The world is an interesting place when New York City boasts the seventh largest army in the world. The NYPD has grown exponentially since 2001. However, the militarization of police forces has been underway for the better part of forty years. The author credits the drug war for this evolution. In fact, in 1970 there was only one SWAT team in the entire US. By 1975, there were 500. Terrorism has only heightened the move to more militarized policing.
The book's review of colonial and early American history is very interesting. American society has moved from shunning to stunning. In the early days of the country, like minded people who shared the same values would shun offenders into better behaviour. This is juxtaposed in the book with the actions today where a stun gun is used with little hesitation. I agree that police departments just look more military now. The "blues" are being replaced by camouflage (the book cover photo is very illustrative of this trend). Sir Robert Peel of London chose to have his "Bobbies" in blue to be different from the red coated soldiers to give the citizenry comfort.
But it is not only look, it is also equipment. Now police departments have helicopters, armoured vehicles and Humvees. And it is clear that if you have the stuff, you use it. Unbelievably the sheriff of Richland County, South Carolina quoted the Bible in a press release announcing the acquisition of an armoured personnel carrier with a belt-fed .50-caliber rotating gun turret. Police forces are also trained by and with active military. The doctrine of both are becoming more and more shared. You know that to be true when companies target police forces to sell them military equipment. Gun manufacturer Heckler & Koch marketed their MP5 weapon in the 1990's with the slogan, "From the Gulf War to the Drug War - Battle Proven."
Balko offers interesting disclaimers upfront in the book including his political leanings and the apologetic stereotypical portrayal of "bad cops". He goes as far to say this is not an "anti-cop" book. And on one level that is true but still it condemns because there is so little change from within the police forces themselves. They are portrayed as loving the firepower and increased civil-policing power. Balko concedes that American is not yet a police-state but wants us to see the trends and patterns that are too concerning to ignore.