Police militarization in the United States

Trent Steidley, David M. Ramey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In 2014, police responses to protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, prompted an unprecedented level of news coverage on the phenomenon of police militarization. Though the increased attention to police militarization and governmental programs thought to facilitate it (e.g., the 1033 Program) may give the impression that police militarization is a recent phenomena, social scientists have been documenting trends in police militarization for decades. This article provides an overview of the social science research literature on police militarization, starting with a discussion of a theory informed conceptualization of police militarization. We next discuss the major normative debates that have guided research on police militarization. We then review the empirical literature that focuses on the methodological approaches and findings of extant work on police militarization. Finally, we close with an overview of the state of the literature and suggestions for future research. Our major suggestion for future work is to consider the dimensions of police work that police militarization can occur in while continuing to engage with the normative debates of previous scholars so as to improve the overall quality of police work and public safety in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12674
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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