About 25 years ago, I loudly and publicly complained about one of the many policies our government was engaged in at the time that had roused my ire. As I recall, the words were proper, the thoughts well-organized - as usual, of course - and the anger was not hidden amongst flowery phrases. In typical government reaction, my well-delivered suggestions for immediate change were ignored.
All these years later, my angst regarding the issue has doubled. And doubled again. But government persists. And the bad policy continues to exist - redoubling again a few times itself. The issue: equipping and training community law enforcement to be hometown armies rather than agencies to “ protect and serve” as is written on the doors of so many local police cars.
The black anger in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, these days is exactly what I was talking about two decades ago. These unarmed, frustrated, socially-suppressed and mad people are in those streets of their own neighborhoods - often their own yards - being faced by officers in camouflage combat fatigues, snipers in the open on top of armored trucks, nearly all cops wearing gas masks and carrying many, many automatic weapons. Anyone speaking “protect and serve” speaks pure B.S..
All of this was brought sharply together in my living room a night or two ago when one of the TV networks was using some stock video footage as the faceless voice was talking about much the same issue - inappropriate police dress, tactics and weaponry. What connected it all was one of the scenes shot in a Caldwell, Idaho, neighborhood some months back, showing police in the same type of combat dress and carrying the same types of weaponry. And they were prominently accompanied by an MRAP! An MRAP parked on someone’s subdivision lawn!
An MRAP is a terrifically heavy behemoth, designed to ward off bullets of nearly any size as well as land mines and rocket fire. While these armed monsters of steel have undoubtedly saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they seem terribly out of place in a community of 25,000 or so near the Snake River in Idaho. Like machines from science fiction movies.
This “uparming” of local law enforcement began under President Bush-the-Elder and has continued under Clinton, Bush-the-Junior and Obama. It started after we “freed” Kuwait from Saddam. All that hardly-used military hardware was just going to be scrapped. Until some in-over-his-head political appointee decided America’s local law enforcement agencies would pay 10-cents-on-the-dollar for it. And pay they have. (more…)