The police play a complex role in American society. A basic characteristic of policing is that they function to overcome resistance when dealing with a non-criminal task, an order maintenance issue, or a criminal event. The subject of police militarization as a tool for overcoming resistance peaked in 2014 primarily because of the police actions in Ferguson, MO. The use of armored vehicles, military-style uniforms, and rifles prompted a national conversation of the seemingly growing use of a militarized approach within policing.
Appearance seems to be the dominant rational for characterizing the police as being militarized. What was missing from the debate was a deeper understanding of police militarization from the perspective of those within law enforcement.