How to Demilitarize the Police

Bernard E. Harcourt

Executive Summary

As peaceful protesters throughout the United States challenge the police killings of Black women and men, they are confronted today with fully militarized police forces, equipped with M4 rifles, sniper scopes, camouflage gear and helmets, tanks and mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, and grenade launchers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heavily weaponized police officers in fully armored vehicles face-off against mostly peaceful and unarmed civilian protesters.

Shortly before these events played out, Trump explicitly called for a militarized response and “total domination” of the battlefield in order to eradicate protesters, whom he labelled domestic “terrorists” in a meeting with governors. Trump put General Milley in charge of the federal government’s response to the nationwide wave of protests after George Floyd’s death, and repeatedly emphasized the need for law enforcement to “dominate” the battlefield. “If you don’t dominate your city and your state,” they’re gonna walk away with you,” he stressed. “[In D.C.] we’re going to have total domination.”

“I wish they had an occupying force in there,” Trump declared. Esper agreed, saying earlier in the meeting that, “we need to dominate the battlespace.”

How to Demilitarize the Police