Tough Police Response to “Occupy”: Post-9/11 Militarization?


The tough police response to the 2-month-old “Occupy” movement of civil disobedience may be an outgrowth of factors that include the spontaneous nature of the protests and two post-9/11 trends: a heightened police sensitivity to threats and a more militaristic approach to police work, says the Los Angeles Times. “I think we’re talking about a long-term trend accelerated in the post-9/11 era,” said George Ciccariello-Maher, a political scientist at Drexel University. After the attacks, “the federal government began to provide military technology to police agencies, a very clear upping of the stakes.”

“Everyday policing is characterized by a SWAT mentality, every other 911 call a military mission,” former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper wrote in The Nation. “What emerges is a picture of a vital public-safety institution perpetually at war with its own people.” Jon Shane, a police policy expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said New York cops are well-trained to handle planned occurrences but have struggled with “the unique challenge of a rapidly evolving situation.” Police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle have been given relatively high marks for their responses. “Each city is responding differently and in some cases responding to the specific actions of demonstrators,” said William Bratton, former chief in Los Angeles and New York City. “So in Oakland, for example, you had more aggressive protests and more aggressive response.”

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