From there, Balko asked the crowd to guess "cop or soldier" as he showed images of men in camouflage armor and helmets hanging off armored vehicles or helicopters, all carrying large guns.
The group gasped at a photo of a man in camo armor and carrying a large rifle moving through the trees, as Balko announced, "That's an Oregon state trooper."
Balko called for an emphasis on constitutional protections meant to ensure civilian safety.
"We need to resist a culture of militarism. We need to resist standing armies. We need to resist using soldiers and gear designed for war for domestic law enforcement," he said. "The military's job is to annihilate a foreign enemy, to kill people and break things, and they do it well. The job of the police is to protect and serve."
As officers are treated as soldiers and told they are fighting wars, the separation between military and police "is blurred to where there's really no distinction at all," he said.
Balko's book sold out before the event began. He was charismatic, his sardonic presentation drawing laughs at moments and dismayed groans at others as he shared examples of SWAT raids on mistaken addresses or unlikely targets, expanding police forces, anecdotes of victims and a high-energy promotional video showing the power of the Lenco BearCat set to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck."
"This kind of force that was once reserved for riots and hostage takings and bank robberies, in a lot of jurisdictions, is becoming the first option that these police agencies are turning to," he said.
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