The Militarization of Our Police

From Yahoo & Reuters:

Attendees look at the Lenco MRAP Bear SWAT Team vehicle at the 7th annual Border Security Expo in Phoenix, Arizona March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Column: The militarization of U.S. police forces

This month, more Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles (MRAPs) have found their way from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Main Streets of America. These are just the latest acquisitions in a growing practice by Pentagon that’s militarizing America’s municipal police forces.

Police departments in Boise and Nampa, Idaho, each acquired an MRAP, as did the force in High Springs, Florida. The offer of war-ready machinery, at practically no cost, has proven hard to resist for local police departments. Increasingly, they are looking like soldiers equipped for battle.

The growing similarity between our domestic police forces and the U.S. military is a result of the Pentagon’s 1033 Program. This allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment and weapons to law enforcement agencies. In addition to the frightening presence of paramilitary weapons in American towns, the program has led to rampant fraud and abuse.

It does not have to be this way. Congress can, and must, take decisive steps to scale back the program and demilitarize American police forces. Here’s how to do it.

First, Congress should permanently ban the transfer of all military-grade equipment to our cities. The program has already transferred enough impractical machinery to local police forces — material that many police departments do not have the skill to use safely or the money to maintain. Georgia’s Cobb County, for example, acquired one AR-15 assault rifle for each of its patrol vehicles, while Tupelo, Mississippi received a helicopter that needed $100,000 worth of upgrades and $20,000 each year in maintenance.

Due to the large amount of missing weapons, the Pentagon has now temporarily suspended new weapons shipments to domestic law enforcement agencies. This is a good step. But it is not enough — especially since the ban is expected to be lifted soon.

Meanwhile, city agencies are still free to transfer weapons to other cities and are still free to receive armored personnel carriers and aircraft from the Pentagon. As the new MRAPs patrolling Iowa and Florida now demonstrate, current limitations do nothing to discourage the militarization of local police.

Second, strict oversight must be implemented and consistently enforced if the Pentagon insists on continuing the program. Congress must step up to manage the program by setting new rules and restrictions. Localities not in full compliance must be barred from participation in the program.

Shocking, almost comical, examples of abuse have been well-documented — from the officer who sold his weapons on eBay, to the one who lent his weapons to unauthorized friends and the police departments that lost the military weapons or tried to auction them off.

Now is the time for our policymakers to demand more from the Defense Department. In order to participate, law enforcement agencies should be able to account for 100 percent of the equipment they receive every year. This should be a no-brainer.

If they cannot, they should be removed from the program. If state coordinators do not verify compliance in person, the states should be removed from the program. And if the Defense Department cannot successfully report full compliance to Congress every year, the program should be suspended.

Receiving free equipment is a privilege for law enforcement — a privilege that so far has not come with any responsibility. It is unacceptable for American police to receive such hazardous weapons and equipment without oversight. It is particularly unacceptable for those who have proven to be incompetent, wasteful or irresponsible with the equipment they have received to remain eligible for more free items.

Ultimately, it is Congress’s responsibility to protect its constituents’ safety and financial interests, which could be threatened by the program mismanagement.

Unless Americans want their towns patrolled by armored military vehicles, their skies humming with drones, and their local police officers equipped with assault weapons, they should encourage Congress to scale the program back promptly.

Taxpayer money should not have to support the costs of maintaining the weapons of war that local police forces have acquired. Citizens deserve to know that their congressional leaders and law enforcement officers are working together to protect them — not recklessly engaging in a gluttonous arms race or irresponsibly losing dangerous weapons.

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This column, authored by Michael Shank and Elizabeth Beavers, is obviously an editorial since it contains their opinions and suggested solutions. While I agree that our police departments don’t need this type of military equipment, nor the maintenance costs, I disagree that it needs Congressional intervention and oversight, which costs us even more money.

My suggestion would be to sell this equipment to our allies and use the money to pay down the balance on our credit cards.

There. Wasn’t that simple?

~Kathy

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16 Responses to The Militarization of Our Police

  1. Clyde says:

    One thing about it. ANY of this equipment coming from this Regime has a WHOLE BALL of strings attached. Good piece.

    • Kathy says:

      Agreed, Clyde. I’m inclined to think there are ulterior motives having to do with nearby facilities – either military bases or those others with the concertina wire around them.

  2. Mrs AL says:

    Don’t know exactly where you are, Kathy, in the Lone Star State but I like in the middle of nowhere and our county as an ACP! It’s pathetic. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Evidently it was procured through a government program of some type. This county as exactly one incorporated town for crying out loud!

    Important post and thanx.

    • Kathy says:

      We’re out here in the flatland deserts of west Texas, and so far I’ve not seen anything like that in my town, one of two towns in our county. There’s definitely something ‘hinky’ going on with this deal – the government doesn’t just give stuff away for nothing.

  3. myfoxmystere says:

    There are very few towns I can think of where one can justify having these kind of weapons and equipment: Border towns to Mexico or Canada, and towns with military bases in them.

  4. Kathy says:

    Good point, Fox, I can see the justification for that too, but not in places like Nampa, Idaho and High Springs, Florida. It’s ridiculous and a huge waste.

  5. Buck says:

    Turn it back on them.
    I say It is unconstitutional to pass a law prohibiting me from purchasing/possessing an automatic rifle.
    The liberal argument is, “You don’t need it.”
    So what is the need of metropolitan police for war vehicles?

  6. garnet92 says:

    I’m starting to get a little uneasy about equipping our LEOs with full-boat military hardware – especially in areas outside of specific trouble spots within major cities. I believe that there are few areas that REQUIRE that level of firepower to overcome any activity that is likely to arise. I can recall a few times when the public has balked at seeing local cops receiving anything on the order of MRAPs and the police admins always bring up that 1997 shootout in L.A. where the police were outgunned. Fine, but that was 16 years ago and the arsenal accumulated by even the smallest of police departments and Sheriff’s departments are now sporting fully automatic weapons and more. I’m all for helicopters and the like, but MRAPs are over the top.

    • Kathy says:

      Precisely, Garnet, what’s the need for this class of vehicle? It’s not like John Q Public has something so high-powered that would require that much protection. Something is behind these ‘freebies’.

  7. bullright says:

    Good article. And won’t those local PD’s look so good cruzin’ down the road in the next parade demonstrating their awesome power? Ah, maybe cancel the parade appearances and exhibitions, on second thought.

  8. bullright says:

    You may have a point. Or how about they move some of them south of the border too, what the hey, they can use them. ( 🙂

  9. garnet92 says:

    You make a good point, Bull – I can see it now, row after row of city cops or sheriffs, flanked by truck-mounted missile launchers – shades of Red China or N. Korea.

  10. Hardnox says:

    Good post Mizz AL. A few weeks back I attended a local County Fair. Much to my surprise there stood a freshly painted MRAP with my county’s logo on it. Next to it was a sheriff’s deputy tasked to promote it. After making mutual greetings I promptly ripped into him.

    The fool could not come up with one reason that the county should have it or why we should maintain it. Moron.

    Fortunately I was not alone in my condemnation of this equipment as I was joined by a number of other county residents. The crowd was rather large as I departed.

    My sheriff and county board of supervisors is by now in receipt of my letter protesting possession of this vehicle.

    Btw, the sheriff’s department also has fully automatic rifles. Free stuff or not this is insane.