Human Rights

Featured Blog: Why you should be reading the work of Radley Balko

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Written by Kaleb Carter

To grasp the sheer enormity of law enforcement misconduct in America, I recommend starting with the writings of Radley Balko.

Balko writes for the Washington Post on issues such as criminal justices, the failure of the war on drugs, the abuse of constitutional rights and more. He is widely known for his book, “Rise of The Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.”

Balko’s columns, reporting and written advocacy paint a dark, vivid and thorough picture of the problems that Americans face as a result of misconduct within the criminal justice system, and he is one of the lone figures in journalism that I consistently go to for information that isn’t left-leaning.

His politics come from a different standpoint in many ways. His opinions about how the government should be involved in its citizens’ everyday lives are drastically different than mine. Even still, his knowledge of law enforcement practices is massive and in-line with my own thinking.

He wrote for Fox News, Huffington Post, Reason and was even a policy analyst with the prestigious libertarian think tank CATO Institute. While he has undoubtedly compiled an impressive portfolio of work, I have come to be more familiar with his Washington Post and Twitter presence. He knows his way around these issues like few others, with police militarization being a stark example.

“When you tell someone over and over and over again that they’re under siege, that they’re under attack, that their … beat is their sector and their career is their tour of duty, it instills a very sort of militaristic, sort of battlefield mindset,”  Balko said in a talk at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “This isn’t just bad for the communities that police officers serve, this is bad for police officers themselves.”

The militaristic attitude that pervades the culture within law enforcement is a huge focus of Balko’s and I believe his knowledge of it is incredibly impressive.

“If you come to a protest seeking violence and confrontation, you’re going to get violence and confrontation, it becomes very self-fulfilling,” Balko said in the same speech at John Jay.

Watching the whole video would contribute a lot toward better understanding of the ideas of a militarized police force and the ensuing influence toward the war on drugs.

Balko is also engaging on Twitter and consistently weighs in on meaningful topics of conversation.

Maybe it’s just because my beliefs match up with his fairly consistent, but I love this man’s consistent criticisms and willingness to engage with whomever about his stances consistently.

Couple that with the fact that he is producing content at a pace to build a sizable audience and you have a man with considerable influence who brings thoughtful, well-researched and engaging thoughts to the table that counter traditional narratives about law and society.

If you aren’t reading his work already, you’re missing out.


 

Here are three excellent pieces from Balko

  • Here is his profile of Cory Maye for Reason.com. It’s a riveting account of a man convicted for murder of a police officer. The feature was cited in a future Mississippi Supreme Court case.
  • Here is the video of Balko discussing the findings included in his book “Rise of the Warrior Cop” about police militarization.
  • Here is Balko’s blog that compiled news coverage from several sources about an instance in which a flash grenade employed by a SWAT team critically injured a young child.

About the author

Kaleb Carter

Kaleb is currently the director of research and development and maintains a blog on Law, Justice, and the Media. He was previously social media director and a city reporter, and has worked as a journalist in some capacity at WOUB, Hustlebelt, and Mid-Major Madness covering sports, and additionally was an editorial and writing intern with The Athens News. This past summer he served as a communications intern for the ACLU of Ohio. He likes to write about civil liberties, human rights, social justice work, contemporary American politics, the law and more. You can find him coaching high school football, watching Spongebob, Dragon Ball Z, and surfing tumblr.

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