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Letter: Police response to citizens has taken a turn for the worse

Police response to citizens has taken a turn for the worse

The recent tragic shootings of two black men in Louisiana and in Minnesota, as well as the Dallas sniper shootings of police officers, are resulting in further divisiveness in America. Overt racism can be one contributing element. While this can be true, what we must not lose sight of is the underlying patterns of how our police forces have changed since the mid-1990s and in the post-9/11 world.

We have witnessed an unprecedented militarization of our police forces in the last 25 years. The militarization is not just in the adoption of leftover Gulf War and Iraq War equipment for SWAT teams. It is the embedding of military-trained personnel, mindset and tactics into police enforcing. Whereby, American citizens can no longer trust the first response of police officers. Why?

A militaristic mindset is causing an overly aggressive form of policing where neighborhoods and citizens are viewed as enemies first, versus as those to protect. The first response mentality of shoot to kill in war has unfortunately found its way into domestic police enforcing. Where the fear of a suicidal improvised explosive device once felt when witnessing an Iraqi or Afghan citizen reaching into his or her pocket brought an immediate shoot to kill response.

Today, misunderstanding an officer’s request can get you killed in the same manner. A misunderstanding causing a citizen, such as Philando Castile, to be shot and killed in the act of reaching for a license or registration. Is this the America we want? I do not.

Tony Zambito