Radley Balko

Radley Balko

“Are cops constitutional?”

With that opening and follow-up sentences just as damning, Radley Balko has caused a furor among U.S. experts in policing and the Constitution. And this Friday, Balko will be in Arizona to make his controversial arguments.

That opening sentence was the first line in an impressive ABA Journal article last July. Titled “How did America’s police become a military force on the streets?” it is definitely worth your time. I know, I know, it’s crazy long, and we’ve all been trained (said the blogger) to read little snippets of thought and snark. Well, get over it. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea, wine or whisky (depending on the time and your inclination) and settle in. It will reward your time investment.

What Balko does is deconstruct the path of military dollars as it has been funneled into many police agencies, probably in your very own community. And the trickle-down effect of the global war on drugs (which is where this money is targeted) has been to transform your local constables into a highly trained, armed-to-the-teeth platoon of peace-keepers—who to the casual observer may be indistinguishable from U.S. military.

We are used to noting in politics that money has a certain corrupting influence, but many folks resist observing the same effect when it comes to our police departments. Balko has no such hesitation.

Example of policing monies, from Radley Balko ABA Journal article.

Example of policing monies, from Radley Balko ABA Journal article.

So why is the well-known Washington Post journalist coming to Arizona? To debate Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Having read a fair amount of Balko’s work, I have to admire Bill’s willingness to jump into this fight. I look forward to seeing the two men spar.

The event will be on Friday, February 21, at 11:30. The sponsor is the Phoenix Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter. The debate will be at Kincaid’s, 2 S. 3rd St., Phoenix 85004.

Here is how they describe the combatants—I mean speakers:

militarization of police - Federalist Society debateRadley Balko is a senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post and a former senior editor for Reason magazine. He is the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, which argues that politicians’ ill-considered policies and relentless declarations of war against vague enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have blurred the distinction between cop and soldier.”

“Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery was first elected to his position in a Special Election in 2010 and re-elected in 2012 on a pledge to fight crime, honor victims’ rights, and protect and strengthen our community. As a West Point Graduate, decorated Gulf War Veteran, former Deputy County Attorney and a professional prosecutor, he has dedicated his personal and professional life to serving others.”

Interested? You should be. Register here.

I may write a follow-up post. But if you’re moved to do the same, contact me about a possible guest post.

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