Michael Shank is an adjunct faculty member at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and at George Mason University’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. A former senior congressional staffer and former adviser to the United Nations and the Vatican, he has written extensively on police accountability and militarization and has worked on conflict resolution projects in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. (May 2020)
That beat cops so often look like troops is not just a problem of “optics.” There is, in fact, a “positive and statistically significant relationship between transfers [to police of military equipment] and fatalities from officer-involved shootings,” according to recent research. In other words, the more militarized we allow law enforcement agents to become, the more likely officers are to use lethal violence against citizens. The corollary of more police-involved killings, of course, is more protests in response. That sets up, for some, a convenient “law and order” pretext to occupy American streets—or “dominate” them as President Trump remarked in a recent news conference.