Cities continue to get ‘tanks’ they don’t need in nationwide police militarization trend
By End the Lie
Last month I reported on how Georgia law enforcement agencies have acquired a massive arsenal of military-grade vehicles and weapons through the Department of Defense. Unfortunately, it’s far from isolated.
Many law enforcement agencies acquire military equipment through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. Police have also acquired military robots through the DoD but they have other ways to get their hands on armored surveillance vehicles and armored personnel carriers as well.
Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security gave the city of Keene, New Hampshire, with a population of less than 25,000, $285,933 to buy an armored counter-attack vehicle called a BearCat, according to Radley Balko.
Keene has had a whopping three murders since 1999 according to City Data and according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the city lied about the need for the tank-like vehicle built by Lenco Industries, Inc.
The ACLU points out that a Keene City Councilmember actually admitted that the city lied about their need for the BearCat to DHS.
“Our application talked about the danger of domestic terrorism, but that’s just something you put in the grant application to get the money,” the councilmember said, according to the ACLU. “What red-blooded American cop isn’t going to be excited about getting a toy like this? That’s what it comes down to.”
Another example of this type of completely unnecessary equipment being acquired by a law enforcement agency can be seen in Richland County, South Carolina.
With a violent crime rate down 3.7% and property crime down 3.9% compared to last year, Richland doesn’t seem to have a massive crime problem. Furthermore, many of the crimes there are related to drug use or gambling, according to the ACLU.
Yet Richland’s Sheriff’s Department for some reason has an armored personnel carrier they call “The Peacemaker.”
As was reported by Reason in 2008, the armored personnel carrier has a belt-fed .50-caliber turreted machine gun which even the US military is reluctant to use on humans.
How exactly a weapon usually reserved for use against armored vehicles will “save lives” is anyone’s guess.
These, like the examples in Georgia are far from isolated.
“Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have sweeping access to military equipment and to billions of dollars in federal grant money to purchase heavy weaponry designed for overseas combat missions, as well as access to anti-terrorism tactical training,” the ACLU reports.
The ACLU recently launched a new project on the militarization of policing in America in response to this growing trend.
While some may claim this type of equipment is necessary to assure the safety of officers when facing massive shootouts or similar encounters, in reality, the use is much more mundane in most cases.
“And in Maryland, the transparency law has shown that police departments in the state are using SWAT tactics in precisely the ways critics have claimed: to break into homes to serve warrants on people suspected of low-level drug crimes,” according to a March 6 article by Radley Balko. “Many times, they’re not even finding enough contraband to make an arrest. Yet there haven’t been any calls in the state to reform the way SWAT teams are used.”
Shortly before she was killed, the SWAT team threw a flashbang grenade through the window of her home in Detroit, Michigan, immediately setting her blanket on fire.
In another incident, Iraq war veteran Jose Guerena was shot 60 times by a SWAT team when serving a search warrant as part of a multi-house drug crackdown.
Guerena he picked up his own gun (but didn’t fire it) in an attempt to defend his family after his wife saw a shadowy figure in their front yard holding a gun. Police later defended their actions after retracting their claim that Guerena shot first and declining to say if they found any drugs in his house.
According to the ACLU, their affiliates in 23 states filed over 255 public records requests on March 6 with law enforcement agencies and National Guard offices to “determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments.”
More on the ACLU’s new project can be seen here.
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