An Open Letter to Police Departments from Justin King

Justin King in Ferguson.

Justin King in Ferguson.

Baltimore, Maryland (TFC) – I’m publishing this against my better judgment. I deeply want to avoid the scenarios presented below, and I feel that time is short while the flames lick the streets of Baltimore. Perhaps the open statement of facts that you, as law enforcement, and we, as American citizens, want to avoid thinking about will create an atmosphere for change. I am literally begging you to make the changes necessary to avoid these scenarios.

Simply put, the militarization of police is unacceptable. Every day there is a new story about a raid gone wrong, or a case of mistaken identity, or an outright murder by a police officer. Cops have taken to sexually assaulting women on the side of the road. Child molesters hiding behind a badge are common place. It’s part of a systemic issue arising from creating positions that are untouchable. The positions attract officers that will rape, abuse, maim, and kill without thought. The current thin blue line has fostered an atmosphere of officers believing that they are above the law. In many recent cases, it seems as though they are. The “good” cops do nothing.

The lack of accountability is an issue, but a greater issue that we must address immediately is the use of military tactics against civilian populations. It is intolerable. The reason the law enforcement community needs to take note is the fact that they are creating resentment among the population to a degree that will cause more unrest. Many officers will roll their eyes and continue with the attitude that they can handle the situation when it arises. It’s time for an unpleasant reality check.

Departments across the country have shown that in spite of the weapons of war they now have in their arsenals, they are unable to cope with plain old-fashioned rioters. The people you publicly dismiss as “thugs” have been running all over you. These citizens are untrained, undisciplined, and have no tactical or combat experience. The part that should bother you is that these are not the citizens you need to worry about.

For more than a decade, the US military has engaged in counter-insurgency operations all over the world. In order to counter insurgency, you have to know how to be an insurgent. These are people who believed they were fighting for freedom, only to come home and see their benefits in tatters and their police departments treating US citizens in a manner worse than an occupying military force.  These are individuals that view your MRAP as a target of opportunity that is to be destroyed en route to the main objective. Your checkpoints with no rear security are seen as nothing more than a place to get free rifles and ammo. Your troops standing on the running boards of Suburbans will be targets that these individuals place bets over how many they can hit as you pass. Just because you dress the part, does not make you warriors. You have the tools, but you do not have the training. A lot of that equipment you are so proud of will be in your opposition’s hands the day after hostilities start. It will have been taken from the dead and dying. You may believe the current propaganda, but the fact is that you do not have a dangerous job. It isn’t even in the top ten. Fishermen, trash collectors, and even delivery drivers have a more dangerous job.

That isn’t the worst of it. Most Americans do not truly understand the devastation of an insurgency. The bombs and combat-related deaths are nothing compared to the coinciding civilian casualties. In an industrialized nation, the effects of an insurgency are amplified by a general lack of knowledge among the populace. Most Americans do not know how to obtain fresh water or food without a grocery store. These people will die. Your godson that is insulin dependent will die because of a lack of medicine or running refrigerators to store it in. Your parent that needs their daily heart medication will die because the pharmacies were raided for medical supplies and then torched. If your daughter gets pregnant, she may die during childbirth from complications that would be controllable under normal circumstances. Your niece that has a weakened immune system may die from the flu.

Refugee camps outside of Kosovo. Yugoslavia was a resort destination before the war. "Kampi i Kosovareve gjate Eksodit 99" by Jonuz Kola

Refugee camps outside of Kosovo. Yugoslavia was a resort destination before the war.
“Kampi i Kosovareve gjate Eksodit 99” by Jonuz Kola

The above family references aren’t meant to scare you. They are what scare me. Those are descriptions of my family members. Make no mistake, the lack of food, water, and medicine will claim members of your family as well, but it will be your fault.

We are supposed to live in a representative country. The people have spoken and repeatedly said that they are not interested in the police state you are trying to push. Your desire to play soldier and be “tacticool” may cost the lives of your family members, and the lives of literally millions more. The death toll from widespread civil unrest would reach the tens of millions within a month.

I am begging. Demilitarize your departments. Trash the MRAPs. Remember that the “S” in SWAT stands for “Special.” It’s not a team to use every day to go after every petty drug dealer. Stop greeting peaceful protesters with riot gear and militarized cops. Stop attempting to interfere with people filming you. Most importantly, stop killing unarmed people. It doesn’t matter if he resisted before he ran. It doesn’t matter if you’re scared of him because he’s a big black guy. It doesn’t matter if they were being too loud. If they are unarmed, do not shoot them. This isn’t a hard concept to grasp.

There is a revolution underway right now against the police state. There are two ways for a revolution to be successful. You can put a new idea into someone’s head, or you can put a bullet into someone’s head. For the love of everything you know, get some new ideas before somebody decides to go with the second option. I don’t believe most Americans or law enforcement realize how close we really are to that.

That is as direct as I can possibly be. If you’re wondering why you should listen to some pinhead journalist, just know that I carried a weapon long before I replaced it with a camera. As far as my record on predictions about the domestic situation: I stated the Ferguson Police Department’s use of tear gas was over the line. They were just ordered to pay the protesters. I stated that we would see more riots after Ferguson. We do. I stated that cops would be openly targeted and shot while they sit in their cars. It happened. I stated multiple times that departments are losing support from the majority of people. You have. I know the politics and driving forces behind insurgency better than you know the contents of your own duty belt.

I am stating now that without a serious reduction in the number of militarized police departments, you are going to start a goddamned war. It will be unlike anything modern America has seen, and once it starts there will be no stopping it.

Please, don’t let it start.


To those that would use professionally executed violence: The government is a child of the people. It has misbehaved, and it has been spanked in Ferguson and Baltimore. Give them time to begin adjustments. Those that are capable of the actions I described above know that the unintended consequences I describe above are also very real. I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. I understand the fear that if you continue to wait that it will become too late to act. I also understand that nobody wants this to happen. Show restraint, I’m begging you, too.