by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

When Sir Robert Peel developed his plan for the London Metropolitan Police circa 1829—which U.S. policing was loosely patterned after—he borrowed heavily from the military in organization and administrative structure, but he wanted there to be a clear distinction between the police and the military. To achieve that, the uniforms of the London Metropolitan police (Bobbies) were blue, in contrast to the red uniform of the day's British military, and Bobbies were forbidden to carry firearms.

While the military's mission is predicated on the use of force, Peel's principles of policing emphasize crime prevention, public approval, willing cooperation of the public, and a minimal use of physical force.

...While the community policing movement has drawn heavily from Peel's principles of policing, which emphasize the importance of the relationship between the police and the community they serve, the concurrent militarization trend may be undermining those relationships.

Excerpt from "Will the Growing Militarization of Our Police Doom Community Policing?"  
-Community Policing Dispatch

Image Credit:

The ACLU, in its report “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing” notes the following:

  1. Policing—particularly through the use of paramilitary teams—in the United States today has become excessively militarized, mainly through federal programs that create incentives for state and local police to use unnecessarily aggressive weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield. For example, the ACLU documented a total of 15,054 items of battle uniforms or personal protective equipment received by 63 responding agencies during the relevant time period, and it is estimated that 500 law enforcement agencies have received Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles built to withstand armor piercing roadside bombs through the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program.

  2. The militarization of policing in the United States has occurred with almost no public oversight. Not a single law enforcement agency in this investigation provided records containing all of the information that the ACLU believes is necessary to undertake a thorough examination of police militarization. Some agencies provided records that were nearly totally lacking in important information. Agencies that monitor and provide oversight over the militarization of policing are virtually nonexistent.

Our neighborhoods and communities are not places that need to be occupied, in any sense of the word. We do not need the military or police to do the type of ‘nation-building’ you hear mentioned so often in the Middle East. Our nation-building should require hiring construction workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, such as bridges and sewer systems. Instead, we funnel more and more tax dollars into equipping police in both rural and urban areas with extreme tools for their jobs.

I don’t pretend to completely understand or know what is happening in Ferguson, MO right now. I know many others do claim to know and have strong opinions about it on both sides. They are easy to find, if you’d like to read them.

What I do feel strongly is that every step of the way, the police presence in Ferguson has been poorly handled. Their police force is predominantly white, while the population is primarily African-American. Their immediate response has been to break out the military assault weapons for which they finally have a reason to justify using. At each stage of these protests, police reaction has been to respond with an overwhelming show of force that seems inappropriate for the unrest being displayed.

This culminated in last night’s announcement that the grand jury has declined to indict Officer Wilson for his actions in the death of Michael Brown. It seemed to me (and others) that each aspect of the announcement seemed calculated to provoke a response from protesters:

  • A lengthy wait was required before the results of the grand jury’s investigation were announced. No clear reasoning for the delay was apparent.

  • The announcement was made at 8 pm local time, which provided protesters plenty of time to spend the evening getting increasingly agitated. 

  • It was dark by the time the verdict was announced, providing those inclined to lash out or cause trouble with increased anonymity and cover.

These are just some of the troubling factors in last night’s announcement. Why was the announcement conducted in this way? How did this process promote an appeal to calm volatile emotions? If there was good reasoning behind this timing, why wasn’t it made more clear?

I have been to cities in other countries where men drive around in trucks, pointing assault rifles at you. It is disconcerting at best, and always provocative and challenging. One thing it never is, in my mind: peaceful or calming.

To see this provocation repeatedly happening in America by officers that are often mishandling these weapons and behaving inappropriately is a disturbing sight. Our police officers should not be wearing camouflage and imitating military actions. They are not at war with us or our neighbors. The increasingly disproportionate military response to public demonstration and other activities is disturbing and inappropriate.

I hope that these events in Ferguson, MO remind us of at least one important value: The proper role of police in our society is to protect and serve.

Matthew Ellis is the CEO of Episcopal Health Ministries. 

by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

Fitbit Data Now Being Used In The Courtroom from
Personal injury cases are prime targets for manipulation and conjecture. How do you show that someone who’s been in a car accident can’t do their job properly, and deserves thousands of dollars in compensation? Till now lawyers have relied on doctors to observe someone for half an hour or so and give their, sometimes-biased opinion. Soon, they might also tap the wealth of quantifiable data provided by fitness trackers. A law firm in Calgary is working on the first known personal injury case that will use activity data from a Fitbit to help show the effects of an accident on their client.

Aging population prompts more employers to offer elder-care benefits to workers from The Washington Post
There have been times these past few years when Samira Siddiqi couldn’t wait for Monday morning to get back to work. The days were a blur for her and her husband, Shaz, as they juggled their work — his as an allergist, hers for an IT company in Gaithersburg — and caring for not only their two daughters but also all four of their elderly parents, who were living with them in their Clarksburg home. They raced from school drop-off to chemotherapy appointments to pharmacy visits.

Skateboard legend Tony Hawk rides a real hoverboard from CNET
Ever since we first saw Marty McFly hop on a hoverboard to escape the bad guys in "Back to the Future Part II," we've been coveting our own futuristic skateboard.

Charles Dickens Gave His Cat “Bob” a Second Life as a Letter Opener from Open Cluture
It’s not for the squeamish, but I can see how this cannily orchestrated hand-holding could bring ongoing comfort. More than the fleeting condolences proliferating on Facebook, anyway.

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!


by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/the-affordable-care-act-is-working">The Affordable Care Act is working. Let's help those who need it. </a></h1>

2015 Enrollment is Open Now!

As Year 2 of Affordable Care Act enrollment gets underway, it's important to note that the law is largely working as intended, and sometimes even better than intended. The Incidental Economist notes the following:

Rates of uninsured persons are down. Millions of people are enrolling. The Congressional Budget Office thinks that it will cost less than they originally projected. The Massachusetts Mortality Study showed that RomneyCare, the ACA’s model, is improving health outcomes (see discussion by Austin here, here, and here; Adrianna here; and me [Bill Gardner] here, here, and here.)). And even seems to be working.

They go on to note that despite the law's successes, it still faces vehement opposition from many. This article is an interesting read to understand how our views are impacted by the media we consume, the groups we trust to give us accurate information, and how it lines up with our own preconceived ideas. 

I find the Affordable Care Act to be well in line with the goals of many recent General Convention resolutions supporting health care access. We know that our churches and ministries have access to vulnerable populations who qualify for health insurance under the ACA but are highly susceptible to falling through the cracks and not getting registered. 

My hope is that whether or not individuals agree with the law, they will acknowledge that many have an opportunity to obtain health insurance at an affordable rate, some for the first time. However, many will need help to navigate this complex terrain. Our health ministries in the Episcopal Church can be a valuable link in either helping them directly to sign up or in connecting them with appropriate resources. 

The Affordable Care Act is working. Let's be sure we help those most in need to access health insurance, and by extension, health care in general. 

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/upcoming-webinars-on-affordable-care-act-enrollment">Upcoming Webinars on Affordable Care Act Enrollment</a></h1>

Upcoming Webinars on the Health Care Law

The HHS Partnership Center and CMS have updated webinars on the health care law for faith and community organizations. All webinars are open to the public and include a question and answer session. To participate in one of the webinars, please select your preferred topic from the list below and submit the necessary information. Please contact us at if you have problems registering or if you have questions about the health care law. You may also join the webinar by telephone only. To view this information online and to register, please go here:

How to Host an Enrollment Event

November 20 at 1 pm EST
(Noon CST, 11 am MST, 10 am PST)

To Join By Phone Only: Dial: +1 (415) 655-0061, Access Code: 986-175-378
For those joining by phone only, the Pin Number is the # key

Join us to learn how to hold a successful enrollment event. The Marketplace is open with coverage available as early as January 1.  We will share our guide to help with hosting enrollment events, show you key websites and answer your questions. Please send any questions to before noon on November 20.

Getting Ready to Enroll Friends and Family in the Health Insurance Marketplace

November 24 at 3 pm EST
(2 pm CST, 1 pm MST, Noon PST)

To Join By Phone Only: Dial: Toll: +1 (646) 307-1706, Access Code: 305-433-557
For those joining by phone only, the Pin Number is the # key

Open enrollment starts on November 15, 2014 with coverage available as early as January 1, 2015. Learn how to share information about open enrollment with your friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. This presentation will discuss how to enroll in the Marketplace, key websites and resources on the law. Questions will be answered at the end of the webinar. Please send any questions to prior to November 24 at Noon ET.

Affordable Care Act 101 Webinars for Small Employers, Including Nonprofit Organizations

The Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Health Human and Services, and Small Business Majority have teamed up for a free weekly webinar series where small employers can learn the basics of the Affordable Care Act and what it means for their organization and employees. Topics covered include:

  • Cost containment
  • The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit 
  • The new Health Insurance Marketplace 
  • Employer Shared Responsibility.

Webinar content will generally be the same each week. Below are the registration links for upcoming webinars in English and Spanish.

November 20, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register
December 4, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register
December 11, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register
December 18, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register

Spanish-language ACA 101 Webinars

November 18, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register
December 2, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register
December 16, 2014 at 4 pm ET: Click to Register

 Learn about the Health Insurance Marketplace & your new coverage options.

by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

Who makes a healthier lunch: Mom or school cafeteria? from CBS News
Lunches packed at home are generally not as nutritious as school lunches, a new study shows. Researchers compared more than 750 school meals with more than 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students in three schools, analyzing them for nutritional value over five days.

Meet America’s oldest living vet. He smokes cigars, does yard work, drives and drinks whiskey. And he’s 108. from The Washington Post
Richard Overton, 108, is thought to be the oldest living veteran in the United States. But he’s as active as ever. On Tuesday, shortly after he served as grand marshal in Austin’s Veteran’s Day Parade, Overton was relaxing on the porch of his Texas home — the same house he bought when he returned from World War II (he paid $4,000 for the house, Austin Fox affiliate KTBC reported in May).

Artist Sven Sachsalber looks for needle in haystack from BBC News
Italian performance artist Sven Sachsalber is to spend the next two days trying to find a needle in a pile of hay in a Paris museum. The needle was hidden by the director of the museum, the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art gallery.

Touchdown! Comet Landing to Offer Clues to Solar System's Birth from National Geographic
Scientists "soft-landed" a space probe on a comet for the first time on Wednesday, capping a ten-year, four-billion-mile journey.

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!