Saturday, December 10, 2016

America’s Militarization of the Police

Is it obvious that the police in the United States are militarized? Yes. All one has to do is to watch the nightly news and the militarization of police departments will be obvious. The police are now decked out in body armor, night vision googles, and carrying semi-automatic weapons. When the police roll up to a crime scene, in many instances they can be seen in a matte black Bearcat MRAP armored vehicle.

 This is even true for college campus police. It isn’t uncommon today to see
campus police wearing a full range of tactical gear; body armor, helmets, and battle dress uniforms.
College campuses are militarizing also. Campuses such as Ohio State University, Central Florida, Arizona State, and the nearly obscure (outside of the Florida state line) Florida International University are acquiring equipment such as the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, grenade launchers, and M-16 assault rifles in bulk. 

If the University of Alabama campus police had been militarized when African American students attempted to desegregate the University in June 1963, I’m sure the outcome would have ended differently.

Yes, there are dangers in the post-9/11 world, but what exactly are campus cops worried about? Gone are the days of a campus cop armed only with a radio and a mag-light. It is true that college campuses aren’t the safe spots they use to be, one example being the latest terrorist attack on Ohio State University. It didn’t take a police officer dressed in tactical gear toting an M-16 to take the terrorist out; only a small side arm.

How did this happen? The 1033 program, as it is called was created by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 1997 as part of the U.S. Government's Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services (DLA) to transfer excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. 

Originally it was the 101st Congress in 1990 which enacted the NDAA. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to transfer to Federal and State agencies overstock or unused military and tactical equipment of the Department of Defense which not only helps police departments but helps the DoD in two ways: (1) it provides small arms and ammunition that is suitable for agencies in counter-drug activities and (2) rids the government and military of excess gear and equipment. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033 which was signed by President Bill Clinton.

Some examples of the militarization of police departments can be seen in Connecticut, Georgia, and rust-belt states such as Michigan and Indiana. These states has acquired mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles (originally used to protect soldiers from roadside bombs), grenade launchers, and night-vision rifle scopes, camouflage fatigues, Humvees and dozens of M16 automatic rifles.

America’s militarized police are turning into a qausi-standing army, the same standing army that our fore fathers (the Federalists) such as George Washington, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton were in agreement to with the “raise and support army” clause.

It was the anti-Federalists such as James Burgh who argued that “standing army in times of peace, one of the most hurtful, and most dangerous of abuses.” James Mason continues Burgh’s assessment with “What havoc, desolation, and destruction, have been perpetrated by standing armies!” 

Scene of the signing of the US Constitution

Even if you disagree that today’s police forces are not the equivalent of a standing army, it looks as if they [militarized police forces] are headed in that direction. To the Anti-Federalists, even our actual standing army is a problem; their idea of protecting the country should be left up to the militias.

Taylor Wofford of Newsweek sums it up nicely in the August 13th, 2014 issue with, “Given the proliferation of military weapons and military training among America’s police departments, the use of military force and military tactics is not surprising. When your only tool is a hammer, after all, every problem looks like a nail.”