I've got nothing against US Marshals. Or maybe I do.
I just got off a flight from San Francisco to New York on my favorite airline. Why do I like Jet Blue? Because they have TV. I love TV. And Satellite TV turns a 6-hour flight into a dream.
I mean, I love being in a seat with nothing to do but drink and watch Anthony Bourdain, the Dog Whisper, and whatever else is on all the pseudo-educational channels. Man lights fire in the wild after eating raw Zebra? Useful survival skills. Dan Zimmern eats bugs? Delicious! Fisherman pulling the ocean catch? Keep it real! Fox News is still pushing the Obama/Ayers connection? Hell yeah!
Today I didn't have as much time for all those gems because I could watch not one but two good baseball games. Yeah, I was the dork keeping score in seat 3F. But it makes me happy so I don't care what you think.
Between innings and pitching changes--I love baseball, but there's no reason for a game to be longer than two-and-a-half hours--I watched, among other things, US Marshals: Operation Falcon. The show bothered me.
It's a show that shows nothing but a bunch of heavily armed government agents coming out of military vehicles and busting into homes. There's always drugs involved. And the Marshals are mostly white and the criminals mostly black. But OK, reality isn't always politically correct. That's not what bothers me. But I notice it.
The show never asks the big question. Why? Who are we doing this for? How many of these warrants really need to be served by a SWAT team? Is this something that the local police can't do? Do the non-criminals in these neighborhoods really want the US Marshals busting down doors, throwing in flash grenades, and treating everybody like wanted criminals?
The questions certainly don't come from the deep-voiced narrator that treats such police actions as normal, standard, and necessary to protect "us" from "them." Maybe that's what bothers me most.
The militarization of police is something to be questioned, not glorified. Sometimes QRTs and SWAT teams are needed, no doubt. But the image (and the reality) of soldier-like-police busting down door after door simply to serve warrants? I don't like it.
I don't like the rationalization of the US Marshals talking about how good they are for the community. I don't like how they act and talk like they understand the way "they" work and the way "they" talk. I've assisted in some of the raids. Mostly by standing out back, using a telephone pole for cover, hoping the bad guy wouldn't make a run for it. But hell, if I were wanted and I saw them busting in the front door and me standing out back, I'd make a run for it.
No, the Marshals and the FBI don't know the neighborhood or the people. Hell, I didn't know the neighborhood of the people all that well. But I knew it a whole lot better than them. At least I was there eight hours every night. They just roll up, make jokes about how horrible it must be for poor fools like me to police there, do their thing, and leave.
Marshals are hard working men and women (mostly men) doing a dangerous job. As a former cop, I appreciate that probably more than most. But the overuse of military tactics shown in the show is one of main reasons non-criminals in crime-ridden communities hate the police. Sure, sometimes they catch the bad guy (and sometimes they don't), but in the grand scheme it doesn't work. I can't help but see the futility in all that effort to take one guy, one gun, or one kilo off the streets. Another man in prison; another criminal job opening in the hood.
I don't root for the bad buys. I'm happy when I see them in cuffs. But I also know that when the Marshals roll away, 20 deep, the neighborhood isn't suddenly going to be a better place. It's going to keep on being the same place, a dangerous place. But now with one more person in prison and more boarded up front door.
There has to be a better way.