“The Weapons Effect” Breaks The Police-Public Bond

A new study released on August 20th by psychologist Jonathan Mummolo found that the militarization of police has little to no evidence of enhancing public and officer safety and has a direct correlation between deploying SWAT teams, a common form of militarization, predominantly in communities of color.

Not only does militarizing the police cost lots of money, but it has a psychological impact on civilians; causing the support from the public for funding police departments across America to decrease and arguably causing more violence.

In 1967, psychologists Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony Lepage conducted a study in which they found participants in their study naturally act aggressively after seeing the presence of a weapon. They called this the “weapons effect”.

This study rings true to this day. Sending out SWAT teams into communities of color has a huge mental impact on these community members; that’s a given. When a community is constantly seeing their local police departments suited up for war, in neighborhoods where groups that are already marginalized live, trust and confidence is out the door.

In Mummolo’s study, he used surveyed 1,566 people online, and 4,465 using Survey Sampling International. He found the decrease in support for funding local police departments after showing participants a fictional article about a police chief’s need for funding his department and displaying different pictures of militarized police teams.

According to the PNAS, roughly 90% of the SWAT deployments in Maryland between 2010 and 2014 were for search warrants. 84% of those search warrants instances, property was taken.

Mummolo found no evidence showing the benefits of militarizing the police. His study showed no increase in public safety, or police safety, but a significant amount of SWAT deployments in communities of color that were mostly search warrants and almost never emergency instances.

“It’s time for California to modernize our century-old deadly force standard,” says Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, a frequent supporter of law enforcement reform and one of the authors of AB931.

The bill AB931 that will change the way police de-escalate situations and their ability to be charged with manslaughter.

Cities across California have been organizing and clashing with law enforcement for change in police accountability. Police brutality against people of color is on the rise.

The death of Stephon Clark, a 23 year old father, by two Sacramento Police Department on March 18th became a national story, one far too familiar.

Police brutality and unjust police shootings have been on the rise. According to a database created by The Washington Post, 679 Americans have already been shot and killed by police in 2018. Last year, that number reached all the way up to 987. The Post also found that as of a week ago, there have been 25 more fatal shootings this year than around this same time last year.

The general public who have been demanding reform in their local police departments, fear that using warfare tactics won’t decrease the number of civilian deaths, or the death of police; they’re right.

Thetford Township Police Chief Robert Kenny of Michigan was arrested last Wednesday for an investigation of misusing surplus military equipment given to the department by a federal program called Defense Logistics Agency. The surplus military equipment was worth over 1 million dollars that was not accounted for, According to NBC25 News.

“The Trump Administration has a policy, and it’s very clear: We will protect those who protect us and who do such a great job in protecting us. That is why, as promised all along, that we are allowing local police to access the surplus military equipment they need to protect our officers and law enforcement agents and save their lives. And they are taking equipment at a record clip. Millions and millions of dollars of surplus equipment is going to our police departments” said Donald Trump at the 37th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial in May.

“We must end he attacks on our police and we must end them right now. We believe criminals who kill our police should get the death penalty.”

If the mere presence of a gun causes people to instinctively act violent, shouldn’t the militarization of police using warfare tactics be monitored at least, just a little bit?