In These Times discusses the militarization of social services with Eric Klinenberg.
[In These Times] You have examined how police forces in cities like Chicago have usurped functions that were once the responsibility of public social service agencies. Do you see the same thing happening in the wake of Hurricane Katrina?
[Klinenberg] I do. Problems stemming from the militarization of social support programs are at the heart of the failed Katrina response. Beginning with the Crime Bill in 1994, all levels of government have delegated traditional social service responsibilities to paramilitary or military organizations—responsibilities that in many cases they are poorly suited to handle. In Heat Wave I call this an organizational mismatch, and one with serious consequences.
Take Chicago: During the ’90s the city asked the Chicago Police Department’s CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) program to take on a range of traditional caring functions—holding community meetings, checking in on elderly residents, helping to clean streets—effectively using the punishing branch of government to do what the giving branch had done before.