Following the murder of Dallas police officers last week, former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told Fox Business News law enforcement will go into “military mode” in response to nationwide protests in the wake of the death of Alton Sterling.
“This is a game changer. Police now are going to have to worry about force protection, go into a more military mode now when handling any of these demonstrations,” Davis said.
Pentagon Has Armed Local Cops for Over 30 Years
Police have been in “military mode” since at least the 1980s. The Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act, passed in 1981 during the Reagan administration, ramped up cooperation between the Pentagon and civilian law enforcement. It gave police access to military hardware and use of military bases. The law was used to circumvent the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
In the late 1990s, following the North Hollywood shootout between heavily armed bank robbers and police, the Pentagon provided the Los Angeles Police with 600 surplus M16s under the 1033 Program created by the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997.
1033, also known as the DoD Excess Property Program, was part of the federal government’s DLA Disposition Services. It transferred leftover military materiel—grenade launchers, helicopters, military robots, M-16 service rifles, armored vehicles, riverboats, Battle Dress Uniform clothing, and information technology equipment—to civilian police departments. In 2013 alone, the military transferred $449 million in equipment. As of 2014, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participated in the reutilization program that has transferred $5.1 billion in military hardware from the Pentagon since 1997.
Following 9/11, the newly established Department of Homeland Security funneled military-grade equipment into local police departments. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, at least $34 billion in DHS grants have fueled the unprecedented militarization of police and permitted agencies to buy drones, tanks, and robots similar to the one used to kill Micah Johnson, the suspected Dallas sniper.
Military Response to Dissent
Ed Davis said police will now double-down on a military response to dissent. Left unsaid is the fact police have reacted to political demonstrations in military fashion at least since the Seattle protests in 1999. Norm Stamper, Seattle’s police chief during the WTO protests, wrote in 2011 that his “support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose” during the protest.
“The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders—a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood—is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country.”
Aaron Cantú characterizes what is happening today as a counterinsurgency waged by the federal government and its proxies in local law enforcement.
“Secretive intelligence-gathering is just one tactic that, alongside cops in Desert Storm camouflage, no-fly zones, curfews and military checkpoints form the basis of a unified and militarized suppression of dissent. Police use of counterinsurgency strategy in Missouri and beyond is a critical component of the militarization of the police,” he writes.
Cantú says militarized police have employed COIN—a counterinsurgency strategy spelled out in the Army Field Manual—for decades. According to Kristian Williams, “police innovations that COIN theorists recommend for military use are: the Neighborhood Watch, embedded video, computerized intelligence files, and statistical analysis.”
Killing the Fist Amendment with “Total Spatial Dominance”
The murder of cops in Dallas will result in further efforts by militarized police to exercise “total spatial dominance” during political demonstrations. Arguing in favor of a more overt military response by police, Paul Mirengoff writes:
Terrorists and radical anti-police militants have taken things to a new level. In response, police forces need to have heavy weaponry and equipment readily available and on some sort of display when protests like the one Dallas occur. And police forces should be evaluating whether they need more heavy weaponry and equipment, not paying heed to those who say they should have less.
John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute draws a parallel between what is happening in America today and the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus.
The Romans used the military to maintain the “peace” and consequently established an oppressive police state. “As the Roman Empire expanded, personal freedom and independence nearly vanished, as did any real sense of local governance and national consciousness. Similarly, in America today, citizens largely feel powerless, voiceless and unrepresented in the face of a power-hungry federal government. As states and localities are brought under direct control by federal agencies and regulations, a sense of learned helplessness grips the nation,” he writes.
Eventually, Rome established a permanent military dictatorship that left the citizens at the mercy of an unreachable and oppressive totalitarian regime. In the absence of resources to establish civic police forces, the Romans relied increasingly on the military to intervene in all matters of conflict or upheaval in provinces, from small-scale scuffles to large-scale revolts. Not unlike police forces today, with their martial law training drills on American soil, militarized weapons and “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset, the Roman soldier had “the exercise of lethal force at his fingertips” with the potential of wreaking havoc on normal citizens’ lives.
This is What a Police Looks Like
Despite its racist and Marxist overtones, Black Lives Matter is responding to a “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset by militarized police.
Ed Davis tells us the military ethos—kill people and break things—adopted by civil police with the encouragement and financial resources of the federal government will rule in response to citizens exercising the First Amendment.
This is what a police state looks like. The murderous actions of one individual in Dallas—if indeed the killings were perpetuated by one individual—now serve as a pretext complimenting a pervasive surveillance state with a fully militarized component.
A police state is always political in nature. It is a response to citizens attempting to implement political or social change considered threatening to the deep state and the political elite.
In 2014, writing for PoliceOne, Steve Rabinovich said the 1033 program is less about the war on drugs and crime than dealing with “violent anti-government groups and individuals.”
Former Marine Colonel Peter Martino underscored Rabinovich’s assertion when he said the federal government is “building a domestic military… because the government is afraid of its own citizens.”
Martino made the comment during public testimony at a New Hampshire city council meeting held in 2013 to discuss a decision on whether to accept a $260,000 Homeland Security grant for an armored vehicle.