Militarization of U.S. police forces in Ferguson and beyond – LINKS (updated)

Amongst the ongoing riots in Ferguson after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer, a number of news outlets have covered the militarization of U.S. police forces in Missouri and beyond. Since the 1990s, the Pentagon has funneled surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies to the tune of more than $4.3 billion. This cache, administered under the “1033 Program” by the Defense Department’s Law Enforcement Support Office, includes everything from assault weapons to tactical armored vehicles. According to the original piece of legislation, contained in the 1990 National Defense Authorization Act, the goal was to combat drug barons and cartels in counter-narcotic operations. This was later updated in 1997 to allow weapons to be transferred to all law enforcement agencies, not just those involved in counter-narcotics. Going well beyond the parameters of either a “war on drugs” or “crowd control”, such violent implements lend credence to the notion that U.S. streets are becoming a “battlefield”–although this should be tempered by the reality that power is overwhelmingly one-sided. Whatever the analysis, the look and feel of the heavy-handed police response so far has resembled a form of “domestic counter-insurgency.”

August 18th, Scott Carlson, FergusonRecent News Articles on Military Policing

  1. Where did Ferguson police really get their weapons from? (Vice, 26th August 2014)
  2. College cops receive military equipment (Politico, 25th August)
  3. Harry Reid backs military program (Politico, 20th August 2014)
  4. A guide to the police weapons being used (Vex, 20th August 2014)
  5. Multiple journalists arrested overnight (The Intercept, 20th August 2014)
  6. Pentagon defends military surplus program (WP, 19th August 2014)
  7. The difference between the Obama and Holder approach to riots (New York Times, August 19, 2014)
  8. How the rest of the world views the riots (WP, 19th August, 2014) Similar article in The New York Times (August 19, 2014)
  9. The Guardian explores the U.S. National Guard, which was recently deployed. (The Guardian, 18th August 2014)
  10. Missouri governor singles out police militarization for inflaming violence (Daily Mail, 17th August 2014)
  11. The Hill looks at some of those surplus weapons, including assault rifles and knives. (The Hill, 17th August 2014)
  12. U.S. lawmakers are initiating a “review” of the 1033 program. (Politico, 15th August 2014)
  13. Newsweek looks in more depth at the 1033 program. (Newsweek, 14th August 2014)
  14. BBC news on U.S. war tactics (BBC, 14th August 2014)

Photograph, David Carson, Polaris,eyevine


  1. The Latin Americanization of U.S. policing (Counterpunch, 27th August 2014)
  2. Ferguson is not Fallujah (Just Securty, 21st August 2014)
  3. How the Pentagon militarized the police (Counterpunch, 20th August 2014) – see also The U.S. war culture has come home to roost.
  4. The real reason Ferguson has military weapons, Kara Dansky (CNN, 20th August 2014)
  5. Rev. Jesse Jackson on why we need a new urban initiative for poor. (CounterPunch, 19th August 2014)
  6. Why the militarization thesis may underestimate social control (Recording Surface, 16th August 2014)
  7. Itemizing Atrocity, by Tamara Kooper and Mariame Kaba, (Jacobin, 15th August, 2014)
  8. Glen Greenwald on the militarization of U.S. police (Intercept, 14th August).
  9. Dennis Kucinich on militarized police (Huffington Post, 8th August, 2014)
  10. Senator Rand Paul calls for U.S. police to be demilitarized. (Time, 14th August 2014)

Military Equipment for U.S. policeContext and Analysis

  1. How US police receive robots (Center for the Study of Drones, August 25th)
  2. U.S. police given billions from Homeland Security (The Guardian, August 20th, 2014)
  3. How America’s police became so well-armed. (The Economist, August 18th, 2014)
  4. The New York Times has a detailed look at the transfer of “war gear” to U.S. police (NYT, 8th June 2014)
  5. Cops or Soldiers? (The Economist, 22nd March 2014)
  6. Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko (WSJ, 7th August, 2013) – see also book of the same name
  7. The dronification of U.S. policing (Understanding Empire, 30 September, 2013)


  1. ACLU, War comes home.
  2. Website of the Law Enforcement Support Office (The military’s administrator of the 1033 program)
  3. The Huffington Post on Police Militarization
  4. Map of ‘botched’ paramilitary raids in the US
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4 Responses to Militarization of U.S. police forces in Ferguson and beyond – LINKS (updated)

  1. Keith Harris says:

    Reblogged this on My Desiring-Machines and commented:
    although my interests in war machines haven’t been quite this literal i can’t help but pay attention to this. i’m reminded of Eugene Holland’s conceptualization of the contemporary American state as oscillating between neo-Despotic (under George W. Bush) and neo-Liberal (under Clinton, and not to be confused w/ neoliberalism): the former is Varuna, the latter is Mitra. i recently read Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna to try and understand this oscillation; my notes:
    Varuna is the “binder” and expresses the fearful aspects of political sovereignty: he is the terrible, tyrannical, magical and omnipresent deity with “immediate prehension and action everywhere and over everything” (Dumézil 1988, 67); he corresponds to night, poorly executed sacrifice, otherworldliness, roasting food over flames, intoxicating drinks…in short, “the sovereign under his attacking aspect” (Dumézil 1988, 72). Mitra, by contrast, is the “organizer,” the god of the daytime, rewards for proper sacrifice, the human world, cooking with steam, and milk: “the sovereign under his reasoning aspect, luminous, ordered, calm, benevolent, priestly” (ibid).
    how then do we conceptualize the current regime, which seems to be doing both of these things at once? is the oscillation speeding up like everything else?

  2. Eric says:

    These are useful links, thanks. Undoubtedly, though police forces are more heavily armed and more likely to adopt military-style tactics, there’s also a sense in which those are reinforcement for already-existing social modes of control and domination. A couple of links that are skeptical of the militarization thesis.

  3. Pingback: A History of Militarized U.S. Policing: Ferguson and Beyond | Understanding Empire

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