Hello? Mr. Commander-in-Chief? Why is the Pentagon giving $500 million of military equipment to police departments? $500 million in 2011 alone, that is. And that doesn't take into account the federal grants given to them by Homeland Security to buy even more. Why is the federal government militarizing our police departments?
The Pentagon Is Offering Free Military Hardware To Every Police Department In The US
The U.S. military has some of the most advanced killing equipment in the world that allows it to invade almost wherever it likes at will.
We produce so much military equipment that inventories of military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers eventually start to pile up and it turns out a lot of these weapons are going straight to American police forces to be used against US citizens.
1033 was passed by Congress in 1997 to help law-enforcement fight terrorism and drugs, but despite a 40-year low in violent crime, police are snapping up hardware like never before. While this year's staggering take topped the charts, next year's orders are up 400 percent over the same period.
The 1033 Program has given more than $500 million in equipment to police departments this year alone, more than double what they gave them in 2010.
The 1033 Program
The 1033 Program (formerly the 1208 Program) permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs).
The 1033 Program has allowed law enforcement agencies to acquire vehicles (land, air and sea), weapons, computer equipment, body armor, fingerprint equipment, night vision equipment, radios and televisions, first aid equipment, tents and sleeping bags, photographic equipment and more.
BATTLEFIELD MAIN STREET
In today’s Mayberry, Andy Griffith and Barney Fife could be using grenade launchers and a tank to keep the peace. A rapidly expanding Pentagon program that distributes used military equipment to local police departments — many of them small-town forces — puts battlefield-grade weaponry in the hands of cops at an unprecedented rate.
[ ... ]
Passed by Congress in 1997, the 1033 program was created to provide law-enforcement agencies with tools to fight drugs and terrorism. Since then, more than 17,000 agencies have taken in $2.6 billion worth of equipment for nearly free, paying only the cost of delivery.
[ ... ]
Thanks to it, cops in Cobb County, Ga. — one of the wealthiest and most educated counties in the U.S. — now have an amphibious tank. The sheriff of Richland County, S.C., proudly acquired a machine-gun-equipped armored personnel carrier that he nicknamed “The Peacemaker.”
[ ... ]
When asked why they need equipment that might seem better suited to Fallujah than Florida, many police point to safety concerns, even as violent crime nationwide has fallen to 40-year lows.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security gives them federal grants to buy things like "BearCats". Others have been purchased with confiscated drug money. The name BearCat stands for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.
Lenco Armored Vehicles is the Nation's leading designer and manufacturer of tactical armored security vehicles. Lenco Armored Trucks meet the needs of S.W.A.T., Homeland Security, Counter-Terrorism, Force Protection, Military Police, HAZMAT Team and Dignitary Protection applications. A growing number of high-profile U.S. agencies around the globe are using our armored vehicles for dangerous law enforcement and military operations such as close quarter battle engagements, citizen rescue and personnel/cargo delivery missions.
Our product line includes the Lenco BearCat®; the Lenco B.E.A.R.®; and the Lenco ProCat® Crew Armored Transporter. These Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicles are constructed of certified hardened steel armor plate and approved multi-hit ballistic glass. Detailed ballistic specifications are available upon request. Vehicles are also equipped with blast fragmentation resistant floors, specially designed gunports, roof hatches with rotating turrets, gun mount platforms, gear storage and much more.
Pasco SWAT's security weapon: Lenco BearCat
Members of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office SWAT team demonstrate maneuvers in front of their new $249,000 BearCat vehicle. Photos by SKIP O’ROURKE | Times
"This is perfect to take back neighborhoods," Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a news conference Wednesday to unveil the BearCat. SWAT members in full gear posed in front of it as television cameras shot footage.
[ ... ]
The BearCat has been in service about a month and already has been used in several situations. The most recent involved a suicidal man in Odessa who locked himself in a shed. But the most important tool that night in diffusing the situation wasn't the BearCat.
It turned out to be Facebook — and a resourceful sheriff's deputy who used it to communicate with the man.
Local Police Departments' Favorite War Machines
Last month, a Minnesota county sheriff used $237,000 in federal grant money to buy a BearCat and recently used it "to retrieve a kidnapping victim. "We negotiated the release of the victim, who went immediately into the BearCat and they were able to retrieve her safely," the sheriff told The Daily. "Previously, we would have pulled up in a van, which would not have protected anybody or anything." More than basic protection, however, some local officers suggest that the use of tank-like armored vehicles make for a good intimidation tactic. "If somebody looks out and sees a Ford Crown Victoria sitting out there, they may not take you very seriously, but if they look out the window and see this thing sitting there, they're going to know you're serious," a Virginia county sheriff told his local paper in October. It is pretty scary-looking. "But it’s actually become a community relations tool," said the SWAT commander in Erie, Pennsylvania. "It's an ice breaker, like a firetruck when they take it to parades.”
[ ... ]
The colloquial name "grenade launcher" can be a little bit misleading. The Pentagon's given away a lot of these weapons to local police departments, but the most common use is not to hurl hand grenades but to launch less-than-lethal objects. It was this kind of projectile that fractured the skull of Scott Olsen [ ... ] A Cedar Rapids Special Response team recently justified the purchase of five grenade launchers with a story about using a Vietnam War-era "gas gun" to drive a burglary suspect out of a house. Cedar Rapids police captain Steve O'Konek told the local newspaper that the military tools just work. "Some of the technology the military has used has proven to be very successful and great tools for us," O’Konek said. "Anytime we can avert a confrontation with somebody, we’d just as soon do that."
Oh, but our friendly neighborhood police would never actually use these types of things against, let's say, peaceful protesting citizens, would they?
Have a look at this gallery of photos of militarized NYPD officers.
And police departments are public servants, there to help and protect us, right? I mean, they'd never just use overwhelming force just to scare the shit out of us or adopt Israeli tactics for suppressing speech and assembly, or train with the Bahraini military, right?
Oakland Police Trained Alongside Bahrain Military and Israeli Forces Prior to Violent Occupy Oakland Raid
A month before Occupy Oakland was violently raided by riot police using chemical weapons, rubber bullets and flash grenades – a raid which critically injured Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen – the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department trained alongside a military unit from Bahrain and an Israeli Border Police unit.
The occasion was Urban Shield 2011, an annual training competition which gathers heavily militarized police from the United States and across the globe to explore the latest in tactical responses and to promote collaboration. It’s a training that northern California police departments credited for their “effective teamwork” in dealing repressively with Occupy Oakland.
I know that the NYPD's motto is "Courtesy Professionalism Respect" because I have seen it myself. It's on all of their vehicles.
Why do our police need military equipment from the Pentagon? And we are not just talking about our largest cities, small towns get military equipment too. As Sgt. Thomas said, when he was appalled at the equipment and tactics used by NYPD: "These people don't have guns!... This is not a war!"
Yes, it's only a matter of time. As the lawyer interviewed at the end of The Daily article surmised, if we keep equipping and training police officers like soldiers, aren't they going to develop the mindset of a soldier who is tasked with killing enemies rather than protecting and serving citizens?
When you place all of this in the context of our very real detainee policies, the implications are even worse.
Do Cops Need Tanks and M-16s to Protect and Serve?
Last week, the United States Senate passed its unwieldy, $662 billion National Defense Authorization Act, including a provision that grants the United States military powers of “worldwide detention without charge or trial” against suspected terrorists, even if those suspects are United States citizens apprehended on United States soil.
When local police departments are riding around in the U.S. military’s impenetrable wheeled fortresses, firing mounted machine guns, answering domestic disturbances with M-16s drawn, it’s only a matter of time before sheriffs and police chiefs petition for the same powers as the military—to pick up citizens on mere suspicion, to hold them indefinitely without bail or charge, to incarcerate them with a closed hearing rather than an open trial, and to do this all without a lawyer present to protest.
Maybe they are just getting ready to protect us from the terrorists. I remember when Bill Clinton gave that infamous speech many times on campaign stumps in 2006 where he mocked the Republicans for seeing a terrorist on every street corner. Now who is acting like the paranoid Republicans that Clinton spoke of?
Even if we put the issue of brutality and rights aside, I don't know about you but I'm thrilled to be paying for military equipment that might be used against me or my kids while supporting OWS or marching in solidarity with them.
That was sarcasm, but this is deadly serious business.
Isn't it obvious that we have a Big F'ing Problem already?
It is so bad that a UN envoy has spoken out about it.
U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn't Protecting Occupy Protesters' Rights
WASHINGTON -- The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded -- sometimes violently -- by local authorities.
Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. "special rapporteur" for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.
UN Envoy Speaks Out Against US Brutality Towards Occupy Protesters
La Rue, a human rights activist who's been at the UN for three years, essentially agrees with the National Lawyers Guild—that forcible, violent raids on Occupy encampments in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland and other cities, infringe upon citizens' First and Fourth Amendment rights and are a violation of moral decency to boot. "The demonstrations are treated as if they're presumptively criminal," said NLG co-chair Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. "Instead of looking at free speech activity as an honored and cherished right that should be supported and facilitated, the reaction of local authorities and police is very frequently to look at it as a crime scene."
When you have police officers or sheriffs shooting at Iraq War veterans in the streets, sending them to intensive care and brain surgery, maybe you want to rethink how much weaponry you want to supply them? When you have a UN envoy saying that police departments across the nation are violating human rights of our citizens, maybe it's not a good idea to give them even more military equipment from the Pentagon and Homeland Security? Maybe you want to think about taking it away.
Hello? Mr. President? Congress?