— New York Magazine (@NYMag) August 20, 2014
For many in America and around the world the police crackdown on protests to a controversial police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri was their first glimpse at how militarized local US police forces have become. The use of armored vehicles, sonic weapons, high powered automatic assault rifles, and other military gear made people wonder whether law enforcement in Ferguson was more akin to an occupying army than a police force.
What they would later discover is that Ferguson is not alone in possessing high caliber military equipment and that government programs incentivize local cops carrying weapons of war. Now President Obama has ordered a review of programs that put military hardware in the hands of local police.
The review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and conducted in coordination with Congress.
Obama signaled he would review the programs at a White House news conference on Monday when he said he wanted to make sure police were purchasing equipment they actually needed because there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.”
Correction, there was a big difference. But the post 9/11 security establishment with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security has worked diligently to not just blur but erase those lines. The process of turning police work may have started with the War on Drugs, but the metaphor become real with the War on Terror and the introduction of domestic surveillance and nation-wide command barracks known as fusion centers.
Start giving local police military hardware for free and tell them they are fighting a “war” and you get Ferguson, Missouri.