On Police "Militarization" Part 2

In the last post I posited that there is an obvious need for the police and the violent use of force. I  concluded that, while there probably should be some limits on police weaponry, the debate over specific “militaristic” equipment is less important than debating how and when it is employed.


As you can see in the accompanying infographic from reason.com, SWAT teams (the embodiment of militarized police) are being used more and more often. The approximate number of SWAT raids doubled from about 30,000 in 1995 to 50-60,000 in 2005. However you measure it, that’s a hell of an increase.


While we all envision SWAT operations for reasons such as hostage rescue or active shooters, but as you can see, these types of operations only amount to about 7% of SWAT raids. Most raids are for search warrants, usually involving drug searches.


Swat Police Militarization Infographic
So the trend seems to be for violent SWAT raids to be used more often and for more mundane reasons. This trend is what concerns me. As both police and civilians become desensitized to this it may continue to spread until no-knock SWAT raids are the default answer for every police call.


Every interaction I’ve ever had with the police has been polite, professional, and non-threatening. I’d like my kids to become adults in a similar world, not one where any unpaid parking ticket can earn you a midnight home invasion with flashbang grenades and guns in your face.


Also, as a Second Amendment supporter, when I read stories about perfectly legal weapon permits being used as justification for SWAT raids, I get a little concerned.


The Feds: Assault-Popping The Constitution


While so far we’ve only discussed REAL cops, the trend toward “militarization” is active with the U.S. Federales as well. Unlike local cops, B.S. regulatory agencies like the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dept. of Education and the IRS can’t say they are arming up to protect us from violent predators in our communities. More likely these arms will be used to shove unpopular edicts down the people’s throats.


While federal agencies are arming up, the feds are encouraging local cops to do the same. The Depts. of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security all have grant programs to provide weapons and equipment to local police for the perpetual wars on drugs and terror. I’m going to focus on the DOD’s “1033 Program,” which gives free military equipment to local law enforcement, but most of the arguments against it work on the other programs as well.  So, why should we end the 1033 Program?


Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. If you read the powers granted to the United States government by the Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8, arming local police isn’t one of them. Ironically. while arming the militia IS a constitutional power, the 1033 Program which can give defense equipment to local cops is NOT authorized to give any to State Guard (militia) units. (Congressman Joe Wilson and a few others have introduced the State Defense Force Improvement Act which would give State Guard Forces access to extra military equipment several times, but it has not passed.)


Secondly, we can’t afford it. No organization that is $18 trillion in debt should be giving anything away to anybody. This equipment could be auctioned off to police departments and private citizens rather than given away. Police departments could still get equipment at fire sale prices and the money could toward balancing the budget.


Thirdly, even if you agree with the basic premise of the 1033 Program, since it is a federal program it only takes about one sniff to find waste, fraud, abuse, and general insanity. Some counties sheriff departments have “received enough [musical] instruments to start their own marching band, if they wanted to” from the program.  The defense department has given local police bouncy castles, $16,500 ice cream makers, $11,000 pizza ovens and much more. Yes, the U.S. military is giving local cops $3,500 popcorn poppers (to keep you safe), just as the Founders of our great nation envisioned. Unless these are dangerous “assault poppers” that only specially trained police can be trusted with, I think they could hit the auction block.


The 1033 Program should be suspended immediately. While local cops do need equipment, they need to figure out how to get it without federal giveaways funded by placing our children in debt. Budgets are always tight, but if state and local governments do some soul-searching on what their purpose is, they can cut the frivolities and focus on core functions like police.


In conclusion, there is “militarization” of our police in this country. What weapons and tactics are appropriate and how much is “too much?” I don’t know. But in a free state it’s a good debate to have sooner rather than later.

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