Arming your local police

Virtually every police force in the US is being militarized to the point of abject stupidity.  SWAT teams have infiltrated police departments everywhere and they are used, not for hostage situations or active shooter emergencies, primarily to serve warrants.  Upwards of 50,000 times every year.

Police departments used to be there to Protect and Serve, today it seems more like Serve Warrants and Project.  I’ve written about the militarization of police, and it’s time to bring it up again.

The Department of Defense has a program where they give local police departments used equipment.  It can include a whole variety of things, but it also goes way over the top.

Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.

13-1128 - MRAP 300w 210h

“Our police department would never get one of those…” you might be saying.  Well, if you’re right it’s only because the military ran out of them.

After the initial 165 of the MRAP trucks were distributed this year, military officials say police have requests in for 731 more, but none are available.

“Well yeah, but they’re going to places like Detroit and Chicago where the city is a war zone.”

Wrong again.

Ohio State University campus police got one, saying they would use it in large-scale emergencies and to provide a police presence on football game days.  […]

In Warren County [upstate New York], at the southern edge of the Adirondack Mountains, Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said its MRAP, which can hold six people and reach 65 mph, will have its turret closed up except for a small slot, the only place to fire a gun. Its bulletproof windows don’t open. The proposed retrofit, including new seating, loudspeakers and emergency lights, would cost an estimated $70,000. The department has applied for grants.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Think about it.  It’s against the law to use the US military against US citizens in the United States.  How would you feel if the 101st Airborne or the 1st Marine Division showed up in your town square and began “policing” as if they were in Fallujah?  We’re not far from that right now.

Radley Balko, the author of “The Rise of the Warrior Cop,” argues that the police mind set in the country is to be like a soldier.

“Instead of bringing soldiers in to do domestic law enforcement, we have allowed, and even encouraged, police officers to basically be armed like, police like, use the tactics of, be dressed like and adopt the mind set of these soldiers,” he said at a CSPAN forum last summer. “And the outcome is just as troubling, I think, as if the military were actually doing domestic police themselves.”

I’m with Radley.

On the other side of the coin, interesting things are happening in the area of the police actually monitoring themselves.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last few months about New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” program, which in reality is a “Stop, Talk, and Frisk” program.  It was initiated by Rudy Giuliani when he became mayor and is credited with reducing street crime and violent crime to historically low levels.  The actual tactic involves police observing behavior, talking to the individual, and frisking them if they have cause, it is not – as Al Sharpton would have you believe – an automatic frisking of every minority the cops can find.

I support the policy.

The NYPD got taken to court over it and recently a judge ordered the department to put mini-cams on cops to record the encounters.  I also support that order.  Police have been using cameras for a while and the results are interesting.

[A] 2004 study in Criminology and Public Policy by criminologists Stephen Mastrofski from George Mason University and Jonathan Gould from American University evaluated direct observations of police searches in a medium-sized American city. They conservatively estimated that nearly one-third of police searches were performed unconstitutionally and almost none of those unconstitutional searches came to the attention of the courts.

Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), calls police-worn video cameras “a win/win for both the public and the police.” Win/win because video recordings help shield officers from false accusations of abuse as well as protecting the public against police misconduct.


The same report further noted that dashboard cameras enhanced officer safety, improved agency accountability, reduced liability, simplified incident review, enhanced new recruit training, improved community perceptions, helped advance case resolution, and enhanced officer performance and professionalism. In fact, the Atlanta police officer in the Witherspoon dashcam video comes off as quite professional. He consistently refers to Witherspoon as “ma’am” and keeps a level tone of voice despite some fairly hilarious provocation.

This is a policy that makes really good sense and it should be seriously considered by every police department.  Knowing a camera is rolling will typically calm everybody down or at least provide evidence of who the jerk really is.

Heck, a department could probably implement cameras on every cop for a lot less money than it costs to make an MRAP street legal.

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