POLITICS
03/04/2013 02:16 pm ET Updated May 04, 2013

Interview With Vice

Vice recently did a short interview with me about police militarization. You can now read it here.

Here's one of the questions, and my answer:

Deborah Blum has written that we refer to oleoresin capsicum as "pepper spray" because "that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen." How did the use of these kinds of weapons become so commonplace?

I think part of the reason is that it has happened gradually. We got here by way of a number of political decisions and policies passed over 40 years. There was never a single law or policy that militarized our police departments -- so there was never really a public debate over whether this was a good or bad thing.

But there were other contributors. For about a generation, politicians from both parties were tripping over themselves to see who could come up with the tougher anti-crime policies. We're finally seeing some push-back on issues like incarceration, the drug war, and over-criminalization. But not on police. No politician wants to look anti-cop. Conservatives want to look tough on crime. Liberals love to throw money at police departments. So for now, rolling back police militarization is still a non-starter in Congress and state legislatures.

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