Coming to a small town near you … why?
This is a Lenco Bearcat, sounds cute and dangerous at the same time, no doubt a lot of marketing expertise went into coming up with the name. It made it into the news because some people in the town it was destined for objected. How could anyone object to a town having its own tank? (OK, it’s SWAT/riot control APC, details.) It’s this weird thing called principles. Some people still have them. The basic objection was this, why does a rural town of 20,000 people with no violent crime to speak of and no riots in its history need such a vehicle? Good question, it’s a shame the mainstream media doesn’t ask such question. Well, DHS thinks that every town should “be prepared” for terrorism. Right. In a rural New Hampshire town? Really?
Our schools are a joke, public college education is a dream of thing of the past, our highways and infrastructure are falling apart, but the federal government can spend a quarter of a million dollars on an APC for a rural New Hampshire town? And let’s be clear about this, the quarter million price tag is just the tip of the iceberg, if one added up the costs behind this purchase, it would come to a staggering total. A huge spigot of government money (your money) directed at providing utterly useless vehicles like the one above to towns around America. Useless as in this vehicle will most likely never be used in anything even remotely resembling it’s stated purposes in the vast majority of US towns where it will be deployed. And as for the idea that well: “we should be prepared for anything,” there’s no limit to that sort of thinking. And in the real world there very much are limits to what the nation can afford, and every dime spent on excessive security is one more nail in the coffin of our declining nation. All guns, no butter, is a bad plan for long term prosperity.
However, this isn’t a post about the incredible amounts of money the country is wasting on the terrorism racket. This is a post about a trend that has been going on for a long time, the increasing militarization of the police in the USA. Since the 1960s there has been a proliferation of SWAT teams, the numbers of police in general, and the arming and equipping of police with military weaponry like the cuddly vehicle pictured above. This isn’t debatable, the era of Andy Griffith style police departments is a thing of the past. And this is a bad thing for a number of reasons.
The main reason being it has promoted what can only be called a gang mentality among police. When the police are militarized, they tend to think like militaries. And policing becomes something much closer to military occupation than policing. Which leads to an “anything goes” attitude. Or more specifically, it leads to an attitude where the police are more about protecting themselves than protecting the public. And the police then use their military style tactics in situations where it is wildly inappropriate. There are tens of thousands of SWAT raids across the USA every year now, many of them “no knock” raids. This is where armed SWAT members burst into your home without warning. Then they shoot your pets and trash your home, and if they find the slightest amount of contraband, you get charged with a crime.
Fortunately our government is leaping into action to deal with this situation. They are passing laws making it illegal to film or photograph police in the course of their duties. The rationale behind this is that it somehow “endangers” the police to film them doing their job. Excuse me, but the police are working for the citizenry, and while they are performing their public duties the citizenry have every right to film them. The only “danger” this subjects the police to is that they might be filmed abusing their powers. I frankly think it’s every citizen’s duty to film the police when they are doing their job. This protects both the police and the citizenry. The police will be far less likely to overreach their authority if they know they might be filmed, and it protects the police from false charges of police brutality and such.
In any event, I am not the first or only person concerned about this trend. Interesting articles can be read here and here. A book has even been written about this issue. My last thought on this matter (though I am hoping this post provokes some discussion) is that the media has been wildly complicit in this process, by endlessly portraying this fantasy world where the heavily armed cops are golden warriors for rights and justice protecting us from evil doers. Right. I know a few innocent people whose homes have been raided by the police, trust me, it’s nothing like the polite sanitized crap portrayed on TV.
(The above image is from Wikipedia and it has been released into the public domain by its creator. A last little story: In 1975 or so one of my mentors, Keith Ugie, came home from work and a police car with two cops was blocking the entrance to the dead end street where he lived. So he parked his car and waited. The younger cop came over and told him to move along. Keith thought about it a second and said that no, he wasn’t moving. He lived on that street, he was legally parked, he wasn’t interfering with the police in any way, and he planned on staying right there until he could go home. The cop freaked out and threatened to arrest him, and went back and got the other cop. The other cop was an older cop, he came over and apologized. Well, the older cop is long since retired, and the younger cop is now in charge. We need more Keith Ugies.)