American Elephants


Are You Worried About the Rise of a “Militarized” Police Force? by The Elephant's Child

Congress is coming under pressure to “do something” about the rise of a “militarized” police force in the United States. You have millions of Americans watching the events in Ferguson, Missouri on television, and goodness, the police look really scary.

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The military and some government departments like Homeland Security are making their surplus equipment available to police departments across the country. Much of the material may be brand new, but outdated by newer technology. Some articles suggest that the materials are free, except for shipping, others suggest that it’s for sale, but cheap for struggling police department budgets.

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The Tampa tank does seem somewhat excessive, but then the other two do too. What kind of situation are they preparing for? An ISIS attack here in this country? The bounty available includes weapons, helmets, ammunition. The uniform standards have changed as well. No more friendly police blue, but camouflage, designed for blending into the natural surroundings of the battlefield, but not for city streets. All black seems to have become popular, but it brings with it a history of the SS, and ISIS, and countless movies.

The purpose of an armed military is to be aggressive, ready to attack, dangerous, and scary. The purpose of an armed police force is meant to be protective. They are there to protect the civilian population from the bad guys. For either force — its appearance has an effect on both civilians and adversaries. Bad guys who intend to perform bad actions in a community protected by the armored equipment pictured above will arm themselves accordingly—grenade launchers, mortars, Molotov cocktails—or worse. Does the possession of a vehicle like the one just above guarantee safety from terrorist attacks, and what is the effect in your ordinary everyday riot?

I’m sure there is a temptation towards the all powerful, completely scary and excessively macho version. The cops would feel safer and more powerful Policing is hard work, and policemen are killed in the line of duty. It can be dangerous, and often is. Yet we clearly need some adult judgment here.

The Seattle Police have coped with our occasional riots with bicycle squads and mounted police — fairly successfully. They start mildly, and gradually add force if necessary. If it continues into a second day, they start that with some force. Depends on whether the Anarchists are arriving in force.

Rather than a hasty Congressional intrusion, we probably need studies (which may well already exist) on what causes a riot to escalate. We may have terrorists crossing the border, or more likely using their European passports. The likelihood of their being able to equip themselves with fancy military equipment would seem low, but bombs that involve nothing more than acquiring bomb-making materials or ordinary weapons is highly likely.

Those of us who hear about the activities of the police only in the news, really don’t know much of anything about it. Those of us who are watching the riots in Ferguson as it is filtered through the media don’t know much of anything either. Yet we read of SWAT teams breaking down the door of innocent civilians at 4:00 a.m. because they got the wrong house, or because of misinformation. We have no idea if this is a regular problem or if it is a rare occurrence that we hear about only because “if it bleeds it leads.”

Confidence in government is low. The economy is not recovering noticeably. The world seems completely in flames.  Iraq, Syria, Russia, China, Iran. Ebola in Africa. Uncontrolled illegal immigration is being allowed, if not encouraged at our border.  We have no leadership. Our military is being slashed back to pre-World War II levels. ISIS threatens to raise their black flag over the White House. Everybody is on vacation. But when the weather cools in September and October, we can expect another flood of 60,000 illegals from Central America, because nobody has, nor will, make it clear that they are unwelcome. Other than that…

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ADDENDUM: I added slightly to the piece as first posted, because the bit about the Seattle Police suggested they didn’t go beyond mounted police, which was inaccurate. 




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