Monthly Archives: August 2014
After the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white cop, in the middle of a street in broad daylight — and the unexpected global outrage it provoked – the subsequent disproportional response by local law enforcement has made militarization of the police a hot topic that even the most tepid news organizations are recognizing.
Following decades of hyped “wars” on drugs and terror, the federal government got the ingenious idea of equipping local police departments with surplus weapons from the armed forces — presumably because they weren’t using them fast enough around the world and they were offered even more and better weapons by “defense” contractors. Surely, they reasoned, local constabularies could assist in protecting the citizenry from the twin scourges of drugs and terror with which we are at “war.” While this transfer of military equipment has been going on for many years now, the over-the-top police response to protests in Ferguson has shone a light on it and prompted questions about the wisdom of providing police departments with tanks, drones and other implements of (mass) destruction used for fighting actual wars.
Of course, there are a few examples of this mentality that pre-dates “the war on terror.” Even as far back as 1985, the Philadelphia police bombed the home of a local organization, MOVE, which may have presaged some of the problems that could arise with excessive weaponry. MOVE was not especially popular among the populace, but all united in outrage at the bombing.
But it’s only now that most news analysts and policymakers are noticing the rather predictable repercussions of arming local cops like a commando squad in a war zone: Departments with some very powerful new toys will find excuses to use them, because after all, once you are given a hammer, everything is a nail. But one reality about police use of heavy military equipment has gone largely undiscussed. It’s been cloaked by propagandistic news reports and almost universal glib praise for the skill and professionalism of America’s armed forces, but it’s something the MLTF and other groups have always known.