Speed Reads

Mr. Oliver regrets

John Oliver denounces the Ferguson police, and the absurd militarization of U.S. law enforcement

On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discussed the story that has consumed a lion's share of the news coverage over the past week: The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, prompted by the fatal shooting by police of an unarmed black teenager a week earlier. Oliver focused on the Ferguson and St. Louis County police, who've gained notoriety for coming out to address protesters in full military attire.

This militarization of the police isn't unique to suburban St. Louis, Oliver pointed out — small-town police forces across America are applying for and getting tanks and armored vehicles from the Pentagon and Homeland Security Department. "The point is, if you are a cop in the United States, you should dress for the job you have, not the job you want," Oliver said. "Because if you have all this equipment, it's going to go to your head."

As an example, Oliver noted that police SWAT raids have gone up by 1,400 percent since the 1980s, mostly for drug raids. "So yes, if you are getting high in your dorm room right now, you are not paranoid — there is a SWAT team outside, and they are coming to get you." Returning to Ferguson, Oliver had an admittedly patronizing deal for the local police. And yes, this being Oliver and HBO, there is some mildly NSFW language and a lot of bleeps. --Peter Weber