Have we overmilitarized our police forces?

There seems to be a trend in this country whereby the police are becoming less and less civilian protectors of the people and more and more of a military-type shock force, willing to use unjustified force to subdue suspects or borderline illegal coersion to trick people into giving up their civil rights.

More often than ever you see police officers in military-style clothing, with military-style weapons and tactics (for example, my home town of Oak Hill, with a population of a scant 7,000 people, has a K-9 unit—why?). It's only natural, then, for the officers to begin to think of themselves as a military unit, not a part of the population in general.

You see an example of the first problem cited above in this video of a recent tasering incident at UCLA. The police there taser a student multiple times instead of simply handcuffing and arresting him. More troubling is that his charge was not being in possession of his student ID. Hardly a major offense.

The second problem, that of coersion of suspects by trickery or intimidation, can be seen simply by watching the show "Cops." Time and again, suspects stopped for a minor infraction are told that the cops will go easy on them if they consent to a search of their vehicle. This is not true. The cops cannot "go harder" on you if you do not cooperate, and you are under NO OBLIGATION to grant a search of your vehicle, which is why the police ask for permission. Check out this great instructional video by the ACLU advising Americans of their rights when confronted by the police. It should be required viewing in civics classes (as if they still taught civics nowadays).

Also troubling is the habit of police officers to refer to the general populace as "civilians," as if they somehow have a lower status. In fact, the police officers are civilians as well.

I fully understand that being a police officer is a demanding, dangerous, and many times, thankless job. That's why I'm very grateful to the citizens of this country who choose the calling to protect and serve us. But having a dangerous, important job does not give a police organization or individual officers free reign to trample over the rights of the populace.