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February 2005
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Militarizing our Police

I was working on a post about a billboard that was put up in my town, but then it came down after a very short time. Could it be that others here found it as offensive as I did?
This billboard is for Task Force 6, a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement unit. Now regular readers of the Rant will know that I am not a big fan of drug task forces of any kind, but unlike many others I’ve reported on, Task Force 6 in Illinois had not had any public scandals or anything to even really alert me to its existence… until this billboard.

A picture named billboard.jpg

Let’s zoom in on the part on the right:

A picture named taskforce.jpg

What genius came up with this marketing strategy? Try to analyze this in terms of the audiences they may be trying to target.
Target audience A: Gangs and other criminal organizations that sell illegal drugs.
Now I haven’t belonged to a gang, but I’ve seen some, as I’m sure you have. Picture yourself in their group, making tons of money off of black market drugs. You see this billboard. Do you say

  1. “Whoa, that’s scary. We better stop selling drugs and get jobs at McDonald’s,” or
  2. “We’d better get some bigger guns.”

Somehow I’m not seeing an increase in fast food applications, which means we may need to watch out for heavier duty cross-fire.
Target Audience B: The community, to feel good about being kept safe.
I’m sorry, but as a community member, the idea of armed soldiers with army gear conducting military operations in the middle of the night in my neighborhood does not make me sleep better.
Finally, the thing that concerns me most about this billboard is that Task Force 6 thinks it’s appropriate to do this. This means that they have already built up that mindset that they are conducting a war on enemy soil. This kind of attitude leads to such concepts as “acceptable civilian casualties” and the use of any kind of violent tactic to achieve the mission.
It is undoubtedly men like these who Cheryl Noel saw entering her bedroom before she died.

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