Is America Inching Toward a Police State? by Rodrigo Sermeño

Stronger police forces and a more robust surveillance apparatus are blurring the lines between law enforcement and military.

WASHINGTON – The recent revelations about the federal government’s surveillance programs underscore a subtle trend in the U.S. that should raise some concerns about personal freedoms in America.

According to John W. Whitehead – founder of the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization – more Americans might find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations as SWAT teams and SWAT-team tactics are used more frequently in routine law enforcement activities.

Violent crime in America has been on a steady decline since the mid-1990s. No one knows exactly why criminal activity is down, but experts point to a variety of factors for the continuing decline in overall violence. They cite the end of the crack cocaine epidemic and changes in technology that include a substantial increase in surveillance cameras, among other reasons, as being responsible for bringing down crime.

Despite falling crime rates, some of the nation’s major cities are increasing the size and scope of their police agencies. For example, the New York Police Department (NYPD), the biggest police force in the nation, boasts more than 34,000 officers patrolling the streets of New York. Other cities with increasingly large police forces include Los Angeles (which has approximately 10,000 officers) and Chicago (13,400).

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