Well, here’s another example of the ‘militarization of police.’ As usual, it sounds pretty bad. Or at least, it’s made to sound bad. Armed officers swarming out of the woods to perform compliance checks on water quality? Squad size elements moving around with ‘POLICE’ across the back of their jackets, except they work for the EPA? Doesn’t make much sense to me . . .
Look at the specifics of the article, though, and read between the lines just a little bit. They’re talking about water quality at mining sites, which are known for horrible environmental problems when run poorly. So I suppose, they actually have a reason to be out there.
The feeling I get, though, is that in the past, they sent one or two unarmed agents (not sure what the job title is, doubt it’s special agent, FBI style), who announced themselves on arrival and stated their purpose in being there.Contrast that to the new model, up to eight armed and armored men wearing uniforms marked POLICE. The impression you get is that they were a lot less polite than before, as the article uses words like ‘storming,’ and ‘swarming.’ It’s also called a ‘massive show of intimidation,’ which compared to the old model sounds unfortunately, exactly right.
Three points, though. First, the article makes a big deal about the agents being armed and armored, wearing uniforms. Well, to be fair, we’re talking about Alaska. If they weren’t armed, I’d have a bigger problem. The article even says ‘sidearm,’ which implies they weren’t packing AR’s. And armed government men would probably be more objectionable if they weren’t wearing some kind of uniform.
Second, I think the biggest reason people are becoming concerned about police militarization is exactly this kind of thing. Tasks formerly carried out by one or two unarmed men are now being performed by large groups of armed men, even when they are not traditional ‘law enforcement’ tasks. Checking water quality? If the EPA needs to do this, fine. Sounds like they used to do it without any drama.
Why do they need their own police? If they thought something had changed to where they needed armed men along, why not ask for assistance from the locals? Or from the FBI, if they don’t want to lower themselves by consorting with the common folk? And that brings me to my big problem.
Point number three. The reason the EPA needed to switch to the squad of armed men model was “because of information it received from the Alaska State Troopers about ‘rampant drug and human trafficking going on in the area.'” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds like bad people around, like exactly the kind of thing you’d want a rifle and friends with rifles for, doesn’t it? Here’s the problem, though.
“The Alaska State Troopers did not advise the EPA that there was dangerous drug activity. We do not have evidence to suggest that is occurring,” said Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.
Police militarization means different things to different people, and I don’t expect to convince anyone that my take on it is the only answer. I can’t help but think, though, that a squad of armed EPA agents is a few long steps further down the road than my .308 patrol rifle, which stays in the car until I get a call like ‘burglary in progress,’ and we think they’re still inside when I get there. Or worse. Anything much less than that, you’ll never see it.