Militarizing our police

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  • Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 10:57pm



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    Militarizing our police

Policing a civilian society is very different from destroying an enemy in battle.  But for years we have seen an accelerating trend of federal law enforcement agencies acquiring and using military equipment, training, tactics, uniforms, and attitudes.  They may not be soldiers, but some of them look and act like they are.

We see the same trend with local police.  One of the clearest examples is the vastly increased number and use of SWAT teams applying military weapons and tactics against civilians in their homes.  This may be justified against a hard core drug gang.  Unfortunately, there are too many stories where they appear to be SWATing a fly with a sledgehammer.  The results can be deadly to innocent people.
From that hotbed of radicalism Popular Mechanics  wink
Jasper, Fla., with 2000 inhabitants and two murders in the past 12 years–obtained seven M-16s from the federal government, leading an area newspaper to run a story with the subhead, "Three stoplights, seven M-16s.”

This approach, though, has led to problems both obvious and subtle. The obvious problem should be especially apparent to readers of this magazine: Once you've got a cool tool, you kind of want to use it. That's true whether it's a pneumatic drill, a laser level or an armored fighting vehicle. SWAT teams, designed to deal with rare events, wound up doing routine police work, like serving drug warrants.

The subtle effect is also real: Dress like a soldier and you think you're at war. And, in wartime, civil liberties–or possible innocence–of the people on "the other side" don't come up much. But the police aren't at war with the citizens they serve, or at least they're not supposed to be.

Here’s an example from Paragould Arkansas, population 26,000
"[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck," Stovall said. "If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, check for your ID."

Federal government agencies and local police are also conducting complex joint exercises to increase information sharing and improve coordination.  While this is claimed to enhance protection from terrorist attack, the effect is to give Washington greater influence.  Local police who accept money and equipment from the Department of Homeland Security will have a hard time saying no and walking away from the goodies.

From Huff Post
The Pentagon's 1033 program has also exploded under Obama. In the program's monthly newsletter (Motto: "From Warfighter to Crimefighter"), its director announced in October 2011 that his office had given away a record $500 million in military gear in fiscal year 2011, which he noted, "passes the previous mark by several hundred million dollars." He added, "I believe we can exceed that in FY 12.”

Then there are the Department of Homeland Security's anti-terrorism grants. The Center for Investigative Reporting found in a 2011 investigation that since 2001, DHS has given out more than $34 billion in grants to police departments across the country, many of which have been used to purchase military-grade guns, tanks, armor, and armored personnel carriers. The grants have gone to such unlikely terrorism targets as Fargo, N.D.; Canyon County, Idaho; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

I can’t forget a remark I found online: It's devastating to me that in a supposedly free country we're expected to assume that the people breaking down our doors are police.”

What are your thoughts?


Further reading
New York Times
The Daily Beast
Interactive map of botched raids  (This is incomplete.)
Google – Militarized police
Google – SWAT raids gone wrong


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  • Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - 06:17pm



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    Clean your yard and don’t be too sustainable! A rant.

Begin Rant –

The following news piece has been making the rounds and for some reason it has been hitting a nerve more than usual with me.

Texas Police Hit Organic Farm With Massive SWAT Raid

From what most sites state, the SWAT team was used to raid an organic farm because they were suspected of growing Marijuana and had code violations for the condition of the 3.5 acre property.  Plants were destroyed and taken, building materials removed, and no evidence of drugs found.  One of the members of the farm was arrested for an outstanding parking ticket. Others were held for hours while a search was conducted.

Really?  Have we reached such a low point that we have to use our valuable resources on such things.  Do I need to worry about my wood pile being stacked properly for fear of my kids being held at gun point.  Is there no common sense or reasonable thought processes left with those who have positions of authority? Probably would send the National Guard out after they see my pile of pallets and hops plants growing. 

Really? Taking blueberry and tomatillo plants?  Cutting down native grasses? Do you think the police took the cardboard to the recycling center after they removed it from the property?  🙂

I just have to shake my head. Negative thoughts cleared. Back to building a better future for my kids.  Maybe I can get them to go stack the wood.  🙂

– End Rant

  • Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - 06:51pm


    Jim H

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    I saw that too Jason…

I saw an article about that SWAT action linked via Michael Krieger;

Texas SWAT Team Raids Organic Farm for No Reason

This kind of stuff pisses me off to no end…. Texas is not on my list of places to visit or live.   

  • Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - 08:44pm



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    Creeping intrusion

My usual paths are through suburan and rural New England.  I try to avoid even our small cities.  Yesterday I had to run an errand in the city center.  I returned to my office via one of the poorer neighborhoods.  Waiting at a red light next to a bank branch, I noticed a figure standing in the doorway of the bank.  He was in full black para-military dress. He was wearing a holster belt with a number of items hanging from it. He had a badge on his chest. From a distance he looked like an armed police officer or national guardsman in battle gear.  The only thing missing was a helmet as he wore a military type cap instead. 

It seemed strange to have the police or national guard at a bank at midday on a weekday.   The light changed and I moved closer.  Now I could see that what I thought was a gun was just some sort of box attached to his belt.  He turned around and the back of his shirt revealed he was not police or national guard but worked for something called 'Bank Sec. Co.".  I have never seen such a security presence at any of the suburban branches, or even in the main offices down city.  Some branches do have security guards but they do not patrol the sidewalk in pseudo battle gear.

This was a branch of a large, too big to fail, national bank.  Apparently their consultants have caught onto the idea that a para military presence can keep the local population in line.  Folks were walking the sidewalk, leaving and entering the branch without so much as a glance at the security guard-soldier, so I assume his presence is a normal thing. I was taken aback.  Maybe my circles are too small, but I had not seen anything like this before.

Our whole country is being militarized without many of us paying attention to what is happening.  This is proceeding gradually enough that most citizens are not stopping to think about it or to realize the ramifications of living in a society policed by a military authority.

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