Recently on the news the American public has been shown scenes from Ferguson, Missouri. The media has shown scenes of where Ferguson police officers resemble the same military force that we see deployed over in Afghanistan and before in the streets of Baghdad, Iraq. Officer’s were dressed in camouflage ACUs, full body gear (from kelvar helmets down to the knee pads.), assault rifles/grenade launchers, and riding in MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.). However, the current events in this city in Missouri are not the only instance where we see the new model for police departments occurring.
The events of Ferguson put a spot light on a style of policing that has shifted to a military style of force. One may ask themselves: How can police departments afford the equipment that our military uses overseas? Well the reason for this rampant build up of military equipment to police department’s deals in part with legislation prior to 9/11 and legislation passed after that tragic day that took place in New York.
The National Defense Authorization Act was the piece of legislation that would kick start the militarization of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. In a Newsweek article written by Taylor Wofford explains the law:
“‘ Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.'”
The amount that federal tax dollars paid for this armament begin in 1990 was a million dollars worth of equipment given to law enforcement agencies.
After the attacks on the United States on the 11th of September, funding to program 1033 (formerly known as section 1208) began to increase more then previous years. For example Mother Jones in a article written by Matthew Harwood, reports on a 2011 investigation by two other reporters (Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz) that after 9/11 and up to the point the investigation was reported, police departments in areas of high targets for terrorism used $34 billion in grants given by the Department of Homeland Security. In 2013 alone $450 million dollars went to the funding of program 1033.
As the federal government continues to fund programs like this, they themselves are influencing the style of policing similar to those of countries under authoritarian rule and dictatorship states. One startling fact is the number of SWAT raids that occur in this country. It is estimated that there are over 50,000 raids conducted every year here in the United States. As the article written by Matthew Harwood that accounts for “roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home…”
Now imagine police officers dressed in full combat gear, stacked on your neighbors door with a MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) in front and you see them go into action. A flash bang grenade is thrown into a your neighbors window and you see the officers bust in and search the house. Military forces use this style of entry heavily as they conduct house searches for possible weapons and or a Taliban hideout. Now those tactics are being brought home.
The image is identical to what was stated early of military operations underway in foreign countries where we are engaged in Counter Terrorism missions. With those SWAT raids and the events going in Ferguson, America is revealing a militarized police state that can be summoned whenever needed. A militarized state funded by the federal government. Just as we saw protest in Ferguson being broken up with flash bang grenades and smoke grenades, the very same tactics were used on Occupy Wall Street a couple of years ago.
If law enforcement agencies sent into this mindset that to establish law and order at home they must become militarized to achieve this mission then they are misled. Police officers are meant to protect and serve and to establish that a certain level of trusts needs to be developed between the community and law enforcement. However, when you dawn the equipment of a soldier and execute tactics like a Marine or an Army infantryman clearing a house in Iraq, that ability to gain trust is lost. The result is an outlook towards law enforcement that they are a military force and will view them (civilians) as an enemy target.
As we see these force being deployed on protest ranging from Occupy Wall Street to the ones happening in Ferguson, one can note that the very same men and women who are to serve and protect are now violating the very fundamental rights of democracy by their use of force. The rights of freedom of speech and freedom of press are being violated by the responses of these law enforcement agencies. If America continues to ignore this issue, one can only foresee a nation where democracy has been extracted and a police state stands in it place.
It is understandable that law enforcement agencies need the tools to combat threats such as an active shooter as well as a terrorist act if one were to happen. However, is the equipment being used truly necessary and are the tactics u