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Policing two Americas - ‘Separate but not equal’

Michael Brown and Cliven Bundy
Michael Brown and Cliven Bundy
Nex Millenniun Press

America, the titular bastion of freedom, this week showed the whole world its hypocrisy when a militarized police force literally terrorized the predominately African American city of Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the killing of an unarmed black teenager. For more than twenty years, heavily-armed white rancher Cliven Bundy has defied local, state and federal governments by refusing to pay monies owed which far exceed the cost of a box of cigars.

The alacrity with which police descended on a community of unarmed black residents and the ostensible turning a blind eye to a blatant white criminal suggest more than a double standard; it is an indictment of continued marginalization and implicit racism in a country touting itself as a nation that has evolved into a post-racial society.

Legally, “Separate but equal” began after the 1863 issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation as way for states to re-institutionalize racial segregation but not breach the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law to all citizens. With the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, states regained the ability to segregate, providing “equal” but “separate” facilities like schools and drinking fountains were available for African Americans and others denied equal rights.

Since then many decisions like Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, and acts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, have gone a long way to bring legal equality to all citizens, but de facto inequality remains systematically entrenched as a realty of the American status quo, something fiercely guarded by the Republican Party since “Dixiecrats” (Southern Democrats) permanently crossed the aisle after the GOP convention in 1964.

How did a police force of fifty-three officers wage terror against a community with “Desert-Storm” weapons? The answer is simply a matter of oversupply. The Department of Defense has countless warehouses stuffed with the most lethal implements of killing people on the planet. Since the 1990 advent of the “War on Drugs,” the Federal Government has made it easy for small police forces to acquire military-grade equipment despite the fact to date no organized force has emerged on U.S. soil to warrant dooms-day armaments

The following was taken from the Department of Defense website. These are the FAQs for potential buyers needing to control an unarmed population:

When and why was the program created?
Answer: In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991, Congress authorized the transfer of excess DOD personal property to federal and state agencies for use in counter-drug activities. Congress later passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997; this act allows all law enforcement agencies to acquire property for bona fide law enforcement purposes that assist in their arrest and apprehension mission. Preference is given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests.

Who runs the program?
Answer: The program came under the Defense Logistics Agency’s jurisdiction in October 1995. The Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), located at DLA Disposition Services Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, oversees the program.

What controls does the program have?
Answer: For states to participate in the program, they must each set up a business relationship with DLA through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Each participating state’s governor is required to appoint a State Coordinator to ensure the program is used correctly by the participating law enforcement agencies. The State Coordinators are expected to maintain property accountability records and to investigate any alleged misuse of property, and in certain cases, to report violations of the Memorandum of Agreement to DLA. State Coordinators are aggressive in suspending law enforcement agencies who abuse the program.

Additionally, DLA has a compliance review program. The program’s objective is to have the LESO staff visit each state coordinator and assist him or her in ensuring that property accountability records are properly maintained, minimizing the potential for fraud, waste and abuse.

Who participates in the program?

Answer: Over 8,000 federal and state law enforcement agencies from all 50 states and the U.S. territories participate in the program. A law enforcement agency is a government agency whose primary function is the enforcement of applicable federal, state and local laws and whose compensated law enforcement officers have the powers of arrest and apprehension.

How does the program work?
Answer: Once law enforcement agencies have been approved to participate in the 1033 Program by the State Coordinator and the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), the law enforcement agencies appoint officials to visit their local DLA Disposition Services Site. They will screen property and place requests for specific items by submitting requisitions on the Enterprise Business Portal RTDWeb page. The item must have a justification and be approved by both the State Coordinator and the LESO Staff. Law enforcement agencies that receive approval for property must cover all transportation and/or shipping costs.

Who determines what material is available to law enforcement agencies?
Answer: DLA has final authority to determine the type, quantity and location of excess military property suitable for use in law enforcement activities.

What other organizations have access to DoD's excess material?
Answer: DLA, specifically its DLA Disposition Services, has responsibility for Department of Defense property disposal. There are several stages in the property disposal process. Reutilization and transfer comprise the first stage. Reutilization involves the military services and other DoD components and organizations receiving access to excess property either by public law or DoD policy-the Law Enforcement Support program is part of reutilization. Transfers occur when federal civilian agencies receive excess property.

The second stage is the donation stage, where excess property that is determined to be surplus to the military’s needs is provided to organizations, such as state and local governments as well as homeless shelters, under the General Services Administration’s donation programs. The final stage consists of surplus property sales to the general public.

What are some ways in which law enforcement agencies use the equipment they acquire?
Answer: Law enforcement agencies use the equipment in a variety of ways. For instance, four-wheel drive vehicles are used to interrupt drug harvesting, haul away marijuana, patrol streets and conduct surveillance. The 1033 Program also helps with the agencies’ general equipment needs, such as file cabinets, copiers, and fax machines that they need but perhaps are unable to afford.

What does “original acquisition value” mean?
Answer: Original acquisition value refers to the amount the military services paid for the property.

Why is Hazardous Material not authorized for transfer from the DLA Disposition Services Field Activity?
Answer: LESO handles this on a case-by-case basis. Hazardous Materials require special handling, licensing, and transportation.

While there remains vast differences between political parties, allowing even a “Separate but equal” police state to grow without oversight may result in separate but equal death for all. Thinking police terrorism that happens in a black community would never be allowed to occur in a “Wonder Bread” suburb is naive. Bullets make no distinction after the trigger has been pulled.

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