating with too little accountability, further exposing the country to the dangers this magazine identified in 1996. ‘No, America today isn't a police state,’ he writes in the concluding chapter. ‘Far from it. But it would be foolish to wait until it becomes one to get concerned.’ One need not be a libertarian to appreciate the warning.”

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, Huffington Post
“With his thorough reporting and compelling storytelling gifts, Radley Balko builds a powerful narrative of the militarization of our police forces, which both liberals and conservatives have allowed to flourish. And he shows the chilling results of both parties’ unwillingness to stand up to increasingly aggressive police tactics that often pit cops against those they are sworn to protect.”

Ron Paul, former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate
Rise of the Warrior Cop is a comprehensive look at the reasons for, and the results of, the increasing militarization of law enforcement. Civil libertarians on the left and limited government conservatives on the right should pay especially close attention to Radley Balko’s examination of the link between the ‘the war on drugs’ and law enforcement’s increased use of police state tactics.”

Diane Goldstein, Huffington Post
“Rise of the Warrior Cop asks many questions about the proper role of law enforcement and the effect of the drug war, America's longest war, on our communities… Balko interweaves history, the Constitution, and case law to create an account of how the massive expansion of SWAT teams occurred as the perfect storm of politics, ideology and federal fiscal coercion.”

New York Journal of Books
“This historic review of America’s police and police tactics is clear and direct in its nondismissal narrative. This is not an anti-police book, but a serious look at the growth and use of SWAT and military style tactics, at America’s war on drugs, and the financial incentives that created the new “community police force”… This book is highly recommended for the historic value of the information; it is clear, concise, and well argued. Whether you are a lifetime, card carrying member of the ACLU or the newest law and order politician The Rise of the Warrior Cop provides a clear timeline and important information making it a must read.”

Publishers Weekly
“’Are cops constitutional?’ It’s a bold and provocative question, and the more Balko delves into the history of law enforcement, the more that question seems worth considering. … After reading Balko, you’ll be aware, alright—and scared.”

Salt Lake Tribune
"a well-researched book that piques the reader's intellect as much as it does his or her emotions."

Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy
“The best new book on a law-related topic I have read so far this year”

StoptheDrugWar.org
“In Balko’s hands, an entertaining and illuminating story — as well as depressing and frightening — told with verve and gusto, meticulously researched, and filled with telling historical detail… Rise of the Warrior Cop is an important book and deserves to be read by small government conservatives, civil libertarian liberals, police commanders, and politicians alike.”

Simple Justice blog
“It's critical to appreciate the history of policing, to understand that what we now see as normal and inescapable wasn't always the case. For most of our history, this country did not have a group of people with shields and guns who wandered the streets ordering people about.… If there is any hope of changing the course of the militarization of law enforcement, it will come from a greater understanding of why this was never meant to be the internal norm of this country, and that it doesn't have to be. Radley Balko has done an exceptional job of making the case. Every person who hopes to preserve the integrity of his Castle from dynamic entry needs to read The Rise of Warrior Cop.”

Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union
“Excessively militarized policing is easy to ignore when a SWAT team is ramming down someone else’s door or tear-gassing someone else’s protest. What makes Rise of the Warrior Cop so important is that Mr. Balko makes police militarization real for all of us. This is a meticulously researched history book that casts needed light on a central civil liberties issue.  Police militarization is something we should all care about, and Rise of the Warrior Cop will show you why.”

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, Huffington Post
“With his thorough reporting and compelling storytelling gifts, Radley Balko builds a powerful narrative of the militarization of our police forces, which both liberals and conservatives have allowed to flourish. And he shows the chilling results of both parties’ unwillingness to stand up to increasingly aggressive police tactics that often pit cops against those they are sworn to protect.”

Ron Paul, former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate
Rise of the Warrior Cop is a comprehensive look at the reasons for, and the results of, the increasing militarization of law enforcement. Civil libertarians on the left and limited government conservatives on the right should pay especially close attention to Radley Balko’s examination of the link between the ‘the war on drugs’ and law enforcement’s increased use of police state tactics.”

Norm Stamper, thirty-four-year police veteran and police chief of Seattle, Washington, 1994–2000
“A rich, pertinent history, with unexpected but critically important observations of the increased militarization of American policing. And so well presented: clear, lucid, elegantly crafted.  Rise of the Warrior Cop should be on the shelves of every police chief, sheriff, and SWAT commander in the country. A huge contribution.”

Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyer, Guardian columnist, and New York Times-bestselling author
“Vibrant and compelling. There is no vital trend in American society more overlooked than the militarization of our domestic police forces, and there is no journalist in America who is more knowledgeable and passionate about this topic than Radley Balko. If you care about the core political liberties of Americans, this is a must-read.”

Peter Kraska, Chair and Professor, Police and Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
“Balko excels at an excruciatingly difficult task:  telling the history of police militarization in a way that will grip any curious mind – without any loss of intellectual rigor. A fascinating, highly educational, and deeply disturbing read.”

PolicyMic.com
"Balko gets it right. There is very much an attitude and subsequent policy of police militarization in the U.S. Neighborhoods are being treated as warzones, even when they're not."

About the Author

Radley Balko is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes about civil liberties, police, prosecutors, and the broader criminal justice system. He is currently a writer and investigative reporter for the Washington Post. Previously, he was a senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post, senior editor for Reason magazine, and a policy analyst for the Cato Institute. In 2011, the Los Angeles Press Club named him “Journalist of the Year.” Follow him on twitter: @RadleyBalko

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Trade Paper Edition edition (August 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610394577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610394574
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (362 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I am a staunch conservative, a veteran of the U.S. Military, and have worked in private sector for the past 32 years in the Risk Management department for a large U.S. based retailer. I work closely with law enforcement across multiple jurisdictions mostly in the area of Organized Retail Crime and have an inbred respect for all law enforcement. I purchased this book with some reservations as I figured that it would be nothing more than a left wing progressive cop bashing fest. I could not have been more wrong about this author's body of work or intentions.

The book is well researched, full of facts, and I found it surprisingly to be politically neutral! The author in fact goes out of his way to not blame law enforcement for the current trend in the militarization of their officers, or the proliferation of SWAT teams materializing all over the country. In fact he lays most of the blame for this right at the feet of our legislators. No one party is or branch of government is exempt. Numerous presidents, senators, members of the house, and Supreme Court Justices are all mentioned, and their roles in getting the Fourth Amendment nullified are presented in excruciating detail. This book highlights how the sacred rights of the Castle Doctrine and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 have all been circumnavigated. This is a must read for all Americans regardless of their political affiliation.
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As always, Balko is alternately infuriating and terrifying, as he details the slow, incremental evolution in our police forces. This is not a "Cops are bad" screed, but rather a "Cops are important and powerful, so we need to pay attention to how they're being trained, equipped and used" warning flare. Well-written by arguably the leading journalist expert on the subject and based on years of following the topic, this is a very powerful and important book that'll make you look at the next picture of a cop in "riot gear" with a different eye.
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Chances are somewhere in America today, a SWAT team will arrive at a private residence. They'll throw flash-bang grenades and kick in the door; they'll force occupants to the floor at gunpoint and start tearing the place apart. They're will be profanity and screaming. They may kill the family dog, pitbull or poodle. And if they don't find anything, or it turns out they came to the wrong address, too bad. You're not going to get an apology.

This is the state of policing in America in 2013, says Radley Balko in his new book "Rise of the Warrior Cop." Across the country, law enforcement is turning to SWAT team and other specalized units not for their original purpose of providing rapid response to hostage situations and standoffs, but to serve drug warrants, enforce regulatory issues, and quell political dissent. Police are rapidly accumulating military weapons, armored vehicles, military-style uniforms and an "us against them" attitude that has resulted in wrongful arrests, property damage, injuries, and even deaths.

While many people have become aware of the militarization of law enforcement since 2001, Balko shows this process began in earnest about 40 years ago, when Richard Nixon decided to exploit the white, middle-class Silent Majority's fears of increasing drug use and crime. The "drug war' and now the "war on terror" has led to a steady erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and the "Castle Doctrine," the idea that we are safe from government intrusion in our homes without serious cause.

Balko traces this history from the roots of the Castle Doctrine in British common law right up into the present day.
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The first day of my job as a police officer, I was confronted by a drugged out parolee who stuck a gun in my face. It never occurred to me to reach for the pistol on my hip. My partner, who took cover behind a tree, could have shot and killed the fellow at any time. He did not. I used my powers of persuasion to talk the parolee out of killing me. As far as I know he is still alive and kicking.

It was 1963 and the general police policy view was that if you shot someone, you'd better come back with a bullet in your body somewhere. Shooting someone who turned out to be unarmed would have gotten you fired or even prosecuted. You did not guess someone was armed, you had to know for sure.

Later, while attending the sheriff's academy in San Diego, I learned constitutional law as envisioned by police instructors there. The general theme was one of hostility to the courts and judges that were making decisions restricting an officer's discretion. I did not realize at the time I was not being taught constitutional law, but how to avoid complying with it. I ultimately became a probation officer, lawyer, and juvenile court referee. That education revealed the truth. As I look back on it all, I am of the opinion that police academies need to be reformed from the ground up. Shooting policies need to be completely changed. Killing someone because "he reached into his pants," is not only absurd, it demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the sanctity of life.

Did the drug war cause all of this? I think it has played a big role. As the money involved in drug transactions increased and the penalties for selling it went sky high, dealers began arming themselves to avoid arrest at all costs. But there are other factors at work as well.
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