April 6, 2012
An article posted on The Modesto Bee website earlier this week provides a snapshot of the militarization of police, thanks to the Pentagon.
A “California Watch” article details how Stanislaus County police have received $4.2 million in surplus war equipment from the Department of Defense. In 2011 alone, according to the article, “Stanislaus County agencies collected more than 2,400 pieces, their highest total ever.”
Stanislaus County is not alone. “Public agencies around the state have grabbed cast-off military goods that become available on a weekly basis” and used to “arm and equip its officers.”
Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden told The Modesto Bee that much of the surplus military equipment is not “applicable to municipal use,” including an “inert rocket launcher” and other “nonoperational weaponry the Stanislaus County sheriff’s bomb squad displays to educate children about dangerous explosives,” according to Sheriff Adam Christianson.
Other, more useful equipment the police received from U.S. taxpayers include flashlights, bed sheets, a cargo parachute and an OH-58 helicopter. The department also acquired a “guided-missile trailer” that was repurposed to haul heavy equipment.
“The Department of Defense’s equipment bazaar is another sign of how some police departments increasingly resemble small armies. Civilian law enforcement agencies have equipped themselves with assault-style weapons and even tanks, first as part of the war on drugs and later in the name of fighting terrorism,” write G.W. Schulz and Andrew Becker.
Modesto cops insist they are “not trying to mimic military units” and claim “there is a definite need to equip officers with weapons that meet the level of the criminals they might encounter.”
“Law enforcement is a paramilitary organization, and we often utilize the same type of equipment that the military might use,” Christianson said.
The police in Modesto may actually believe they will need military equipment for a fantasy show-down with Los Zetas or RPG toting drug dealers. Short of actually going up against al-Qaeda, however, police around the country have used SWAT teams and “cast-off” combat equipment doled out by the Pentagon over the last few months to confront non-violent protesters.
“The militarization of America’s metropolitan police forces was on full display in recent months as police from Los Angeles to New York cracked down on Occupy protests, decked out in full SWAT gear and occasionally using strange pieces of military hardware,” Salon reported in December.
Metropolitan cops don’t expect Occupy terrorists to engage in running gun battles. On the contrary, heavily militarized cops are sent to demonstrations in order to acclimate people to the fact they live in a militarized police state and should expect paramilitary soldiers with automatic weapons when they exercise the First Amendment.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, cops now routinely conduct police work with military hardware. “Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of equipment bought with… federal grants reads like a defense contractor catalog. High-tech gear fills the garages, locker rooms and patrol cars in departments across the country,” they write.
FBI statistics cited by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveal that violent crime – and officers killed by gunfire – has decreased over the last two decades while over the same period police departments have armed themselves at an unprecedented level.
The question is, then, why is the Pentagon and the federal government showering local police departments with tons of weapons and military gear?
The answer should be obvious – they want us to understand that domestic police are now an extension of the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security .
Officer Friendly is an anachronism.