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Ferguson events reflect big government, militarization

Legalizing Life

The events that recently unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri warranted a national discussion regarding the militarization of our nation’s domestic police force. Now that the media has had their news cycle fix on Ferguson coverage, it is their time to beat a dead horse regarding a plethora of distracting issues — be it another missing plane or some lousy, social media “national holiday” (sorry, Instagrammers). The reality of a militarized police force hasn’t gone away since cable news networks have stopped their debatable coverage of Ferguson. It is fair to demand a more sane, less militarized police.

If you’re a run-of-the-mill conservative, a socialist Democrat or an Independent who loves to hate both parties, this issue pertains to you. If you’re a Libertarian, you probably already understand. The events in Missouri simply reflect an unfortunate trend in the United States: An escalation of aggression by police officers toward non-violent citizens. Be it riot squads, no-knock house raids or even not reading a citizen his or her Miranda rights, law enforcement abuse is an issue of liberty.

Police equipment in Ferguson, as noted by one war veteran, is more elaborate than some that our military have in combat. The capability of local police departments to militarize comes straight from where you probably suspect it: The Federal government. Due to the attention police militarization has gotten as of late, among many federal agencies the Department of Homeland Security has received criticism for its silly programs. The DHS subsidizes the exact equipment that has many Americans frustrated. Meaning, tax dollars pay for aggression toward our own citizenry. Largely fueled by the failed War on Drugs and concerns regarding domestic anti-government sentiment, such subsidy programs are a prime example of big government in our everyday lives. This blurring of the line between the domestic police force and the national military is a reality reminiscent of tyrannical governments of the 20th century. To pull a President Obama: Let me be clear — not all cops are bad cops.

As seen throughout history, governments enable the discrimination of particular social groups. Today nothing has changed, with African Americans making up the majority demographic behind bars for drug offenses. This statistic is true even though on average all races have similar drug use levels. Current drug laws reflect the incarceration rates of the Jim Crow era, spurring the publication of The New Jim Crow in 2010. As people give up more power to government, such a reality shouldn’t come as a surprise. Aggressive, discriminatory policies have become increasingly popular in the post-9/11, civil liberty-absent world.

Republicans and Democrats are to blame for these policies. In fact today, motorists are experiencing tyranny first hand: Police officers have been trained to aggressively search vehicles and seize the motorists’ cash -- regardless of criminal conviction. As reported by the Washington Post this past week, this trend is one that came to fruition thanks to crony capitalism. Police training firms are paid by the government to teach officers how best to go about search and seizures, often times without charging the victim of the search with any heavy crime. Police officers leave the scene with thousands of dollars in cash seized from practically innocent people. The 420 Group and Desert Snow are just two companies hired to perform such training. Training that financially benefits said companies yet infringes the rights of Americans. This issue reflects an economic problem regarding subsidies, cronyism and lawyer fees for accused citizens. But the militarization of police has created a whole other problem: Reversing the notion of innocent until proven guilty.

We cannot ask the same people who put these policies into place to repeal them, we must look for new leadership. The Libertarian Party -- or those in the liberty movement -- have been consistent on this issue before it was vogue. Republican Senator Rand Paul wrote an op-ed in Time about militarization. Forbes ran a piece about the impact of Young Americans for Liberty across the nation, a student activist group critical of the failed war on drugs and incarceration rates, among other liberty issues. As politicians like Paul and diverse groups like YAL grow and coalition build between the left and the right, it is important to not quibble in a blame game. We must look forward with liberty in mind and know who to stand with for prosperity.

Matthew Boyer is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. He is the president of the Rutgers Young Americans for Liberty chapter. His column, “Legalizing Life,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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