The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted $34 billion over the last 10 years to state and local police departments to combat terrorist threats and drug trafficking. But critics say the advanced military-level training and weapons for police aren’t being used against Al Qaeda. Instead they are being utilised for crowd control in protests.

Outside of the United States, police forces in other nations have increased their use of non-lethal weapons to control riots. In the UK, authorities are testing the use of lasers that cause temporary blindness.

Social media is putting a spotlight on police brutality and military-style tactics used against protesters. Videos and images from Occupy Wall Street encampments to college campuses show police officers aggressively using pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons and other weapons that have been described as “non-lethal.”

In this episode of The Stream, we examine the increasing militarisation of civilian law enforcement with Alex Vitale, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, and Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter at Wired Magazine.

Is access to advanced weapons leading to the militarisation of police forces? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #AJStream.