If you’ve been a TTAG reader for any length of time, you’ve read our coverage of the ever-escalating militarization of civilian police forces in these here U-nited States. Whether it’s locals tooling up by buying remaindered (and sometimes new) army equipment, shutting down a major American city or forcing their way into homes sans permission (or warrant), Officer Krupke pounding the beat rounding up juvies ain’t what he used to be. Routine calls that used to be handled by dispatching a uniform or two in a cruiser now seem to require deployment of a platoon, frequently with air support. But it’s all good if you talk to people like Chief Joel Shults. In fact, the flash-bangs and full-auto shows of force aren’t evidence of creeping militarization, they’re all that are keeping us from full-on martial law . . .

Chief Shults runs the campus presence that keeps the 3700 students at Adams State University (“Great Stories Begin Here”) in Alamosa, Colorado safe. Shall we see if we can guess which side of the Centennial State’s recent disarmament push he came down on? Nevermind — that’s neither here nor there. What is here is the chief’s contention that all this talk of police militarization is really just misinformation coming from a bunch of pinko commie outside agitators bent on riling up the citizenry over nuthin’ much.

While accusing police departments of instilling fear in the public by overuse of SWAT teams, commentators talk about military surplus helicopters, armored vehicles, and machine guns as though cops should have none of it. The public naturally imagines that those helicopters are still armed with wartime weapons and that the armored vehicles are bristling with machine guns. 

Not only is the weaponry impression mistaken, but according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only about one-fourth of the law enforcement aircraft in service is military surplus. The majority is purchased from civilian markets in normal government commerce. 

Further, only about a third of law enforcement helicopters are used for insertion of personnel in SWAT missions. Of 18,000 police agencies in the United States, only about 200 of them have an aviation unit. 

Don’t you feel better knowing that there are 200 little air wings operating around the fruited plain, 50 of which can deploy troops officers?

Do we look intimidating and/or militaristic when wearing heavy vests or carrying ballistic shields? Perhaps, but protective equipment looks militaristic because, as engineers, architects, and designers will tell you: form follows function. 

Why would a police officer be suspect for wearing a Kevlar helmet into a situation where he or she wants to prevent a head injury? The same can be said for any other piece of protective clothing. 

Of course some SWAT members like the balaclava because it looks cool, but it has a practical protective function against hazards beyond the hazard of retaliation (otherwise a plain old Lone Ranger mask would do just fine). 

Obtaining and using protective gear and equipment prevents death and injury to police officers and citizens. Isn’t it reasonable that we have more guns and bullets than the criminals who confront us? 

Well, when you put it that way…. Of course some might counter that when you have a hammer, everything tends to look exactly like a nail. And deploying a half dozen or more wanna-be special ops doods in full regalia for every task from serving a warrant to code enforcement is inherently dangerous (never mind needlessly expensive). But we couldn’t possibly comment.

So as far as Chief Shults is concerned, you’ll just have to get over your phobia of balaclava-clad operators in your neighborhood because the alternative is actually much worse.

(I)n 1878, to cement the longstanding concern, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act explicitly prohibiting the Army from conducting domestic law enforcement operations. Libertarians would be wiser to watch for erosion of this law than worry about police departments being militaristic. 

As counterintuitive as it appears at first glance, I contend that if local law enforcement cannot obtain and use low-level, military-grade assets for high-risk operations, we will open the door to federal military force as our first response to major threats. 

Our current, locally based police service must have the tools needed to be effective to prevent the true militarization by politicians catering to public fear. To preserve the civilian/military split, it is necessary that civilian law enforcement agencies not fail in their mission to suppress and respond to crime. 

If we fail, the public cry for help from the federal government may lead to a weakening of Posse Comitatus and an encroachment from which we might not recover. 

Are we clear? Sure, the no-knock wrong-house raids and ventilated canines can be inconvenient, but they way Chief Shults seed it, they’re better than calling in the National Guard or the Army. Allegedly. Or as some people used to tell (unarmed) rape victims, just lie back and enjoy it, honey and maybe he’ll go away.

89 Responses to Chief: Militarized Police Keep Us Safe From the Military

      • It looks like a Barret .50 semi auto. Also no place for that in a police scenario in anytown, USA. I’ve seen repeated statements from different sources that when a police marksmen actually shoots, it’s almost always at less than 100 yards.

      • Barrett M82/ M107. I know, because I had one in the army. I’m fine with police having them, as long as us lowly civilians can too.

        • The problem with cops having them in urban areas is little concept called collateral damage. A .50 BMG round is ridiculously overpowered for precision marksmanship in a built-up urban or suburban environment.

        • Bullocks. Cops have no business with an “antimaterial” weapon. If they can’t look the accused in the whites of his eyes they have no business shooting ANYTHING. Say 30ft. Can’t deal with that get a new/real job.

    • Maybe that’s because the image is taken from the game “Socom II, U.S. NAVY-SEALS’. Just click on the photo.
      And the helicopter? Taken from the movie ‘SWAT’.
      But it’s not meant to “spread misinformation to rile up the citizenry”.
      Yeah, I get it. It’s been too long since there was a good story to rile up the cop haters out there.

      • Since you worship the police and military so much, lead by example and turn in your guns. After all, that’s what your beloved government thugs are for, right?

      • The N number is real; it’s a charter in the L.A. area, and guest starred in the SWAT movie.

        Tom, it’s the interwebs; people find photos all over the place and use ’em as they will.

        Still, I understand and appreciate your position. It’s not like Adam 12 out there, and irrespective of bad eggs pretty much every LEO out there will eventually turtle up when faced with a culture in which hating cops is accepted and normal.

        Being an EMT in SoCal during the age of Freeway Shooterama was tough; I cannot imagine being a cop, especially now.

        ‘Round here, townfolk aren’t the least bit nervous about the constabulary, and the constabulary is respectful and even handed with the townfolk. In the country, the same is true for the sherif and his peeps. We have a fine, efficient state patrol.

        Over in Kansas City, though, there ain’t a whole lota kumbaya.

        Stay safe, bud.

        • Thanks Russ. Kind words, as usual.
          Where I worked was a cross between Mayberry and Adam-12. Pay wasn’t great, but life in a small town has its perks.

        • I’m a resident of KC, and I’ve never had a negative interaction with the local PD.

          But, since I live downtown, I do worry about “wrong door raids”. And there have been some in KC.

          It’s not a fair burden to expect a homeowner who has broken no laws to try to figure out whether the doods who just kicked in the door are criminal-criminals or police criminally violating the 4th amendment. Which is what a “wrong door raid” is – it’s not a mistake, it’s a criminal violation of the Constitution and a wrongful use of force. Unfortunately, due to sovereign immunity there is no incentive for LE to do anything to correct the problem.

          I don’t hate cops, but I’m not going to put my family at risk either.

          If the police community would do a better job ensuring that they enforce the law while respecting civil rights we would not be having this discussion. Overreach on the part of police creates this problem, Tom. The police own solving it, and they have no desire to do so. So, who’s the bad guy in this situation? It’s not the homeowner with the broken door and the shot dog.

          Police do things every day in this country that would result in a court martial followed by confinement for a soldier.

    • The chopper’s a Eurocopter AS350 B. The gun’s a propane-burning movie prop adaptation of a Barrett. The film is SWAT: Firefight, a dystopian take on Detroit. As if there’s any other kind.

        • I’m coming from: The chopper photo is hollywood, and so is the APC-with-gun. Since you asked.

    • I ain’t either. If his view reflected the way the nation worked, we’d have sent the army into Detroit and South Chicago… again. Time to cut the the fed security budgets and PD exotica budgets until both groups realize the goodies weren’t intended to say “you’ve got a pass on intelligent and civil behavior.” My town of 57,000 doesn’t need that stuff. Trained, polite, effective policing and honest community relations are what’s needed.

  1. Most of Shultz’ comments are equally applicable to why Joe citizen’s 2A protections should never be infringed or diminished.

  2. And Obama’s keeping the 2nd Amendment alive by keeping weapons of war off of America’s streets…

    1984 much?

  3. So, in summary: “We have to destroy the village in order to save it.”

    I, for one, would rather take my chances on the bloated bureaucracy in Washington not getting its shit together enough to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act over the creeping, unsupervised militarization of my local police department.

  4. “…locally based police service[s] must have the tools needed to be effective to prevent the true militarization by politicians catering to public fear.”

    Okay, so small-scale militarization (as opposed to “true” militarization) is necessary and good. As our politicians (catering to public fear) so often tell us. Because it’s so much better when it’s your own local PD trampling your natural and Constitutional rights instead of the military. Got it.

  5. 1878 sounds familiar; the end of Reconstruction. The Army left the South, the KKK came in, and there were a few more black people and white “sympathizers” hanging from the trees. I’d assume a good amount of the local law enforcement were directly and indirectly involved.

  6. Okay – I’ll buy into it on one condition. Civilians, being the larger part of any local community in comparison to law enforcement, should be able to buy and sell the same gear at the same costs with the same level of scrutiny if it is truly the military that you are protecting us from.

    So until I have a rack of burst-capable suppressed SBR’s in my safe and an APC in my garage, I’m calling BULLSH*T on you, officer.

    • There’s no rule against your buying an APC. You may even drive it on the street, so long as you convert it from 28 to 12 volt, install appropriate lighting and mirrors, and use a rubber-padded track.

      Or you can get a wheeled variant and save a step.

    • I like the comment, but I would make one point: cops are civilians, and the context in which they use their weapons is no different than anything a regular guy could encounter.

  7. Last I checked the average G.I. Joe and G.I. Jane don’t have a fat pension check, will be demoted and/or criminally prosecuted after screwing up in the field, and take their oaths to the Constitution and Bill of Rights rather seriously. I trust the military far more than the police.

    • Same. Soldiers ain’t perfect, but I haven’t heard of the Guard shooting unarmed civilians since the 60’s. That’s better than even my local cops can claim.

      • all due redpect. police put in nany more shifts on our streets than the guard does. police stop more suspicious cars…so the # should be per hours exposed to duty. not just # bad press events. and duty overseas is not relevant to duty on u.s. …for comparative purposes.

    • Have to agree, especially at this stage of the game. I have far more trust in the veterans I know, than in any copper – especially the ones I’ve ‘co-mingled’ with. Sure there’s some honest cops, but they have little power over the dirty ones and absolutely no power over the machine that runs them.

      Even the Natty Geodes have more discipline than 90% of the departments out there – and the NG actually gets disciplined when they screw the pooch.

    • And if the rules of engagement for our troops over in Iraq and Afghanastan are any guide, the military will be much more tightly constrained than your local SWAT team

      • Before we deploy, we get a briefing on the Law of Land Warfare (death by powerpoint). We are exhaustively trained in ROE. We are also told “every shooting will be investigated” – and they are not lying about that. There’s a report that was submitted to Centcom every time you fired your weapon when I was in Iraq.

        Police do things every day in this country that would result in a court martial followed by confinement for a soldier.

  8. All you pinko commies go back to your manicured lawn and 9 to 5. Leave the suppression errrrrr policing to us.

    • No. You were right the first time. Laws that punish firearm possession because a person got caught smoking a joint or violating an EPA rule are simply laws to enforce across-the-board compliance with authority of any sort, and have nothing to do with public safety. And the typical police rhetoric which seems to involve borrowing the misadventures of South Central or Liberty City and using such extreme examples to redefine police methods everywhere breeds nothing but unjustified expense and alienation.

      There are many PD’s in America doing things right. As for the rest, it’s time to get their feet back on the ground.

  9. I’d like to think that if the order ever came down to turn the military on U.S. citizens, the rank and file would refuse, or at least carry out orders with a minimum of enthusiasm and maybe a bit of fragging. Cops, on the other hand, live and breathe in the culture of “Us and Them,” especially where left-leaning protestors are concerned.

    • They likely won’t. Look up the veterans march of 1932.
      President Hoover ordered general MacArthur to rout the citizens and their families out of Washington. They were there to collect on the war bonds they bought. Mostly WW II vets and their families. Mac gave his orders to Majors Patton and Eisenhower. They used tanks, flame throwers etc to get rid of these rabble rouser protesters camped in tents. Of the 15-20,000 people there, it’s estimated 1,500 dead. Mostly women and children.
      True event.
      Now do you trust the military?

      • In fairness to Hoover, he actually did not order MacArthur to clear Hooverville. MacArthur overstepped his authority and did it anyway. Patton was just as bad where civillians were concerned.

      • I’m quite familiar with the Bonus Army. Patton and especially MacArthur made their nuts by repressing it. I assume WWII is a typo, not sure about the 1500 killed, but it seems plausible. I would like to see a source (I gave away my “People’s History of the United States,” better get another copy), the official account basically says nobody was killed.

        As I said, I’d like to think the military would be reluctant to turn its guns on US citizens. You remind me that I’m probably naive. Kids with guns indoctrinated into a culture of absolute loyalty.

        From that Bonus Army era, I will recommend Smedley Butler’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler “War is a Racket.” It’s a quick read, and pretty interesting.

      • 4 dead, one miscarriage and 1017 injuries, many quite severe.

        Bone infections and other long term problems liely shout ended the lives spoof nearly 30.

        69 of the injuries were police, who where also injured in most cases by the Army.

        Those are the official numbers, but I wasn’t there.

        If someone drowned in the river while fleeing to the main camp, well, the Army didn’t kill them. Right? :[

        1500 seems a bit high, but it’s certainly possible.

        Then again, things have changed a bit in our armed forces.

        Still, I’d rather not put any of this to the test.

        • Russ, thank you, you are a fact-o-matic, but do quote a source. Not that a “source” is always true, but attribution is good in these ancient history arguments.

        • Wikipedia cites two deaths, that of William Hushka and Eric Carlson. I very much relish the fact that retired General Smedley Butler showed up at the 1932 march to encourage the ex-soldiers.

          If you’ve ever read a history of the the US expenditures for WWI, or the treatment of soldiers left to rot for months and months, then shipped home like cattle, leading in large part to the hideous flew epidemic in the us, the demands of the WWI soldiers seem modest indeed.

  10. The only reason police were armed in the first place was for defensive purposes. Now they feel the need to be on the offensive?

    Against what?

    …and at whose request?

  11. I am amazed to discover that Chief Shults (Colonel Hogan, he knows nothing!) and his band of SWAT pvssies are all that stands between us and martial law. And I thought their only job was to terrorize women and children and shoot puppies. Ya learn something new every day.

    • “Bitch about that puppy shooting too much and it’ll be no Posse Comitatus for YOU!” I think that’s what he’s trying to tell you, or thinking, or whatever.

      The chief doesn’t seem to have caught onto the reality, that citizens can take care themselves most of the time if they are freed from the “no, no, that’s OUR job” union mentality. Months of harassment for rather obvious self-defense, combined with the “you’ll get a carry permit only if WE say you get a carry permit” BS for most of the last forty years, is the story. It isn’t you or the USRA, chief, but rather you, or we’ll do it ourselves. Is he a four-star? Of a third-rate little college force.

  12. What a steaming load.

    OK, for those of you who have not been to Alamosa, CO, I have, (my wife and I have spent R&R time there several times) and here’s my description of same:

    A sleepy little high desert farming town in southwestern Colorado. It is hardly a hotbed of violence or crime. Population of, I dunno, not even 10K. They’re colder than much of southern Colorado in the winter – sometimes dramatically so. Temps in the winter down to -20F aren’t unknown. Elevation on the valley floor is about 7500′ ASL, and the peaks to the north and west are substantially higher. It’s an example of a prosperous high desert town in the intermountain west. Hunting season is the big tourist season. Their crops are typical for the high desert valleys in the west – hay, cattle, winter grains, root crops (spuds, onions, etc). They can have a frost almost any night of the year, so they can’t do things like corn, beans, etc. Yet, for all that, the San Luis Valley is very productive.

    A hotbed of crime, it is not. The town is neat as a pin, clean, has two large ag equipment dealerships (that’s how you know you’re in a successful farming town – there’s more than just one color of equipment in town), all the usual amenities and a huge, bright, clean Walmart.

    If he were spouting this delusional crap about police militarization being necessary in some other towns in southern Colorado, I might listen. Trinidad has areas that can be unpleasant, as well as Pueblo.

    Alamosa needs this stuff? No way. The community college campus in Alamosa? They need this stuff even less.

    I could patrol the entire town of Alamosa with a J-frame on my hip and feel over-gunned on most days.

    My take? This is some seriously warped “logic” here.

    • You never know when the alligators might get out of the gator farm north of town. They could make a beeline for the Sonic on Main, and that needs to be defended at all costs.

      • Been there, seen that. Had a blast feeding chum to the gators.

        For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, a farmer who has a warm flowing well in the valley north of Alamosa decided to grow fish for food. When he looked around at his operation after a couple of years, he had this problem of “what to do with scrap fish and the scraps from processing fish?”

        Brilliant idea: Get a gator. Then it became several gators. Now they’ve got a fish-growing operation and a whole snootful of gators.

        If they got out and away from that hot flowing well, they’d freeze up… unless they went up to the UFO museum a few miles to the north there. That’s a whole ‘nuther story.

        Again, a hotbed of crime, this area isn’t. It’s just like the high desert valley where we used to farm, only bigger.

        • If they make it to the UFO museum and mutate, just think-they might take over the Great Sand Dunes. Then the chief could be called in with the college SWAT team and use all those toys. Who knows? They might even find a dog or two to shoot.

  13. If the military decided to be bad boys and girls, the police would be a red smear within a week.

    That this guy thinks otherwise only highlights the depth of the problem.

    • He’s not arguing that his department can fend off the army.

      He’s arguing that the extreem capabilities of his department can fend off an order to deploy the army.

      Far more logical, but probably not all that realistic.

      My Mosin is good protection from rhinosauruses, but I doubt that I’ll ever need to prove that.

      • I think it is pretty equivocal…in any case, heaven forbid, a single company of infantrymen would have no trouble whatsoever disarming any police or sheriffs department in this country. A week is pretty pessimistic.

  14. Something tells me that any light infantry company would demolish an equivilent size police tactical unit and twice that number of regular beat cops. Mix in heavy armor and mechanized infantry with CAS and not even Lil’Mikeys army would last more than a few days. Which of course exposes the lie. Police militarization does notmake a counter weight to the military because it cannot.

    • Not that I agree with his premise, but I think you misunderstood what Chief Shults was saying. He was not saying that a militarized police could or would fight back against an actual military force. He’s saying that if the police didn’t have access to the special weapons and tactics that they do, then when a situation arose that they couldn’t handle with just their basic vest and revolver, they might have to call in the feds (National Guard or whatever) to take care of it. He’s saying that a slightly militarized police force is preferable to having to call in the actual military.

      I think his argument is specious, but make sure you’re arguing against the right thing.

      • Exactly. What we really need to do is factually discredit the propaganda sewage spring from which so much of this bile flows – that the police are somehow, somewhere outgunned. It’s absolutely bogus from top to bottom, through and through, and rotten to the core. It is a false premise, that when sanctioned, allows for this sort of over-reach.

        The police are never out gunned for more than a few minutes, 10 or 20 maximum. And even those are “black swan” events like North Hollywood. You can count them on fingers and toes over the last decade. Short of riding around in APCs 24/7/365 with a fiddy and full-time A10 support, you will never eliminate a copper winning the bad luck lottery, but the odds were astronomical in the first place.

        Last time police were attacked with even a small portion of standard-issue-even-for-noobs ordnance I could round up from 4 or 5 random take-home cars? Maybe the old days of Chicago. It simply doesn’t happen these days. (And it rarely happened then, even in the 20s/30s.)

        Besides, if that ‘paramilitarization for safety’ theory held any water, then the RUC wouldn’t have lost anyone to the IRA…

        • One of the biggest lies being promulgated these days is “how dangerous a cop’s job is.” This is what is used to justify all manner of public mischief – huge pensions that aren’t sustainable, absurd levels of firepower, SWAT teams being used for trivial purposes, etc. They’ve created this mythology that a cop’s job is so overwhelmingly dangerous, that mere mortals can’t even appreciate the danger.

          This “a cop’s job is so dangerous!” is a bunch of specious nonsense on stilts. It isn’t in the top 10 hazardous occupations in the US. Every job in the top 10 most dangerous is much less glamorous, and there are no parades or big ceremonies for the people who die on these jobs.

        • Russ, I don’t disagree on a strictly analytical basis – the 24/7/52 thing would be a bit more “accurate” subjected to strict logic. I just ran with what has become the de facto reference ‘all day, all week, even on holidays’ term over the last 30 years.

          DG, I’m 100% with you on that (which I’m sure you know). It’s one of those ‘once you really know the stats’ kinda things. I completely understand why it has happened – it’s how they get all the toys and ridiculous salaries/pensions in the system as it exists. Competitive market and all that. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept the lie. I’ve got a long family history in policing, and the ones alive even in the 70s/80s decried the paramilitarization that Gates and his whack-job-statist cronies started, afraid that it would land us somewhere near where we are right now. Let alone where we are heading.

          jdb, I get the sentiment and the reference, you have a point – up to a point… There’s a whole lotta rather unique things that happened in the McMinn event (which have never been repeated). We had a third-world-corrupt local government, a bunch of freshly civilianized war vets, and the big one – a raid on an actual armory. Knowing that, I’ll stand by my assertion, as the incident you are referencing is a different kettle of fish altogether. Especially as the deputies in your captioned incident were not even killed – though they (and the entire county government) certainly should have been tried. Then publicly hanged when found guilty.

  15. Two words: Lol wut?

    Perhaps giving up our rights is the “only” way to ensure they never get violated?

    /We have always been at war with EastAsia!

  16. Two things. The Posse Comitatus Act only prevents local officials from engaging the military. The military can be used for civillian law enforcement with authorization from either the President or Congress.

    Secondly, yes, I would rather the military be used as responders to major disasters. Major disasters are few and far between. That is preferable to a bunch of cops dressing up like soldiers and using as Obama called them, “weapons that belong on the battlefield” to enforce the law on mainstreet USA.

  17. I’m wondering what the point of the posse comitatus act is if the police are going to be as geared up as the military. Having been (many times) in full ‘battle rattle’ I can say that even for a level headed mature person without an agenda or personality issues it certainly makes one more aggressive. While protective equipment for cops is a good thing I think we have to think long and hard about when to deploy officers who are fully geared up. It seems to me that more and more cops are not wearing standard uniforms and have a ridiculous amount of gear attached to them. If the beat is really that dangerous, so dangerous that it requires a military type approach then the solutions aren’t going to be tactical (ie more gear) but strategic. It’s better for the rule of law, better for the citizenry and safer for the cops to take top down looks at the actual situation on the street rather than simply gearing up the average beat cop to light infantry proportions.

  18. The military has rules of engagement that prevent them from kicking in doors and shooting civilians overseas. Soldiers also tend to be young, healthy, and believe in freedom. Same can’t be said about the cops on American freaking soil. Those look like bad guys to me.

  19. This is the pinnacle of insanity. The Chief claims that we should be glad the police are militarized. Otherwise the military, whom the chief does not trust, would move in to fill the void if you will.

    Let me get this straight. The Chief says we cannot trust the military — volunteers from among us who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, who wear uniforms, and have all sorts of arms. But we can trust the police — volunteers from among us who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, who wear uniforms, and have all sorts of arms.

    Can someone please tell me how a green, tan, or blue costume magically makes a person trustworthy and immune to the shortcomings of mankind? More importantly, how can we compel politicians, government bureaucrats, physicians, bankers, and mutual fund managers to wear these magical costumes?

  20. So, the local police need to be armed like a special forces unit to avoid having to have federal troops cover their asses? Has this guy ever heard of the National Guard? That’s their job, not his.
    I have a real problem with the guy who got picked on in high school who became a cop so he could be a big shot having a crew served machine gun, an armored personnel carrier and a tacticool camo outfit running around playing soldier in my neighborhood. If their training with this sort of equipment is like the rest of their training, that’s the scariest thing I can possibly think of them having.

  21. Arming campus “police” is a silly as arming the custodial staff and calling them A Team. The “Chief” of Campus “Police”? Head Custodian more accurate.

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