The New Political Economy of Policing: an Exploration of the Militarization of Policing in the United States
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Public perceptions of policing in the United States have drastically shifted in the last decade as images of police brutality have dominated the media. This thesis asks whether or not the militarization of policing in the United States is a new phenomenon, or whether it represents the rebirth of traditional state modes of policing. Answering this question entails linking together various elements of urban militarism, urban policing, and geographical decentralization in order to understand the shift towards militarized policing. Using a “bricolage style methodology” consisting of a case study, complemented by thick description, documentary, and content analysis, an analysis of both the media and official government reports will provide the landscape through which the case study is to be analyzed. An historical overview of the police and policing in the United States provides a platform for comparing traditional and contemporary definitions of policing, police jurisdiction, and discourses of securitization, militarization, military urbanism, and risk. Additionally, an overview of America’s role in Vietnam contextualizes colonial influence and its role in shaping police-citizen relationships and encouraging militarization through “othering.” Using recent events in Ferguson, Missouri (death of Michael Brown in 2014) as the case study, there is a close reading of the March 2015 Justice Department Report to assess whether a series of transformations in United States policing have or have not occurred. In addition, an historical overview of the history of Ferguson and Missouri is presented. The results of the analysis challenge the original hypothesis. Although this thesis attributes current issues in American policing to militarization, it is argued that it is actually an emerging characteristic of the entrepreneurialism of policing in the United States that is increasingly responsible for the continuing conflict between police and citizen.