What many people describe as a growing militarization of local police forces, the LAPD Chief calls “keeping abreast with society.” Perhaps he can show us that “society” breasted with M16s and tanks, because that’s what local police forces are buying up with federal tax money.
The Daily Beast reports how a “decade of billions in spending in the name of homeland security has armed local police departments with military-style equipment and a new commando mentality.”
Take for example quiet Fargo, North Dakota, which recently went on a federally-funded $8 million shopping spree with the following results:
Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret.
This is just one city out of thousands:
other local police departments nationwide have been amassing stockpiles of military-style equipment in the name of homeland security, aided by more than $34 billion in federal grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a Daily Beast investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
You can check to see how your State has shared in the police loot.
Who buys what and how much is really a matter of indifference to the Feds and most States for that matter:
The U.S. Homeland Security Department says it doesn’t closely track what’s been bought with its tax dollars or how the equipment is used. State and local governments don’t maintain uniform records either.
To assess the changes in law enforcement for The Daily Beast, the Center for Investigative Reporting conducted interviews and reviewed grant spending records obtained through open records requests in 41 states. The probe found stockpiles of weaponry and military-style protective equipment worthy of a defense contractor’s sales catalog.
The dangers and social costs of militarizing local police have been decried and warned about for decades, but now incidents are increasingly becoming reality:
Some real-life episodes, however, are sparking a debate about whether all that gear also creates a more militarized mind-set for local police that exceeds their mission or risks public safety.
In one case, dozens of officers in combat-style gear raided a youth rave in Utah as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. An online video shows the battle-ready team wearing masks and brandishing rifles as they holler for the music to be shut off and pin partygoers to the ground.
And Arizona tactical officers this year sprayed the home of ex-Marine Jose Guerena with gunfire as he stood in a hallway with a rifle that he did not fire. He was hit 22 times and died. Police had targeted the man’s older brother in a narcotics-trafficking probe, but nothing illegal was found in the younger Guerena’s home, and no related arrests had been made months after the raid.
In Maryland, officials finally began collecting data on tactical raids after police in 2008 burst into the home of a local mayor and killed his two dogs in a case in which the mayor’s home was used as a dropoff for drug deal. The mayor’s family had nothing to do with criminal activity.
Such episodes and the sheer magnitude of the expenditures over the last decade raise legitimate questions about whether taxpayers have gotten their money’s worth and whether police might have assumed more might and capability than is necessary for civilian forces.
Much of the problem has arisen since the “War on Drugs.” See for example Joel Miller’s excellent book, Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America—it’s a highly informative, eye-opening, and readable education written by a conservative Christian author and publisher. The gifts the Department of Homeland Security has been doling out since 9-11 have been fueling the tragic war-lust described in that book, and the consequences continue to pile up.