Despite crime being on a steady decline for the past decade and the threat of international terrorism being wildly overstated, local police departments are stockpiling military grade weaponry. The militarization of police forces has become such a prominent phenomenon that the ACLU now dedicates a portion of its resources to studying the trend. Community policing – particularly in poor areas where people of color live – has been replaced with military style raids by heavily armed SWAT Teams.
Military equipment has flooded local police departments thanks to federal enablers like the Department of Homeland Security which is transforming local law enforcement with the new armaments and introduction of fusion centers – where information, training, and tactics are shared between local law enforcement and federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA, and the Department of Defense.
As Stars and Stripes reports, local law enforcement can now tap into federal programs to receive serious military hardware. One small town in Connecticut profiled by the publication, Watertown, acquired a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle thanks to federal programs helping to send military surplus from the Global War on Terror to local police forces.
Watertown acquired the $733,000 armored vehicle through the federal Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 program, which allows law enforcement agencies to receive surplus military property through their state coordinating office.
The program stems from the National Defense Authorization Act in the ’90s, which allows law enforcement agencies to acquire property with a preference given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests. All law enforcement agencies have to pay for is transportation or shipping costs.
In Watertown’s case the town paid $2,800 for an armored vehicle worth over $700,00. What a deal. Not surprisingly, Watertown police are using the MRAP in absurd ways. Recently the MRAP was part of a police raid to arrest two suspects in a home invasion case. Not exactly Al Qaeda.
The end of this story seems quite obvious doesn’t it? Keep telling police to fight “wars” on terrorism and drugs, give them military grade equipment to fight said wars, and sooner or later you have a community that looks like a police state. And don’t be surprised if these new weapons programs are justified by citing the longstanding and independent trend of falling crime – every war needs a pretext.
Photo by Department of Defense under public domain.