Assaults on U.S. police officers have been dropping over the past quarter-century—with data suggesting 2015 is the second safest year for cops in nearly 50 years—but a prevailing law enforcement “siege” culture has created an explosive climate of confrontation in many communities, says author and blogger Radley Balko.
The siege mentality has contributed to the increasing militarization of American policing, and it explains the hostile atmosphere that has grown since incidents involving police use-of-force around the country have received national attention over the past two years, warned Balko, whose blog on criminal justice for The Washington Post is widely read around the country.
Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces,” made his comments during a presentation at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York late last year, as part of John Jay's Book & Author series. A video of his talk was released yesterday on YouTube.
“When you tell someone over and over again that they're under siege, they're under attack, their beat is their 'sector' and their career is their 'tour of duty,' it instills a battlefield mindset—and it makes escalation of force more likely,” Balko said.
He showed videos and quoted comments of senior officers and other top law enforcement officials around the country who have emphasized the dangers police face to illustrate what he said was a trend that has led police to think of themselves as constantly embattled.
Such a battlefield mindset is as bad for police as it is for the communities they work in, he said.
“Imagine a job where you're told every day that every interaction with a citizen could be your last…you can see why a lot of officers are going to think more primitively,” he said.
He added that “reactive” policing, resulting from officers staying protectively in their squad cars and only getting out to pursue suspected offenders creates a “miserable work experience.”
“We're seeing policing becoming a very psychologically isolating profession,” Balko said.
To see the full video of Balko's talk, please click HERE