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on July 24, 2013
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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on July 18, 2013
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. He looks at the shift in mentality from the community policing model to the military model, where the very citizens the police are sworn to protect become potential threats to be approached with lethal force. He also shows the reality of "mission creep," where there very fact that you have SWAT team - or a tank - means you really want to use them, even in situations where it shouldn't be used. He ends with some commonsense recommendations for change - even as he admits none of them are likely to come to pass in the current political climate.

It's enlightening, it's frightening, and it's something every American should take the time to read.
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on June 29, 2013
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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on November 19, 2013
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. One, that may seem a stretch but is very real, is the workers compensation system. Cities do not like their officers being injured because the cost of its insurance would then rise. Thus, pressure grew on officers to protect themselves first and ask questions later. This led to officers drawing their guns without cause to believe they were really in danger. Watch any cop show and note how they now approach suspects, guns drawn. They assume the individual is armed rather than waiting to see if it is true. In 1963 we were taught not to draw the gun unless we intended to shoot someone.

Just yesterday I saw a video of two police officers firing into an SUV they knew held children and a woman they knew had done nothing but exceed the speed limit. Will they be prosecuted? Probably not. But they should be and we need to do something about a system that will allow them to escape untouched.

I am saddened when I see studies that show American police to be among the most hated public officials in the country. A few years ago, I saw a travel magazine picturing a Canadian Mounted Police officer on the cover. The article was all about how the Canadian people loved their primary law enforcement officers. What a difference; and one might ask why this is so. I think it is because those officers have proven over time that they will treat people with respect and dignity. Our officers are not taught to do that. Its all about officiousness, being tough and muscle bound, not losing control and a sense they are entitled to unlimited respect and the immediate compliance with any order they might give - legally justified or not.

Radley Balko deserves a medal for writing this book. He has boldly challenged the system and deserves to be applauded for doing so.
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For those of us who have followed Radley Balko on his old blog, 'The Agitator', and in his new position as Senior Writer and Investigative Reporter at The Huffington Post, this book is a culmination of some of his best writing.

The Rise of the Warrior Cop, was seen up close and personal in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Hundreds of police from all across New England converged in Watertown, Mass.,to hunt for the Marathon Bomber. The city under total lockdown, with these heavily armed policemen with all matter of armored vehicles racing down the streets, police knocking on doors, hunting in trash cans, gave the television viewer a sense of déjà vous. To the average citizen, we were OK with the police hunting down the criminals, giving up a twenty four hour period of our lives, to stay in doors under lockdown, while they went about their business. It wasn't until the guns started firing, cross fire between the police and the fugitives, bullets entering homes, breaking glass, with horrified citizens looking on. No, citizen was injured, which seems a miracle considering the amount of ammunition used. Is this the future of policing?

Radley Balko gives us the background of policing. The real militarization of the police. Once the wars wore down, the old and new equipment no longer needed by the military was given to the local police.. Large cities, New York, LA, benefitted first, then it spread out to the rest of the country. Drug raids now take place with armored transports, SWAT teams heavily armed, break into homes with wrong addresses, shooting dogs, harassing the citizenry, all done under the guise of good policing. Innocent people are dying, families split, and often no apology coming from the police.

This is not the norm of most police departments, but it is occurring more often. Read the news of your local police departments. What new equipment is coming into your area? Sometimes the SWAT teams are community based, sometimes they are county based. Who is paying for all of this, it comes down to you and me. It is our responsibility to monitor what is happening within our local police departments. Radley Balko cites chapter and verse of some of the most egregious incidents. It is frightening. I understand that this kind of action does not take place in your community, right?

The new Immgration Bill that passed the Senate has in it's hundreds of pages, plans for new drones, enormous armored transports, helicopters to transverse our borders looking for immigrants. Billions of dollars, people. We are now planning on, more heavily, militarizing our Border Patrols. What's next?

A well written book filled with facts, figures, true stories and the history of our police. This is a need to know, people. Most of our police departments are filled with caring, professional policemen, yes. However, we need to be aware of what is happening inside the walls of of our local police department.

Recommended. prisrob 07-10-13
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on July 10, 2013
As I write this I have not only read the book from cover to cover, I've now had the opportunity to explore the numerous footnotes the author cites all throughout this work. My conclusion is that this is not a book about SWAT teams, automatic weapons, or flash-bang grenades. Instead it is a book that adroitly explores the conversion of domestic police forces in the United States into a virtual army of occupation. It is about the rising mentality in our police forces that we the people who are being policed are not to be served or protected but controlled and made to submit to police authority.

The abuses of so-called 'no-knock' warrants and the increase in warrantless and often unjustified searches are a topic of interest in this work and the author substantiates his points with many documents and studies produced by law enforcement.

At the same time I was reading through this book an acquaintance of mine was dealing with having been beaten, arrested (for 'resisting arrest' - not sure how that one works), and then having his charges dropped. Why? Because he video-recorded three police officers beating up a homeless man. The officers conveniently 'lost' my acquaintances' camera so the proof of their crime will never be seen. But this is an example of the arrogant mindset that Balko explores in his book where a growing number of police officers frankly see themselves as above everyone else. They also see themselves above the laws that they enforce on others. One need only go on You Tube for legions of examples to back up that perspective.

In sum, this is an outstanding work that dispassionately explores how our police departments have been needlessly turned into a domestic military that behaves like an army of occupation.
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on August 24, 2013
Why do police officers and federal agents need to dress up in full-military regalia to serve search warrants for paper in the absence of any potential threat? No one seems to ask this question. Instead, we roll over and play dead while law enforcement transforms the ancient notion that a man's home was his castle into the notion that we're all mere renters of the space in which we enjoy privacy. Balko's timely volume sketches out just how much has changed in the past forty years.

It started with the war on drugs and the related rhetoric of fear. Things intensified with the so-called war on terror. Now even the judiciary is in on the game: the growth in exceptions to the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant, the creation of judicially granted immunities to police officers when they err, making it impossible to hold accountable an officer who bangs down your door, holds you at gun point, trashes your home, and perhaps, shoots your barking dog -- only to find out later that he raided the wrong house.

This book made my blood boil. Cops compete with one another for federal grant money so that virtually every police department in the nation has a SWAT team. Discarded military equipment is doled out to police officers paying with federal funds. Should a department run low on dough for violent toys, they can always seize drug-related property under liberal forfeiture laws, and, perhaps, sell your home to purchase a tank or two.

I've heard stories of families held at gun point by SWAT teams when a loved one was already arrested, in cuffs, and taken out the door. We've created the functional equivalent of what the founders abhorred -- a standing army.

This is a fantastic book -- evenhanded, non-polemical and well-documented.

Read it and weep.
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on July 9, 2013
If anything should bring people of all political persuasions together, it's paramilitary cops grossly abusing the public trust and gunning down harmless crooks as well as innocent people. I hope and pray that Balko's book helps the public realize how sick this SWAT obsession has become. Police departments spend big bucks on SWAT forces they don't need, and then use them in all kinds of inappropriate situations. Some of the true stories in here will blow your mind and make you wonder whatever happened to America. A great book to read and to give as a gift.
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on August 6, 2013
"Just when these American citizens needed their rights most, the government took them away. And rights aren't rights if someone can take them away. They're privileges. That's all we've ever had in this country, a bill of TEMPORARY privileges. And if you read the news, even badly, you will know the list gets shorter, and shorter and shorter." - George Carlin.

The book is a great read about not only the eroded relationship between Americans and their police force, but also a detailed summary about the gradual loss of rights of American citizens. It's odd that many people think the Bill of Rights are simply rights granted by the government, when in reality it's a listing of the rights that ALL citizens have that the government is not empowered to take away. Balko runs through the erosion of the Castle Doctrine and how its gradual disregard destroyed and demolished the 3rd, 4th and 5th amendments. It also gives a very insightful view of the mindset of not just many local state and federal law enforcement officers, but the closed minded hypocritical views of federal officials all the way up to and including Presidents on both sides. The feeding of the violent thug soldier mentality on one hand, the enrichment of government coffers with asset forfeiture on the other, and scoring meaningless but flashy political 'wins' that mean very little in reducing crime in a pointless drug war are all given ample examination in the book. When one reads the book in the context of the current NSA data collection strategies against American citizens along with the recent revelation that much of this data is shared with law enforcement agencies such as the DEA, I fail to see how anyone could finish the book without being either more frightened of or more angry with our government.
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on August 23, 2013
I wish every American would read this book. We as a country have gone astray, and this book explains when, how, why, and what needs to be done to fix it.

It is un-American that we let para-military swat teams invade houses to serve warrants for non-violent consensual crimes. Or for something as inane as code violations.

You will be shaking with rage when you read about some of the events in this book, and the things we have let our law enforcement officers get away with. We buy them assault weapons, tanks, heavy duty armor, give them a profit motive to harshly prosecute the drug war and steal the profits from the black market for themselves, and then give them complete immunity from mistakes they might make while kicking in your door, shooting your pets, sometimes you and your children.

I don't want to live in a country where an 11 year old boy (Alberto Sepulveda) can be assassinated at point blank range by a cop who suffers no recourse.

We have to stop this. Small towns with only a few thousand citizens should not be given tanks by the Federal government because they were lobbied by powerful defense contractors.
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