Federalist Society event on the militarization of American police reported in the Winston-Salem Journal

Wake Forest Law’s Federalist Society, as well as the Criminal Law Roundtable and the Criminal Justice Program, hosted an event featuring Washington Post reporter and author Radley Balko to discuss the increasing militarization of American police officers. The event was covered in the Winston-Salem Journal by Michael Hewlett here.  The original story follow.

A SWAT team, armed with guns, breaks down the door of a house, shoots one dog dead and wounds another, and forces a man on the ground, according to a video showed Wednesday at Wake Forest University School of Law.

The incident happened in 2010 in Columbia, Mo. The SWAT team was serving a search warrant on the house after law-enforcement officials received an anonymous tip about illegal drug activity. The only thing found was a small amount of marijuana, said Radley Balko, the author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” who writes about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post.

Balko spoke Wednesday at the law school. The Federalist Society, the Criminal Law Roundtable and the law school’s Criminal Justice Program hosted Balko’s talk. About 100 students attended, said David Giffin, a third-year law student who is the president of the Federalist Society.

Balko said that when issues of police brutality and the fatal shootings of unarmed black men and women come up, as they have recently, some police officials point to shootings of police officers. But the number of police killings is dramatically down, he said.

And the idea that police officers are constantly in danger creates a mindset that affects law-enforcement officers’ interaction with the community. If police officers believe that every traffic stop is potentially dangerous, they might be more likely to use deadly force, he said.

In addition, Balko said, local police departments are getting militarized equipment, like the armored tanks that were seen during the 2014 protests of Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. SWAT teams also increasingly conduct raids for drug crimes, instead of being deployed in highly dangerous situations, Balko said.

That results in the trampling of people’s rights and puts people in danger, he said. People have been killed in those kinds of raids, Balko said.

In Winston-Salem, SWAT teams have been used for drug raids, including a case in 2011 where 18 SWAT officers blasted into a house near Miller Park using an explosive device. The raid in uncovered 2 ounces of marijuana and a bong.

mhewlett@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7326 @mhewlettWSJ