At first blush, the title of this post could be perceived as somewhat hyperbolic by those who still have an impression of America’s police departments as bastions of safety, designed “to protect and to serve” the population of the “land of the free.” However, said impression would be promptly washed away upon reading an article in today’s NYT which citing Pentagon data, reveals that under the Obama administration, “police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”
Which begs the question: just who is America’s police force, and by extension the Obama administration, which is behind this quiet militarization of local police forces with weapons that would normally be seen in a warzone, preparing for war against?
And while we already documented America’s conversation to a turnkey totalitarian banana republic (confirmed over a year later by Edward Snowden), behold America’s conversion to a police state:
In the past we have occasionally covered the slow (but sure) conversion of America’s Police force into an army, fully loaded with the latest weapons and equipments, not even we had an idea of the full extent of what was going on behind the scenes. As the NYT describes, all of the above-mentioned equipment “has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”
Surely in an age when the NSA managed to eradicated all terrorism (oh oops, Boston bombing, we forgot, just ignore that), the mantra that a “weapon unused is a useless weapon” has never rang more true, but dispatching crack police team to handle rogue “barbers”? Sadly, that may be just a harbinger of the crackdowns the US police state will unleash shortly on anyone even the least bit guilty of violating some law or regulation. Or maybe completely innocent, just guilty of sparking the USPD’s curiosity.
Meet the new normal SWAT: new, improved and, well, everywhere:
The number of SWAT teams has skyrocketed since the 1980s, according to studies by Peter B. Kraska, an Eastern Kentucky University professor who has been researching the issue for decades…. The ubiquity of SWAT teams has changed not only the way officers look, but also the way departments view themselves. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons. In Springdale, Ark., a police recruiting video is dominated by SWAT clips, including officers throwing a flash grenade into a house and creeping through a field in camouflage.
The rationale for the weaponization of the US police force is simple: it’s yours if you want it. Also, it’s free.
The Pentagon program does not push equipment onto local departments. The pace of transfers depends on how much unneeded equipment the military has, and how much the police request. Equipment that goes unclaimed typically is destroyed. So police chiefs say their choice is often easy: Ask for free equipment that would otherwise be scrapped, or look for money in their budgets to prepare for an unlikely scenario. Most people understand, police officers say.
In the meantime, this is where the build up has come from…
Congress created the military-transfer program in the early 1990s, when violent crime plagued America’s cities and the police felt outgunned by drug gangs. Today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation, the wars have wound down, and despite current fears, the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.
Police departments, though, are adding more firepower and military gear than ever. Some, especially in larger cities, have used federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear. And the free surplus program remains a favorite of many police chiefs who say they could otherwise not afford such equipment. Chief Wilkinson said he expects the police to use the new truck rarely, when the department’s SWAT team faces an armed standoff or serves a warrant on someone believed to be dangerous.
Today, Chief Wilkinson said, the police are trained to move in and save lives during a shooting or standoff, in contrast to a generation ago — before the Columbine High School massacre and others that followed it — when they responded by setting up a perimeter and either negotiating with, or waiting out, the suspect.
… and where it is going.
In South Carolina, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s website features its SWAT team, dressed in black with guns drawn, flanking an armored vehicle that looks like a tank and has a mounted .50-caliber gun. Capt. Chris Cowan, a department spokesman, said the vehicle “allows the department to stay in step with the criminals who are arming themselves more heavily every day.” He said police officers had taken it to schools and community events, where it was a conversation starter.
Not everyone agrees that there is a need for such vehicles. Ronald E. Teachman, the police chief in South Bend, Ind., said he decided not to request a mine-resistant vehicle for his city. “I go to schools,” he said. “But I bring ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ ” The people are said to believe the explanation:
“When you explain that you’re preparing for something that may never happen, they get it,” said Capt. Tiger Parsons of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Missouri, which recently received a mine-resistant truck. You mean like the Fed stepping back from propping the global capital markets? Or like Caesar taking over Rome and only then handing over the power to the people?
But however you explain it and whatever you call it, don’t call it overkill, no pun intended. Actually call it overkill.
Pentagon data suggest how the police are arming themselves for such worst-case scenarios. Since 2006, the police in six states have received magazines that carry 100 rounds of M-16 ammunition, allowing officers to fire continuously for three times longer than normal. Twenty-two states obtained equipment to detect buried land mines.
In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war.
“You have a lot of people who are coming out of the military that have the ability and knowledge to build I.E.D.’s and to defeat law enforcement techniques,” Sgt. Dan Downing of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department told the local Fox affiliate, referring to improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs. Sergeant Downing did not return a message seeking comment.
The police in 38 states have received silencers, which soldiers use to muffle gunfire during raids and sniper attacks. Lauren Wild, the sheriff in rural Walsh County, N.D., said he saw no need for silencers. When told he had 40 of them for his county of 11,000 people, Sheriff Wild confirmed it with a colleague and said he would look into it. “I don’t recall approving them,” he said.Funny how that happens. Because that’s the whole point: if the police department is there to protect the people, shouldn’t the people decide how the police is armed? Apparently not. Then again, the light bulb did go over some heads.
At the Neenah City Council, Mr. Pollnow is pushing for a requirement that the council vote on all equipment transfers. When he asks about the need for military equipment, he said the answer is always the same: It protects police officers.
“Who’s going to be against that? You’re against the police coming home safe at night?” he said. “But you can always present a worst-case scenario. You can use that as a framework to get anything.”
Chief Wilkinson said he was not interested in militarizing Neenah. But officers are shot, even in small towns. If there were an affordable way to protect his people without the new truck, he would do it.
“I hate having our community divided over a law enforcement issue like this. But we are,” he said. “It drives me to my knees in prayer for the safety of this community every day. And it convinced me that this was the right thing for our community.” Great, absolutely. Now just open it up for a vote and le the community itself decide!
Which brings us back to the original question: as the NYT succinctly summarizes the situation, “as President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.”
Perhaps that sentence needs some qualification: as Obama, humiliated on the international arena by everyone, from Assad to Putin and back, and desperately seeking to avoid future embarrassment, redeploys weapons of mass murder, why is he seeking to put said weapons – many of which are of the offensive kind – not out to pasture but in America’s very own back yard? Just who does Obama plan to wage his next, and hopefully last, war against? The good news is that everyone will get sufficient advance notice before said war begins by the squadrons of weaponized drones sent out to test the ground, and inflict the “accidental” collateral damage casualty, or million.