March 9, 2012
Strong editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the show of police force at the Virginia state capital during last weekend’s abortion rights protest:
Saturday’s display of force is far from unique in the commonwealth. Homeland Security grants lavished on local police departments in the wake of 9/11 have only encouraged the tendency to blur the distinction between civilian and military operations. A number of Virginia localities now have armored assault vehicles such as the Lenco Bearcat — an 8-ton, quarter-million-dollar behemoth with half-inch steel plating. Among those localities is Warren County, a bucolic community of 40,000 people with an average of one homicide every three years — not exactly Hell’s Kitchen.
But the grants only accelerated an existing — and troubling — trend that started many years ago. Law enforcement exists to protect the rights of the citizens; maintaining order is a means to that end, not the end in itself. Police officers decked out like combat patrols in Fallujah send a far different, far more threatening message: that they have come not to protect and to serve, but to command and to conquer. Saturday’s events in the capital of Virginia stain a state with a reputation as the cradle of democracy.
The editorial begins with a quote from a publication regular readers might recognize.
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