Military gear may harm relations between police forces and citizens not only because they signal violence but because they may, in some sense, cause more violence. The same cues that signal “army” and “conflict” to civilians may affect police officers themselves. When they “dress up” for serious engagements, for example when donning SWAT gear to respond to a riot, they no longer feel like local law enforcement anymore but like part of a broader military machine.
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That perception, in turn, may well affect the types of decisions they actually make. In one early study, a take on the famous Milgram paradigm, in which women were asked to deliver electric shocks to another woman whenever she made a mistake, women who wore Ku Klux Klan uniforms delivered more shocks than those who wore nurses’ uniforms. The implication was that uniforms conferred some of their connotations onto the behavior of their wearers. –Maria Konnikova

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a scene or story where the conflict escalates because of the uniform worn by a character.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about police using military gear?

Art Prompt: Military gear, civilian police

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Talk about issues facing police today and how the use of military gear affects those issues.

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes on Flickr

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