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Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,383 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
The last days of colonialism taught America’s revolutionaries that soldiers in the streets bring conflict and tyranny. As a result, our country has generally worked to keep the military out of law enforcement. But according to investigative reporter Radley Balko, over the last several decades, America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops. The consequence ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2013)
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Photo: KSDK News

Michael Brown was an 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri.
He was had just finished high school.
He was shot six times by a policeman, Darren Wilson, for a crime which he did not commit.
Michael Brown is dead.
Darren Wilson will not be charged for shooting an unarmed person six times without probable cause.
There were protesters.
The protesters threw rocks.
The police shot tear gas back and now use armored vehicles to patrol the streets.
Now Ferguson is a war zone.

Radley Balko, in
Nov 12, 2013 Christopher rated it it was ok
Book review - Warrior Cop

Balko starts out his book by say that it is not anti-cop and then proceeds to go on a 336 page anti-cop diatribe which unfortunately has taken away from some of the valid points that he raises.

I'm connected to the criminal justice field and have worked with members of SWAT teams. They do fill a vital roll but at the same time many of them have that "You're SWAT or not" attitude. Not all but a good many that I have encountered.

Throughout the book he cites example after
Dec 04, 2013 Daddio rated it really liked it
Recommended to Daddio by: Cato Institute
An overview of the continuing militarization of the police in this country, post Drug War and 9-11.

I began reading this after the Boston Marathon Bombing. In the days following, The city was placed on total lockdown, with heavily armed policemen in all matter of armored vehicles. It wasn't long until the guns started firing, cross fire between the police and the fugitives, bullets entering homes, breaking glass, with horrified citizens looking on. The "black comedy" event, however was when scor
Andrea Augustinas
Oct 26, 2014 Andrea Augustinas rated it it was amazing
I don't usually review nonfiction books, particularly ones about topics on which I consider myself such a novice, but the pure dismay and frustration this book has inspired in me has forced me to change my policy, to advocate for this book as required reading for anyone who cares about the country we live in, and the ways which that country has chosen to enforce law, order, and justice.

If you've been watching the coverage of events like Ferguson and wondering why so many in positions of authorit
Gerald Churchill
Apr 22, 2014 Gerald Churchill rated it really liked it
Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces is polemic. It takes a position on the militarization of American law enforcement. By militarization, Balko means the use of the military in policing, law enforcement training with the military, law enforcement acquiring military weapons, and the use of military tactics in dealing with the public. He points out that the militarization of American policing has supported or been supported by court decisions that ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Jordan rated it liked it
Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop pulls a bit of a bait and switch. The book begins with a good summary of the origins of "Castle Doctrine" and the Constitution's Fourth Amendment; the former argues that, legally, a man's home is his castle, and entering it without permission amounts to an act of aggression, and the latter, which built on castle doctrine, protects American citizens from unreasonable search and seizure and established the legal requirement for warrants and probable cause.

May 17, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up. It was a little dry, but I actually liked this. It poses the question, "Who watches the watchers?"

Local law enforcement has evolved over the decades. This book covers the current militarization of the police force. In this book there are many different stories where the local law enforcement agencies behave badly, even when it falls under the the long arm of being 'acceptable' under the current laws and guidelines. It isn't a positive light tha
Jan 03, 2015 Siria rated it liked it
This is an examination of how, in the last forty years or so, U.S. police forces have transformed into paramilitary operations, with even very small towns boasting a SWAT force of their own, and led to a concomitant erosion of civil rights. Radley Balko ties this in large part to the so-called war on drugs. When Balko lays out the narrative of this, and provides anecdotes about police brutality, this is a compelling exposé which gives non-Americans like myself a better understanding of why we se ...more
Charles Berteau
Feb 05, 2014 Charles Berteau rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Civil Libertarians, Concerned Citizens
Recommended to Charles by: Reason Magazine
I don't remember when I first heard the parable of the boiled frog - that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. This parable is not technically true, but as a metaphor it covers many real-life evolutions, including the topic of this book - the gradual militarization of our civilian police forces from the late 1960s to the present, and the concomitant erosion of ...more
Kevin Underhill
Sep 29, 2014 Kevin Underhill rated it it was amazing
I had trouble putting this book down. This is a very well-researched, well-written book about a really scary development in US society. Not only are police forces more and more heavily armed, police are more and more willing to use those weapons. Balko writes about SWAT raids being conducted for all kinds of non-violent offenses, and several of these have resulted in someone's death. Sometimes the cops aren't even at the right house.

The book will (or should) make you mad but that's a good thing
Sean O'Hara
I wish I could write a coherent review of this book, but just thinking about the abuses of civil rights presented in this book makes me angry beyond the capacity for rational thought.
Geoffrey Benn
Sep 01, 2014 Geoffrey Benn rated it really liked it
The Battle for Seattle. Occupy Wall Street. Ferguson. These incidents over the last decade have come to epitomize heavy-handed overreach by American police forces. In “The Rise of the Warrior Cop,” journalist Radley Balko briefly discusses the history of law enforcement during the early days of the United States and then focuses on tracing the trend towards militarization (primarily manifested in the proliferation of SWAT teams) in American police forces during the last 50 years. His overall the ...more
Charles Phillips
Jul 20, 2013 Charles Phillips rated it really liked it
A review of Radley Balko’s The Rise of the Warrior Cop, Public Affair Press, 2013.

Radley Balko, a journalist with an enduring interest in American policing, has produced a book filled with important information and infused with a frightening message. The author explains how the adoption of political agendas that included clarion calls for the War on Crime, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror— in conjunction with an enormous increase in the acquisition by local police of military-style equipm
Apr 26, 2015 Devogenes rated it liked it
Overall, I found this book to be an informative, infuriating and chilling overview of the recent history of police militarization in the United States. I found that the author's historical perspective on colonial and revolutionary America was somewhat romantic (which seems to be in accordance with his libertarian politics), but his documentation of egregious and systemic police violence since the 1960s I thought was very good.

A major problem with this book is the persistently sexist language. Ma
Dec 09, 2014 Clif rated it it was amazing
It all started with Nixon.

Those were the days of the supposed need for "law and order" and the White House crew that had no respect whatsoever for the law decided that the path to federal action which would impress the American electorate was by way of going after drug use. This was a wonderful thing to Richard Nixon because it allowed him to go after hippies, the counter-culture, youth, and the left in general.

In addition, chasing drugs got around the fact that the federal government has no sco
Joe Donatelli
Nov 01, 2014 Joe Donatelli rated it it was amazing
I began reading Radley Balko’s “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” before the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and I finished it after tensions in that city peaked. Reading this book while Ferguson’s heavily-armed and clearly incompetent police aimed high-powered weapons at innocent citizens and journalists on a nightly basis added an additional layer of perspective to each heart-sinking news cycle. This was not a local probl ...more
Dec 22, 2014 Garrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, culture
Given the recent events regarding policing, especially the scene of armored vehicles and cops dressed in black-on-black uniforms during the Ferguson protests/riots, this is a book that everyone should read. Balko methodically lays out how it is our police force went from Mayberry to Fallujah. Balko raises important concerns about SWAT teams and the tactics that are used, especially in light of the Third & Fourth Amendments.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book to me is how long a
Dec 04, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
An extremely important book. Pick up a copy, and let's be careful out there.
Mar 10, 2015 Mitch rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A phenomenal 'how we got to where we are' book.
Balko takes an ungodly amount of research and transmutes it into a riveting, and justifiably infuriating, narrative. Starting with the ancient origins of the Castle Doctrine and ending with an examination of possible, though not too probable, reforms, Warrior Cop is an escalating roller coaster ride. By covering everything from savvy political weaselling to nightmarish no-knock raids, Balko has provided a critical scalpel that readers can begin cutt
Balko argues and provides examples of how the last 50 years of public policy has shaped our police community and expectations of acceptable use of force. Policing can be a dangerous job, but did you know that violence against police is down to the lowest it has been since the 1950s? Why is that not in the news? From our politicians, to the judges, to the police chiefs and down to us as voters, we have shaped the way police serve warrants and respect our 4th amendment rights.

Why I started this bo
Sep 26, 2014 Chrissy rated it liked it
Shelves: general-history
Let me state right off the bat: this book is biased. Having said that, I believe this is a book Americans should read. Why? Because learning both sides of debate gives you a more well-rounded base of knowledge in which to draw your own conclusions, and in my case, this book brought new perspectives and angles on issues I hadn't thought of prior. This book while focused on "the militarization of America's police forces" has two pervading themes: 1. the history of law enforcement in America and th ...more
Jeff Raymond
Radley Balko has been one of my favorite libertarian columnists for some time now. His work on the Cory Maye case in particular was very essential, and he's one of the chief reasons I'm concerned with police misconduct and issues of law enforcement today. His first book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, is focused mostly on the history of SWAT teams and police militarization.

The book starts out in nearly ancient history, and runs its course through to present day. A lot of the book is simply a history o
Jeffrey Blake
Dec 15, 2014 Jeffrey Blake rated it really liked it
well researched account of the changing and more militarized role of policing in the Untied States. Balko looks first at the historical role of police throughout time, then concentrates mostly on the more blurred lines we've seen developing in the last four or five decades; starting first with the "war on drugs" and later with the "war on terror". He then offers some common sense recommendations to reverse the trend. Replete with both shocking statistics and first hand accounts from police, judg ...more
Jun 09, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
One take-away I got from this book relates to how the tea party types cling to their guns b/c they think it prevents the government from busting into peoples homes and taking their guns away and herding them into FEMA concentration camps. Okay we don't have FEMA camps, but as Balko's book shows clearly we do have a highly militarized police force in almost every city in the U.S. that far too often takes the drug war to an extreme. Balko documents case after case of wrong-door raids and over-reac ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it
A very informative narrative about the proliferation of SWAT teams and use of excessive force by police forces over the last several decades.

Some things that I learned that surprised me:

Police have financial incentive to do many small time raids instead of making big busts.

NASA, FDA, and the Department of Education have SWAT teams, and so do extremely tiny towns of less than 3000 people.

Over 90% of all deployments of SWAT teams are for serving routine drug search/arrest warrants instead of high
Dec 04, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing
Great book! This issue is something I've never thought about that much before, and I wasn't aware about how bad the problem was. I'm glad Radley Balko wrote about something you don't really hear about that much. The police have become too militarized and use inappropriate tactics when doing their job. This book got me so angry that this is going on. Any book that makes me feel so passionate about an issue I've never really thought about has fulfilled its purpose. This book is very hard to put do ...more
Mar 30, 2014 wally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balko


5-stars for the information herein. contained here is a powerful statement about the state of our union and the manner and method whereby our police have become a kind of standing army, rarely held accountable for actions others would be and have been prosecuted. forget whatever preconceived idea you entertain about the militarization of our police, you owe it to yourself and your family to read this. if you are not alarmed and angered you have no heart and we are without hop
David Benjamin
Oct 18, 2014 David Benjamin rated it it was amazing
A chilling account of modern policing and a reminder of how easy it is for people to justify insanity in the name of bad or occasionally even good ideals.
Sep 15, 2015 Scribd rated it liked it
Shelves: friday-reads
How did we go from a country that fought a revolution over individual liberties and political speech become one “protests are met with flash grenades, pepper spray, and platoons of riot teams dressed like Robocops”? In this provocative and timely history, Radley Balko tells the story of how the social upheaval of the 1960s and 70s and the War on Drugs have fundamentally altered the relationship between American law enforcement and the people they’re charged with protecting. In doing so, he detai ...more
A man's home is his castle...but now the cops have bettering rams.. Among the sins of George the III, according to the Declaration, was his practice of keeping a standing army. Militias might be raised to defend against outside invasion, but they dispersed upon peacetime; standing peacetime armies were regarded always the weapons of tyrants. In Warrior Cop, author argues that the nation’s civil police forces have been turned into a standing army, beginning in the 1970s after the Watts Riots but ...more
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“have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world. —NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG” 2 likes
“He started America’s first SWAT team.” 1 likes
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