Sunday, July 27, 2014

Militarized Police - A Reality Check

In the late 80’s, our high school’s government department hosted talks given by different law enforcement agencies from local to federal levels.  When a local police officer gave his speech, a kid began arguing with the cop over an injustice committed against him.  He insisted that he was unlawfully stopped and searched, as well as harassed.  I was pretty appalled by the story and couldn’t understand why he would be targeted.  This kid belonged to a wealthy family and was a delinquent attention whore, but that didn’t justify his treatment at the hands of the police.

I asked him about the incident after class, and told me another version where he was lawfully stopped.  He went on tell how they were drinking underage and smoking weed, hence the search. The kid admitted that he took creative license with the story for a chance to annoy a cop.  This was my first experience with the “more to the story” scenario.  The “militarized” police issue bears little difference.

Cop hatred is an increasing fad, and it spreads to otherwise rational and conservative citizens during a Democratic presidency.  A recent example was the “New World Order” fear that reached popularity during the Clinton years.  Although the FEMA “Death Camp” wave originated under Bush, we’re now apparently facing a UN invasion under Obama.

The most important thing to understand is the “militarized” aspect.  Critics most often cite military appearance as evidence, but if this whole mess were real, one of the most important factors would be jurisdiction.  Law enforcement in our country exists on the federal, state and local levels.  These levels determine what laws can be enforced by a particular agency and where they may be enforced.  Federal entities have no command authority over the smaller jurisdictions.  They can investigate each other and take legal action against them, but the feds can’t command the other branches.  The military doesn’t even come into the picture.  Thus, if the federal government issued death warrants for all [insert group here], other jurisdictions don’t fall under their command.

While state and local agencies receive federal grants and equipment, this assistance does not come with instructions to follow orders.  Programs like 10-33, which provides surplus military gear like armored vehicles, are designed to provide gear to agencies that can’t afford it otherwise.  The intent is to provide options to deal with increasing levels of violence in acts of terrorism, active shooters, increased cartel activity, etc.
The critics of late cite the physical appearance of SWAT teams and similar groups as evidence that they are acting as the military.  The use of military gear and combat tactics is nothing new.  It goes back as far as the “Tommy Gun.”  When gangsters deployed the submachine gun and against the police, it was time to step up the game.  The 1997 Los Angeles bank robbery shooting underscored a situation where the police were behind the curve in gear and tactics. 

As I explained to an online critic, if a fleeing murderer took shelter in the home across the street and fired on police, I assured the critic he would be alone in charging into the situation in a polyester uniform with a .38 special in a Crown Victoria.  When the call is made to scrape up his bleeding body from the street, it will be done by a specially trained team wearing tactical body armor, driving an armored vehicle and equipped with shields, rifles, less-lethal munitions and a bomb robot. 
Understand that police don’t have the option to fight fair.  We must win and come home when the shift is over.  The feds aren’t providing cannons, frag grenades, machine guns, mortars, missiles or tanks.  They offer law enforcement tools.  Just as our nation has done for ages, we endeavor to stay tactically, technically and logistically ahead of the criminal element because we don’t want to be another third world stain on the map living under a criminal cartel like Mexico or much of the Middle East.  

Share this blog when you see the paranoid posts.  Often they will reply with memes or links to screw-ups and incidents where police have screwed up, but challenge them to show military action.  Police are more liability conscious and careful than ever, but that’s fodder for another blog.  Ask how it differs from a citizen using military technology to defend their home (AR-15).  Chances are you’re dealing with someone who’s still butthurt over getting busted for that joint back in high school.

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