The Department of Homeland Security’s militarized invasion of a small town in Illinois was not in response to a gang of dangerous drug dealers or an armed assailant, but in order to bust a single man accused of downloading indecent images to his home computer.
As we reported last week, federal agents swarmed the town of Livingston, IL., population 850, in an unannounced show of force that culminated in a local school field being used as a staging ground for a phalanx of heavy duty equipment and weaponry.
The school superintendent was given no notice of the feds’ decision to use school land and local residents told news channel KTVI that the sudden sight of armored SWAT vehicles made them nervous.
With authorities initially refusing to explain the reason behind the show of force, it later emerged that a raid had been carried out on a house three miles away in order to apprehend Robert E. Godsey, who is being charged with, “receipt, possession and distribution of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”
While nobody is defending Godsey – an obviously sick individual who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law – questions will undoubtedly swirl as to why the federal government spent so many resources on assembling a small army in order to apprehend one individual who didn’t have a history of violence.
Was one armed SWAT team not enough to bust Godsey? Amidst a national debate over the DHS’ bloated budget, why were two helicopters, including a Black Hawk, two armored vehicles, a DHS unified command post truck and Border Patrol agents required to conduct an operation to catch one bad guy?
When asked about why such a massive display of force was necessary, Jim Porter, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois, offered a glib justification, stating, “It’s better to be over-prepared.”
That response will do little to dampen concerns that the huge show of force was another indication of how the federal government is militarizing its law enforcement response in order to acclimate Americans to viewing martial law-style tactics as part of the new normal.
A recent ACLU investigation into the issue of increasingly militarized domestic law enforcement operations decried the fact that American neighborhoods are turning into warzones as SWAT tactics become more brutal, causing an increase in deaths, injuries and property damage.