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Police equipped like armies going too far

Posted: August 15, 2014 - 6:29pm

WASHINGTON — The Missouri police department at the center of an uproar over the shooting death of an unarmed black teen-ager acquired two armored Humvees and other military gear for free through a Pentagon program that critics blame for “militarizing America’s Main Streets” and aggravating clashes between police and protesters.

The Ferguson Police Department received the two Humvees as well as a generator and a flatbed trailer under the surplus equipment program run by the Defense Logistics Agency, which is in charge of getting supplies of all types for the military.

News footage and photos of police outfitted in paramilitary gear clashing with protesters in Ferguson — a largely black suburb of St. Louis with a mostly white police force — have provided new impetus to efforts to rein in the Pentagon program. It provides assault weapons and other surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies across the country.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his committee will review the program to determine if the Defense Department surplus is being used as intended.

The program began in 1990 as a way to help states and local agencies fight drug-related crime. It was expanded in the mid-1990s.

“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” Levin said in a statement Friday. “We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents.”

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., plans to introduce legislation when Congress returns in September to curb what he describes as an increasing militarization of police across the country. Police responding to protesters angry about the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown wore riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armored vehicles, sometimes pointing assault rifles at protesters.

“Our Main Streets should be a place for business, families and relaxation, not tanks and M16s,” Johnson said in a statement. “Militarizing America’s Main Streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent.”

A spokeswoman for the logistics agency said its Law Enforcement Support Office distributed nearly $450 million worth of equipment last year ranging from blankets and computers to armored vehicles, boats and assault weapons. About 8,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide participate in the program, known as 1033 for its section in the National Defense Authorization Act, said spokeswoman Michelle McCaskill.

Weapons account for just 5 percent of the equipment distributed, McCaskill said.

St. Louis County, which includes Ferguson, has received a dozen 5.56mm rifles, half a dozen .45-caliber pistols, night-vision goggles and a bomb-disposing robot in recent years, the defense agency said.

The 1033 program is just one of several federal programs that provide military-style equipment to local police. The Homeland Security Department offers grants for armored vehicles and other equipment, while the Justice Department provides grants for rubber bullets, tear gas and other equipment used to control crowds.

It was not clear Friday whether Ferguson police had received those grants, although St. Louis County has received grants from the Justice Department.

Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the police response in Ferguson is just the latest example of what she called the excessive militarization of policing. Heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics groups, or SWAT teams, are forcing their way into people’s homes across the country, often with little justification, she said.

“Neighborhoods are not war zones, and our police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies,” said Dansky, the lead author of a June report on the issue.

Militarization encourages officers to adopt a “warrior” mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies, Dansky said. The ACLU report outlined a number of examples of equipment transfers that it said were cause for concern. For example, police in North Little Rock, Arkansas, obtained at least 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, two robots capable of being armed and a tactical vehicle. Many of those weapons could not be accounted for later.

Attorney General Eric Holder said he was concerned that use of military equipment by police in Ferguson was sending a “conflicting message.”

The response by law enforcement to protests “must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them,” Holder said. The Justice Department and FBI are investigating Brown’s death.

Johnson said his bill would limit the kinds of military equipment that can be transferred to local police and require states to certify that they can account for all equipment received.

He said he is disturbed by reports that some weapons and other equipment distributed to police have gone missing. He also expressed concern that the militarization trend has moved beyond local police departments and sheriff’s offices, saying Ohio State University recently acquired a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP.

“Apparently, college kids are getting too rowdy,” Johnson said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a possible GOP presidential contender in 2016, blamed the trend on the federal government.

“Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement,” Paul wrote in an opinion column in Time magazine.

“There should be a difference between a police response and a military response” Paul said.

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lachowsj
5479
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lachowsj 08/15/14 - 08:48 pm
2
1
Interesting

Now Rand Paul and the libertarian wing of the Republican Party are beginning to say what liberals were saying all along, that the local police should be a part of the community rather than at war with it. And as has widely been pointed out, there are only three black officers out of a force of 50 when the community has a black majority of residents.

When I said on these pages that the racial makeup of the Conway Police should ideally reflect the racial makeup of the community, I was hit with a barrage of comments saying I was advocating quotas. I only said that was the ideal. But I pointed out that when the racial makeup is so out of whack it invites an "us vs. them" mentality, both on the part of the police and the community. Add to that an incident of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man and it is no wonder Ferguson exploded in anger. Anyone who thinks that kind of thing can't happen in a community like Conway is deluding themselves. I hope the Conway PD is watching closely for a lesson in what not to do to quell community unrest. And I hope they have an active plan of outreach to find qualified minority candidates.

InsGuru
5627
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InsGuru 08/18/14 - 10:36 am
5
0
Partially...

"But I pointed out that when the racial makeup is so out of whack it invites an "us vs. them" mentality,"

I think that is invited more so by the fact that the majority of patrolling police are high school educated power hungry a$$ holes that haven't developed the critical thinking skills required for someone with their sort of authority. The ones who aren't move up the ranks and aren't out patrolling every day.

Hyprocrites like Jason Davis are what invite an "us vs them" mentality. Do as I say not as I do.

As far as police being equipped like the military, I'd say a few armored humvees and M16's would hardly count. And yeah, why would they not wear riot gear? I mean if American citizens want to act like terroristic denizens then how are they supposed to be treated? Cocktail anyone? The malotov kind...

crypted quill
11047
Points
crypted quill 08/18/14 - 10:50 am
1
2
"...As far as police being

"...As far as police being equipped like the military, I'd say a few armored humvees and M16's would hardly count. And yeah, why would they not wear riot gear? I mean if American citizens want to act like terroristic denizens then how are they supposed to be treated? Cocktail anyone? The malotov kind..."

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT!

The deliberate 'dumbing down' of America...Posse Comitatus.

If the police act like the military we are all terrorist.

InsGuru
5627
Points
InsGuru 08/18/14 - 11:14 am
6
0
umm it goes both ways...

If people protested peacefully would they have to? we can go back and forth both ways on this forever... Who gathered first, the police, or violent protesters?

mikeng1994
11774
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mikeng1994 08/20/14 - 03:07 pm
5
0
Interesting Turn

It would seem that theree are medical records now to prove there was some altercation between Brown and the officer. The officer has broken eye sockets to prove it according to a new report.

If true, it would seem this is just another case or poor pitiful black me against a white cop. My point being race came into this when it was nothing about it.

Diogenes
10186
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Diogenes 08/20/14 - 03:20 pm
0
0
Gets even better

Other sources are now stating that Dorian Johnson has retracted his statement and Big Mike was in fact attacking the officer.
http://theblacksphere.net/2014/8/did-dorian-johnson-recant

crypted quill
11047
Points
crypted quill 08/16/14 - 10:57 am
0
3
[Congress Had a

[Congress Had a Chance]

"...On June 19, progressive House Democrat Alan Grayson (FL) offered an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would block the “transfer” of “aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles” from the Department of Defense to state and local police forces.

The amendment attracted the support of only 62 members, while 355 voted against it (14 didn’t vote). Included among those voting against it was Rep. William Lacy Clay (D), who represents Ferguson. Clay was joined by every senior member of the Democratic Party leadership team, including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (CA), Steny Hoyer (MD), and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC). Democrats did form the bulk of support for the amendment (with 43 votes in favor), with 19 Republicans supporting as well—led by libertarian-conservative Rep. Justin Amash (MI), who lamented that “military-grade equipment . . . shouldn’t be used on the street by state and local police” on his Facebook page.

Why was there such tremendous opposition to the Grayson-Amash effort? Two very powerful constituencies in Congress may be to blame: the defense industry, and the police lobby."

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2014/08/militarization-police-for...

Vote GOP, Mo'War...Mo'Money...Mo Everything!

mikeng1994
11774
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mikeng1994 08/18/14 - 09:33 am
3
0
"Mo'War...Mo'Money...Mo

"Mo'War...Mo'Money...Mo Everything!"

That's racist Quill and I am highly offended by your attempt at fitting in with some minorities.

crypted quill
11047
Points
crypted quill 08/18/14 - 09:48 am
0
4
JEEZ! Mike, Don't you have a

JEEZ!

Mike,

Don't you have a Dixieland-Storm-Trooper-Ninja-Police rally meeting this morning?

mikeng1994
11774
Points
mikeng1994 08/18/14 - 10:31 am
2
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The made us take the ninja

The made us take the ninja part out. Igor was offended by it.

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