Militarization of our police
As most Americans firmly oppose the current morphing of local police from protects and serves and community policing to federally militarized and federally subsidized an occupying force.
In the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., an unarmed 18-year-old black man was apparently killed by police in broad daylight.
By now, what's happening in Ferguson is about so many second-order issues— the militarization of police with systemic racism, and how citizens can redress grievances, among other things—that it's worth remembering what actually happened...
Last week Ferguson was sending shockwaves across America and around the world. Many viewers first tuning into the national news thought they were observing a 3rd world riot that we so often see coming from places like the Middle East, Russia, China or some out of control banana republic. No these pictures were coming from Ferguson Missouri in the heartland of America. We as Americans need to examine the problem of the militarization of our police.
Dr, Edwin Vieira, Jr. writes in his new book that we now have a choice to make – do we want to continue to live in a police state, or do we do something about it.
As Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst with the Justice Department’s Community Policing Services office, observes, police across America are being trained in a way that emphasizes force and aggression. He notes that recruit training favors a stress-based regimen that’s modeled on military boot camp rather than on the more relaxed academic setting a minority of police departments still employ.
The result, he suggests, is young officers who believe policing is about kicking ass rather than working with the community to make neighborhoods safer. Or as comedian Bill Maher reminded officers recently: “The words on your car, ‘protect and serve,’ refer to us, not you.”
This authoritarian streak runs counter to the core philosophy that supposedly dominates twenty-first-century American thinking: community. Its emphasis is on a mission of “keeping the peace” by creating and maintaining partnerships of trust with and in the communities served.
Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the U.S. government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them. They don’t command respect, the theory goes: they earn it. Fear isn’t supposed to be their currency. Trust is.
Nevertheless, police recruiting videos, as in those from California’s Newport Beach Police Department and New Mexico’s Hobbs Police Department, actively play up not the community angle but militarization as a way of attracting young men with the promise of Army-style adventure and high-tech toys. Policing, according to recruiting videos like these, isn’t about calmly solving problems; it’s about you and your boys breaking down doors in the middle of the night.
SWAT’s influence reaches well beyond that. Take the increasing adoption of battle-dress uniforms (BDUs) for patrol officers. These militaristic, often black, jumpsuits, Bickel fears, make them less approachable and possibly also more aggressive in their interactions with the citizens they’re supposed to protect…
Take the 1033 program. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) may be an obscure agency within the Department of Defense, but through the 1033 program, which it oversees, it’s one of the core enablers of American policing’s excessive militarization. Beginning in 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to transfer its surplus property free of charge to federal, state, and local police departments to wage the war on drugs.
In 1997, Congress expanded the purpose of the program to include counterterrorism in section 1033 of the defense authorization bill. In one single page of a 450-page law, Congress helped sow the seeds of today’s warrior cops.
The amount of military hardware transferred through the program has grown astronomically over the years. In 1990, the Pentagon gave $1 million worth of equipment to U.S. law enforcement. That number had jumped to nearly $450 million in 2013. Overall, the program has shipped off more than $4.3 billion worth of materiel to state and local cops, according to the DLA.
In its recent report, the ACLU found a disturbing range of military gear being transferred to civilian police departments nationwide. Police in North Little Rock, Arkansas, for instance, received 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, two robots that can be armed, military helmets, and a Mamba tactical vehicle. Police in Gwinnet County, Georgia, received 57 semi-automatic rifles, mostly M-16s and M-14s. The Utah Highway Patrol, according to a Salt Lake City Tribune investigation, got an MRAP from the 1033 program, and Utah police received 1,230 rifles and four grenade launchers. After South Carolina’s Columbia Police Department received its very own MRAP worth $658,000, its
SWAT Commander Captain E.M. Marsh noted that 500 similar vehicles had been distributed to law enforcement organizations across the country.
Astoundingly, one-third of all war materiel parceled out to state, local, and tribal police agencies is brand new. This raises further disconcerting questions: Is the Pentagon simply wasteful when it purchases military weapons and equipment with taxpayer dollars? Or could this be another downstream, subsidized market for defense contractors? Whatever the answer, the Pentagon is actively distributing weaponry and equipment made for U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns abroad to police who patrol American streets and this is considered sound policy in Washington. The message seems striking enough: what might be necessary for Kabul might also be necessary for DeKalb County.
In other words, the twenty-first-century war on terror has melded thoroughly with the twentieth-century war on drugs, and the result couldn’t be anymore disturbing: police forces that increasingly look and act like occupying armies…
American cops are the best trained and best financed in the world. However, only a mere few honor the oath they all have taken to protect and serve, and the concern by many is that the current-serving cops who will honor their Oath to the Constitution may be penalized for doing so. What we saw in Pittsburgh in 2009 and in Ferguson, Missouri are signs of the times. As Dr. Vieira points out, perhaps we’d be wise to reinstate the Constitutional “Militia of the several States“, just as the Constitution requires.
Some Americans question whether a standing police force is or is not a constitutionally lawful entity.
The direction being achieved by militarizing our cops is to train them to be an occupying force under the control of the Federal government and its minions instead of being our friendly public servant whose job was once to “serve and protect”.
Justice Department’s Community Policing Services office
The Bastardy of Martial Law
Why are Law enforcement requesting armored vehicles by by Michael Webster
Michael Webster Syndicated Investigative Reports are read worldwide, in 100 or more U.S. outlets and in at least 136 countries and territories. He publishes articles in association with global news agencies and media information services with more than 350 news affiliates in 136 countries.
He served as a trustee on trade Union funds. A noted Author, Lecturer, Educator, Emergency Manager, Counter-Terrorist, War on Drugs and War on Terrorist Specialist, Newspaper Publisher. Radio News caster. Labor Law generalist, Teamster Union Business Agent, General Organizer, Union Rank and File Member Grievances Representative, NLRB Union Representative, Union Contract Negotiator, Workers Compensation Appeals Board Hearing Representative. Mr. Webster represented management on that side of the table as the former Director of Federated of Nevada. Mr. Webster publishes on-line newspapers at www.lagunajournal.com and www.usborderfirereport.com and does investigative reports for print, electronic and on-line News Agencies. Mr. Webster is a four star general with the United States Civil Defense Assoc. At: www.uscda.us