Random Thoughts About Police Militarization

PIMA County SWAT (courtesy outsidethebeltway.com)

by Raul Ybarra, republished w/permission from his blog conservativelefty.wordpress.com

Militarization of the police has become a hot topic in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting. Something one which I’ve held off giving an opinion. Militarization of the police? Yeah, absolutely against that. It goes far against my generally libertarian principles. I don’t see where this is a new story. It’s been discussed in conservative and libertarian circles for years. The increasing no-knock SWAT raids with their trail of bad shoots, dead Furgeson riotdogs and injured kids makes that police state danger clear. However, what I’m seeing here in Ferguson – not far from me – is very different . . .

For starters, we’re not seeing cops with “machine guns.” There are police with the very same semi-automatic modern rifles and standard magazines that pro Second Amendment people have been defending for decades. Using body armor? Yeah. As does any cop with a brain, regardless of the uniform. Military UCP or MARPAT dress? Now that, yes, I can see a problem there. It might be cheap. It may be “tacticool.” But it sure doesn’t help calm matters. Field blues or khakis would be a less threatening presence without giving up situational control.

Ferguson cop (courtesy cnbc.com)

One thing that I call just plain dumb is stuff like the photo circulating of the officer on top the vehicle with his rifle. The press keeps reporting this as a sniper atop a MRAP. Sorry, but all I see is a dangerously exposed cop with his rifle on the roof of a BearCat. A mobile rest for a light rifle like an AR15, wielded by a lightly armored officer in an extremely exposed position doesn’t come close to being called a “sniper.” I actually feel sorry for him. It’s a good thing the police there were just worrying about looters. If the situation were real civilian unrest, even with minimal organization, this guy would be first casualty right before the BearCat was neutralized.

And that goes to a dirty little secret people – especially the media – are not considering. Outside places like NYC, Chicago and New Jersey, even with gear like this the police are massively outgunned with respect to the law-abiding populace at large. Even with body armor, you do *not* want to get hit with a .300 Win Mag. Or .30-anything from a rifle, for that matter. And I sure as heck wouldn’t want to have to cross that 200-500 yard kill zone the public has to get in the effective range with the officers light 5.56 rounds.

Yet, even though a police force may not be better armed the general public, they certainly outgun individuals. That is one area where “militarization” is often seen. A SWAT no-knock raid with overwhelming force on an unconfirmed report is a military response, not a police response. “SWATing” someone has become a deadly means of revenge. Unapologetic shooting of a family pet when it is the officer moving into family property is seen as unacceptably authoritarian.

An expectation of unquestioned and abject obedience such as Sunil Dutta expects will be seen as the actions of a police state. While most Americans are unwilling to submit, you’ll find almost all of us quite cooperative when asked respectfully. Especially here in (most of) the U.S. where rugged individualism is still the norm. Or to put it another way, “militarization” is a matter of attitude, not equipment. In the military, you are conditioned to not ask “Why?” when told to jump. In most civilian life, the person who doesn’t ask “Why?” is considered unthinking.

My point in this? The reality is that their authority is granted to them by the public they serve. The effectiveness of police as peace officers is proportional to the trust the public is willing to give them. Militarization is more of an attitude.

If you don’t understand the difference between cooperation and obedience, then you will have problems with the public. If you don’t understand the difference between being in control of the situation versus being in control of the people, well actually, I’d say you’re foolish. The differences are extremely subtle but also extremely important to maintaining the peace.

This is significantly different than policing in much of the rest of the world. In much of my world travels, the police really are a para-military organization. They often have a power and authority that goes far beyond anything that would be acceptable here in the U.S. In contrast, American police are – or should be – the most direct reflection of the concept of government with the consent of the governed most citizens will encounter.

Frankly, this particular subject is personal for me. I have three good friends who are law enforcement officers, not to mention numerous LEO acquaintances over the years. I’m picky about who I call friend, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they are all good people committed to serving their fellow citizens. I want them to be safe and the reality is that militarization actually makes them less safe.

While a well-equipped police force isn’t a threat to an organized community in most of the US, excessive militarization undermines that confidence and trust by the community. The result is disrespect and contempt on both sides. Once all of that is truly gone, the only result will be chaos.

comments

  1. avatar Toby in KS says:

    In the photo… Front center… trigger finger discipline.

    1. avatar Jake says:

      Tactical facepalm.

      1. avatar notalima says:

        Is that better or worse than the Boston cop who had his Eotech on backwards (from pictures of the response to the Boston bombing)?

        1. avatar Howdy says:

          Don’t want to be on either end of that!

        2. avatar Gene says:

          If there are clowns that made it though academy putting scopes on backwards and not knowing finger discipline, how in the world is one to expect proper use of a MRAP or BearCat?

    2. avatar Buzzy243 says:

      I used to lurk at Sofrep.com before they started charging for the content. Occasionally some interesting things would come up. One thing I remember reading was that during SEAL training the trainees where given a single warning for Rule 4 (keep your finger off the trigger) violations. The second violation was a one-way ticket back to the big Navy to paint handrails and run fire drills or whatever.

      Even if they have some attention whores among their ranks, the Navy special warfare guys are real serious dudes with little tolerance for idiots. Contrast that with your favorite local SWAT team, where anybody who’s friends with the right people gets put on the roster (and they all seem to be attention whores). Cool toys don’t make cops into an elite unit.

      1. avatar Gene says:

        Yup, training and discipline > toys

    3. avatar DJ says:

      I’m guessing “Pasco County, Florida Sheriff’s Office” from their crappy wheeled APC…err… MRAP/BearBangedACat/VAB (VAB- look it up). Anyway, all wheeled APCs (including the Stryker and LAV25) are steaming piles of dung. Can’t dish it out, can’t take it – really good for running away. But they ARE cheap, and they keep all the bodies together in one location for the graves registration guys.

      And fingers on triggers is just how they rollin’ up in the 813!

      He needs to be ready to shoot the ground at any second. A safety would slow him down. “Officer Safety”!

  2. avatar pat says:

    “In the military, you are conditioned to not ask “Why?” when told to jump. In most civilian life, the person who doesn’t ask “Why?” is considered unthinking.”

    In the military, you are conditioned to accomplish your mission at all costs – up to and including your life. In the police world, you’re conditioned to do “whatever brings me home at night’.

    1. avatar James says:

      The altar of “officer safety” is where the lamb of many previously held liberties has been sacrificed.

      1. avatar notalima says:

        Nicely put, James.

        That argument was recently made (on a greater scale) for the DC carry judgement.

        “We are too important and sacred to have people with guns running about”

        it seems to me that the seat of liberty should be the one place where those rights are held the most sacred.

        But that might just be me.

      2. avatar Doug Knaus says:

        James: Yes!
        If the risk of not coming home is too great, find a new profession or get a desk job.
        I used to drive race cars. It’s the breath of life when the car is working. But sometimes you get one that’s trying to kill you. My choices were: Pull in the pits and make up a lame excuse or say, “Doug, you wanted to be a race driver. Drive the b!tch.”

        1. avatar Model 31 says:

          You wouldn’t happen to know Chad would you?

        2. “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
          -Vincent Van Gogh

        3. avatar int19h says:

          It’s not even that risky of a job – there are plenty more risky ones. Fisherman is one of them, ironically.

    2. avatar DJ says:

      True, but there’s a reason for that. If a sergeant tells you to do something on the battlefield, and your response is, “Why?” Your family is going to receive a telegram that begins with “The Department of the Army regrets to inform you…”

      The key role of the sergeant, and what IMO makes BEING an NCO the best job in the Army, is that you are responsible for training your soldiers and bringing them home in one piece. You spend ALL your time with troops, you aren’t an officer moving between commands (few and far between) and desk jobs.

      Another crucial difference is that in the military if your sergeant is wrong it is his @ss. And the military will come to collect it. Article 32 hearings are no joke, and courts martial have conviction rates of more than 95%.

      Want to bet that LEOs are convicted at that rate when they screw up? Didn’t think so.

      1. avatar TheBear says:

        My platoon sergeant was relieved of duty in a combat zone.

        Before he got the boot, I’m amazed he didn’t get us killed. It sure wasn’t for lack of (unintentionally) trying.

      2. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

        DJ, I didn’t say it was a bad thing in the military. Just pointing out the differences – both important and necessary – between American military and civilian thinking.

    3. avatar KOTA-10 says:

      Exactly – it makes you wonder if the author, like most, is both a LEO and a military veteran. He makes wide assumptions about how people are trained or their mind sets and it makes me wonder since the things he says go against both my experiences in both fields.

  3. avatar Kyle says:

    The problem with SWAT team use is that every podunk police department throughout the nation right now wants their own SWAT team. The result is there are thus far more SWAT teams than uses for them. Since police departments are government agencies, they have to find a way to justify the budgets for them, and hence the SWAT teams get used for far more reasons than they should.

    In addition to this, because there are so many “SWAT” teams, many of them really are not trained up to the level that a real, professional SWAT team should be. So you have sub-par SWAT teams being used for things that SWAT teams shouldn’t be used for, which can be a recipe for disaster.

    Sometimes it goes the opposite way and gets officers killed, because the person fights back and the officers not being very well-trained for such fighting, end up not being able to handle the situation.

    Some ex-military commented that from what they could see with the Ferguson police in trying to control the rioters, that the police did not know what they were doing, because they as military had conducted riot control in Iraq. What is very ironic is that the whole reason we have police is so that the military won’t be used for it because you don’t want the military policing, but because the military had to do so much policing in Iraq anyway, if you put regular infantry into Ferguson, they probably would have been able to control the situation in a much less provocative and less militaristic manner than the police.

    1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

      Kyle, you are quite right. It’s no secret here in St. Louis that the police – self admittedly – weren’t ready for this kind of unrest. It was discussed repeatedly on KMOX and 97.1FM (the to main talk stations here).

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      Ferguson is a once in a career event so the police don’t train for it. With limited training funds available they have other high priority needs. Training is more than taking a class. It requires constant refresher work so all the police departments who are putting the force through riot training right now will see it degrade back to their normal level of incompetence in the area within six months.

      1. avatar Anon in CT says:

        Maybe it’s coming from Vancouver (the Canadian one), but riots do happen and police should be trained for them. I personally recall the APEC protests/riots in 1997 (I watched some of them from the roof of a nearby building), and also the Stanely Cup Riots in 1994 and 2011. And these are “peaceful” Canadians – so naturally 2 of the 3 involved hockey.

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          Riot training is a unit level activity all must participate in at the same time. Training is also perishable so it has to be refreshed. It is not a one a done event. So what training do you wish to give up to do comprehensive riot training?

        2. avatar Anon in CT says:

          Puppy shooting? Crib grenading? Donut eating?

          I don’t really care. Maybe it’s not justified for the Feguson PD, but then what about St. Louis or the MO State Patrol?

          Oh Noes! Being properly trained is too hard! Let’s just be really ineffective while waiving around weapons we’re probably not going to use anyway while our town burns.

        3. avatar DJ says:

          tdiinva – who cares. That’s why officers are responsible for training schedules.

          It isn’t the communities job to review training slides in the Quarterly Training Brief.

          If they were ill trained and they responded inappropriately, officers (and maybe some NCOs, depending on who signed off on what) need to be relieved. This is BS, and as a former soldier you know that.

          There is no excuse for sending anyone with military training (which is what this bunch of Barney Fife’s had, God help us) into a situation like this and not expecting it to end in tears. All this LEO SWAT OPERATOR crap gets people hurt. If they want to be 18-series they can enlist and there’s a school for that. If they want to actually FIGHT they can join the IDF, one of the British SOCOM units or the foreign legion – those guys still put metal into bad guys.

          The US military is run by idiots who want to be cops and the US police forces are run by idiots who want to be commandos.

        4. avatar tdiinva says:

          @DJ

          Riot training is not watching a PowerPoint briefing. It is going out and effectively practicing Greek Phalanx tactics. You don’t learn how to do that in a day and it is not a one and done event. Skills get deteriorate quickly. Police officers have more fundamental problems to solve then skills used a once in a career event. You, know like spending a lot more time on the range learning how to shoot straight? .

        5. avatar Anon in CT says:

          What is statistically more likely over the course of a 25 year career in an urban police force – being involved in a riot or shooting someone? And yet cops do train to shoot.

          And sorry, but the training is not that hard – I did it in preparation for deployment to Former Republic of Yugoslavia. The concepts are very simple – the execution, especially synchronicity and coordination just require a bit of pratice. And the gear is also pretty simple and requires minimum upkeep.

    3. avatar KOTA-10 says:

      Actually, most police forces have extensive training on riot control, and are very good at it. The people who lack the practice are the ones governing the use of riot control. When you place your riot line in the wrong positions, use them in the wrong places or times you get chaos. Likewise, ONLY the MPs generally have any training in the military on riot control. Having watched numerous all-MOS QRF responses in Korea to riots Furgeson was a masterpiece of riot control. Just because one department sucks at it doesn’t mean all do (just look at the 2008 DNC which used both military and civilian police forces with great success). The Riot control portions of the SMCT have been so long forgotten in the Army its comical you would suggest it.

  4. avatar Shire-man says:

    Which is why the police and Badge Bunnies should be just as concerned about this.
    Sooner of later they’re going to get themselves hurt playing stupidly with absurd toys they haven’t been trained on and using them far more often than is called for.

    Personally I’d love to watch a bunch of them fast rope straight to shattered hips or crush their buddy rolling dirty in an MRAP so keep on playing stupid games boys.

  5. avatar Buzzy243 says:

    Really well reasoned article. I was a little worried that we where in for more police bashing when the author noted that he leaned libertarian.

    Side note: When I saw that whole “sniper” on the Bear Cat picture it struck me as incredibly tone deaf on the part of the police. Definitely not the proper response to civil unrest. At least don’t do it in full view of the media.
    Up until then I had basically assumed that the only reason the media was there was because a black man got shot. That pic made me start to wonder what was going on with the Ferguson cops.

    1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

      Buzzy, I’ll put it this way. I’m what I’d call a modern conservative, classical liberal, libertarian, leaning semi-anti-federal pro-federalist.

      In other words, a traditional American mutt who believes in the Constitution.

    2. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      The “sniper” on the Bear-Cat? Typical “operator” poseur. He was there for show. Probably thought his fearsomeness was going to throw a scare into people. Pure bozo.

      1. avatar KOTA-10 says:

        Or he was the riot platoon DM in an elevated position looking for lethal threats to the riot line in accordance with MCATI. Its hard to tell since the picture is taken of him from below placing him against the sky and with no other reference to draw from. In fact we can’t know for certain it was anywhere near the riot line.

  6. avatar Tomyironmane says:

    Actually, the police DO, according to the law, have automatic weapons. All those M16s the feds gave them are automatic weapons in the eyes of the ATF and illegal for civilians to posess… even after installing a semiauto only sear. Why? because the M16 has an extra hole drilled in the receiver. From that point on I’m pretty sure it is a machine gun forever, even if you weld that hole closed.

    The police frequently have short barreled rifles, suppressors, (in some jurisdictions “Body armor” is considered a type of weapon and people may be restricted from purchasing it) and other gear that is either difficult or impossible for civilians to legally own. Does anyone in New York believe that the cops play by the same rules as everyone else? Anyone?

    I’m not foolish enough to say that police don’t occasionally need this gear. But the combination of “us vs them” in firearms laws, and the “us vs them” in training and attitude starts turning into “us vs them” on the street.

    1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

      Actually, it’s more accurate to say that police are allowed to have automatic weapons. Some departments do. Some do not. Some have a “few,” whatever that is. In this case, though, Ferguson PD does not have automatic weapons. SLCPD has a few.

    2. avatar Howdy says:

      I’ll be foolish. Law enforcement does not need NFA gear with one exception. Everybody needs suppressors/silencers/mufflers. That’s just a plain safety issue.

      1. avatar Skyler says:

        Unless it’s belt fed and on a tripod, even the military doesn’t need automatic weapons. I’ve never seen that to be necessary. If you’re aiming, you only need one bullet at a time, and if you’re not aiming, shame on you. You can pull that trigger fast enough for any effect you might want for a rifle.

      2. avatar DD says:

        Based on what????

        1. avatar DJ says:

          Based on the fact they don’t need it, idiot.

          Fact: Until the most recent conflicts most US infantrymen and marines were issued an M1A2 (burst capable not full auto) with a 20″ barrel.

          LEOs need SBRs, etc, etc, like a moose needs snowshoes.

        2. avatar Steve Day says:

          There is NO WAY the police would ever need (or could warrant having) a fully-automatic machine-gun to lay down suppressive fire (which is the whole point of fully-auto) in the US. If such a threat existed to need those kind of tactics then the national guard would have already been deployed.

          The US is not a war zone. Period.

      3. avatar Anon in CT says:

        I have no objection to SBRs for in-close work. Of course, I don’t understand why they are NFA items either.

        As to full-auto, I was taught only to use it to “clear” a trench or a room. And by clear I mean indiscrimately kill everything in said trench or room. Because sometimes that’s what an Army has to do. That should NEVER be something that police do. Cops don’t need full-auto. Period.

        1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

          Anon, I don’t have full-auto experience, but my understanding has been that the best thing full auto is good for is making sure you are out of ammo. I’ve heard some talk about using auto for suppression fire, but I thought that was what the SAW was for.

        2. avatar DJ says:

          Recon by fire, Raul, But, yeah, “suppression” with magazine-fed weapons is not recommended.

          I’ve been an instructor on the M2 .50 Browning Machine Gun, and I’ve had plenty of time on the M249, M240 and M60. Enough to say that they are all great to shoot as long as Uncle Sam buys the ammo.

          There are all sorts of cool things you can do with a crew-served and a good gunner – like grazing fire, plunging fire, or a z-pattern. Fully automatic, belt fed weapons can be very effective, if they are properly employed.

          They have no use for law enforcement.

  7. avatar notalima says:

    I don’t have an issue with some of the equipment. It is the frequency and use that it is put to. As in:

    Too often, and for things that don’t require a HRT to take care of.

    The issue is that having the tools has become ‘using the tools’. For things that do not require, and should be leveraged for, the use of these tools.

    or

    When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails. (Paraphrased)

    And, police militarization has been a concern to me for a lot longer than this recent nonsense. The LIVs and the special people are the ones that are finally getting to the table…but they’ll forget about it as soon as the next reality TV person has some spicy controversy.

  8. avatar Parnell says:

    it’s funny that you mentioned uniform color. In NYC, Emergency Services (SWAT) wears blue coveralls. No body seems to notice them even when they’re all armored up. Maybe it’s a city thing but I think they look less threatening to the average citizen yet they still do their job well.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Maybe that’s because they do their job only when needed, and the need is often enough to justify them. Also, ESU does more than break in doors and “shoot ’em up.” A lot more.

  9. avatar Thomas Reed says:

    I don’t think it is so much what you use but how you use it. I have been carrying for over 40 years and I have been in a few harry situations in that time and I have never had to draw my weapon. (Came close a few times.) Still, I had a very good instructor and supervisor who taught me one very important fact. “The most important weapon you have is the one between your ears.” I have had situations under control only to have some yahoo come along and stir up everyone, making my job three times harder. Not sure what kind of mentality it takes for someone to go to his gun every time (not to say that there isn’t times when going for the biggest gun in the arsenal is not the right choice.) when he has other choices. We had a incident in New Mexico where the police shot a homeless man living in a National Park. They came with AR’s and a K-9 but no bean bags, no tasers, no OC spray. They went in like a military strike team rather than law enforcement. The results were that the man was shot to death. I have no problem with what they give our police, I have a big problem with how our police are deployed on the street and how they confront the public. I have seen how our police are trained and somewhere between the academy and the street all that training seems to be forgotten. One other thing my supervisor taught me. “What is so damn important, or so urgent that you have to have the subject on the ground and in the back of your vehicle that you are willing to do what ever it takes to get him there?”

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I love it. You’ve been in “harry situations”, eh? What a descriptor! As in DIRTY harry?

    2. avatar Jus Bill says:

      “The most important weapon you have is the one between your ears.”

      That is the plain truth. Period. No more needs to be said.

  10. avatar Patrick Hayes says:

    Very well written. Im glad im not the only one who saw the “Shoot me first” guy on the bearcat.

  11. avatar JasonM says:

    …the police are massively outgunned with respect to the law-abiding populace at large.

    And that’s the main reason we have rights, while the rest of the world has government granted privileges.

  12. avatar Roscoe says:

    This article should be required reading for BLM and certain other federal agencies, though I’m not sure there is enough shared gray matter within some of those agencies for the main points of the article to sink in.

    1. avatar DJ says:

      It’s well past that. They aren’t going to start walking things back voluntarily. Hopefully, there is meaningful political change. That nonsense at the Bundy ranch was a powder keg. The next time, the militia will be wearing balaclavas to prevent identification like the feds (stomps foot twice).

    2. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Oh, just give the Feds crayons. They’ll stay busy.

      1. avatar Steve Day says:

        No, not Crayons … once the Feds get them they’ll press Obama to sign an executive order ruling them to be NFA items. Then we’ll have cavity searches for everyone, as those sneaky assault-crayons can be hidden anywhere on the body! (Think how painful a camera would be shoved down your urethra at a roadside checkpoint.)

  13. avatar Howdy says:

    I agree with much of what you are saying.

    Here are some issues.

    “For starters, we’re not seeing cops with “machine guns.””
    We cannot validate whether there were select fire weapons or not if we are referring to Ferguson, MO. With the number of different law enforcement departments and agencies involved, how would each agency know with certainty what the other was packing? The National Guard didn’t have select fire weapons?

    Outside of this incident, we do know that law enforcement does have access to select fire weapons.

    “photo circulating of the officer on top the vehicle with his rifle”
    How would you feel if you were at an event where this was happening regardless of the tactical viability of his position or choice of rifle. The perception is accurate in distinguishing that individual as a “sniper”.

    ““militarization” is a matter of attitude, not equipment”
    It’s good you point out attitude. However, without the equipment, there is no effective militarization. As you point out, you can organize to overwhelm individuals, but that’s just good planning, preparation and execution. Every good leader, military or not, knows how to do this.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      The size of the optics on his rifle say that man’s assignment was as a “sniper”, regardless of other equipment or ability.

      1. avatar Mark says:

        +1, unless the officer was legally blind, an optic like that is the definition of overkill. No one should be taking 600 yard shots in a riot.

    2. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

      Howdy, Good points, all. To give a bit more explanation:

      1. As reported here in StL, the Ferguson PD does not have automatic weapons. The St. Louis Co. PD has some, but as I understood the reports they weren’t deployed here. Again, all based on what I’ve heard in local reports. The Nat. Guard was used at the HQ to free up the local officers to be on the street. They weren’t on the street itself.

      2. I had friends on the street there and I still see boarded up windows from 270 on the way to work each day. Luckily the closet the trouble came to my commute was that Walmart that was trashed. Was on the ground at a riot/unrest at north of Powell Symphony Hall on North Grand some years ago, as well, taking my fiance (now wife) home from a concert. My thoughts in the article were the same as I had seeing things like on the news and web as it happened. Likewise, according to a friend who was there, people were pissed more than intimidated – and I’m talking about the peaceful protesters, not the trouble makers.

      3. Yep. I do agree, though I would never rule out the effectiveness of improvised or unconventional arms. Especially under that good leader you mention. 🙂

      1. avatar DJ says:

        Congrats on your marriage, Raul.

        1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

          DJ, that was 25 years ago, actually. But for the record – and off the record – I still gladly take any congrats for good decisions. 😀

  14. avatar TT says:

    The problem is not with police having modern semi-automatic rifles. The problem is with the police bringing them out and pointing them at people without good enough reasons, see e.g. the dude on the MRAP. Oh and police have plenty of .30 rifles too.

    1. avatar Steve Day says:

      If someone without a badge were to pull out a rifle and start aiming it at LEO’s faces they’d be dead or at least locked up for years and all their rights taken away for life… Yet we are supposed to accept LEOs doing this to unarmed people or others that pose no immediate threat.

      Whatever happened to not pointing your gun at anything you weren’t ready to shoot? ..anything goes for LEOs – as long as they make it home safe at night, eh!

  15. avatar Grindstone says:

    “If you don’t understand the difference between cooperation and obedience, then you will have problems with the public.”

    If you don’t understand that the public has a right to NOT cooperate and obey, then you will have problems with the public.

  16. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

    A few additional comments:

    1. RF forgot to mention that I’m also a regular TTAG reader. Thanks, RF, for the voice you give us.

    2. Thanks to all you readers for the comments. I appreciate the feedback.

    3. One thing I didn’t mention in this article is that were I have the most concern with law-enforcement militarization is with federal agencies. EPA with a SWAT team??? Too much like an end-run around the Posse Comitatus Act.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      WRT #3: I completely agree in most cases. The one exception I would make is for the folks who guard the Nuclear Production Complex – both DOE (Department of Energy’s NNSA) and their Contractors. From the dealings I’ve had with them in the past, they’re better armed than the National Guard, and train often and hard. There are some aberrations and exceptions, but by and large they know their business, and rightly so.

      But the other DoE (Department of Education), OTOH – they need a SWAT why? In case a kid nibbles a Pop Tart into the shape of Idaho?

      1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

        +1000 on that last!

        (Agree on the rest, as well)

      2. avatar Steve Day says:

        The dept. of (mis)education says they need a swat team for collecting unpaid student loans.

  17. avatar tdiinva says:

    This article nails it. The problem isn’t militarization what ever that means. It is the over employment of SWAT way beyond its original mission, i.e., the Charles Whitman scenario and few other deadly situations. As I have said before, a more accurate description of the problem is the SWATification of police. Not every arrest warrant requires the high powered approach.

    There is no sinister reason for the SWATification of police work. It is all about budgets. SWAT has its own constituency in police departments. It is a high cost operation, low legitimate use asset and when budgets get type seldom used assets get cut. The bureaucratic solution to such a problem is to “make yourself useful,” i.e., find jobs to do. So they end up serving warrants on nonviolent offenders.

    The solution to this problem is to make SWAT a collateral duty. Call them out to deal with active shooters and other high level threats. Make the beat cop serve the arrest warrant just like they used to do.

    1. avatar DJ says:

      It already is an additional duty. Municipalities can’t afford to pay a SWAT team to just sit around – which is one reason they are used for everyd@mnthing,

      When all that is at hand is a hammer, the world starts to look like a nail.

  18. avatar Joe R. says:

    The problem isn’t the gear, and it’s not really the good-cop / bad-cop thing. The problem occurs when the badge, or the gear, or the uniform, or the MRAP, causes the cop to believe he can / has achieved a higher status in society than those he / she serves.

    A single citizen (1) is the highest status you can obtain. Hold your first finger of your right-hand in the air. That’s the highest # of citizens you can reach, be it Police/fire/politician/clergyman/teacher/military personnel/wealthy/poor/middle-class. . .

    Other than that, give the cops nukes, the rest of us need them to be as effective and un-stoppable as possible.

    1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      From Radly Balko, 8-29-14 Washington Post

      ” . . . A few years ago, a guy who trains police in the use of lethal force told me that he had grown quite concerned about the direction that training has taken in recent years. He said that police departments are increasingly eschewing training that emphasizes deescalation and conflict resolution for classes that overly emphasize the dangers of the job, teach cops to view every citizen as a potential threat, and focus most of the training on how to justify their actions after the fact to avoid disciplinary action and lawsuits. . .”

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        That’s all part of the post-9/11 FUD Industry; “Everybody’s a Terrorist/Jihadist,” let’s go to Israel on DHS’ dime to learn how to REALLY control a crowd, “Gee, look at the purdy gunz ‘n stuff!”

        1. avatar int19h says:

          It started long before 9/11. “War of Drugs” was what blew that whole thing up.

  19. avatar DD says:

    How about considering the cops safety when encountering a deadly situation i.e malatov cocktail wielding demonstrator or active shooter. Are you all brain dead on this site of what???

    1. avatar DJ says:

      Molotov Cocktail – Field Expedient Anti Armor Weapon. INEFFECTIVE against personnel. You do know that the Russians used them to knock out tanks, right? Here’s a pop quiz – if someone throws a bottle of burning alcohol at you, what do you do? If you’re on foot, you MOVE OUT OF THE D@MN WAY! Tanks can’t do that – hence – anti armor weapon.

      How many police injured by molotov cocktails in Ferguson? Zero. Moron.

      Active Shooter – term didn’t exist until police departments invented it as political cover for the inability of 2,000 trained officers, armed with “military style assault weapons” to deal with one emotionally disturbed youth who stole some guns and decided to shoot up the local college/grade school/mall – wherever guns are “forbidden” (except for the police).

      How many police injured by direct fire in Ferguson? Zero. Moron.

      1. avatar Steve Day says:

        +1 You nailed it.

    2. avatar int19h says:

      Cop safety is less important than the safety of a regular citizen. Cops exist to make our lives more safe. If cops start to use a combination of tactics and gear that reduce our safety (e.g. because they can shoot or flashbang someone “by mistake”, or provoke a legitimate self-defense response and then shoot the defender), and justify that by wanting less risk to themselves, they have failed as cops, and it’s not clear what we’re even paying them for.

  20. avatar Retired LEO says:

    The only things that are really necessary are body armor, humvees in certain areas (beach, boggy areas), all the ammo for practice they wanna give away, and tents-cots-disaster equipment. If they dump the beretta send them on. As far as MRAPS the majority will go the way of the duck boats they gave us in the 70’s. SOld off as soon as we could.
    The above will save local taxpayers, give much needed equipment to smaller agencies plus if your local cops don’t take it D.O.D. will likely give it away to foreign countries.

    I’d rather see an MRAP & other stuff rot in a storage yard than given too a
    Iraq or Mexico to turn around & use against us down the road

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Personally, I’d rather see the majority of MRAPs of all flavors rotting in a DOD storage yard or inert in front of every VFW Post in America than in the hands of a five man police constabulary that protects a town of 1,500 souls and 900 stray dogs.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        Sell them on the public market. Five man police departments can still buy them if they want, but the money comes out of their budget – no gifts from the feds (with strings attached).

  21. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    The reality is that their authority is granted to them by the politicians they serve.

    1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

      While there is an element of truth to that, it remains true only so long as the community as a whole chooses to submit itself to that authority. If the community withdraws that authority, the municipal government can appeal to higher government to help enforce its will. However, that enters very dangerous territory very quickly.

      I know there were a lot of people on both sides out here that were very scared about where this could go if certain lines were crossed. That was part of why the police pulled back at a point in the early days. Also why the community was serving food to both the daytime protesters (i.e. the peaceful residents who were upset and exercising their 1A rights) as well as the officers. Bottom line is that St. Louis is not LA or Chicago. It would have gotten very ugly. There’s a “take care of things yourself” sense here that would have been a Bad Thing if turned against Ferguson.

      Thinking of that, when it was clear that the mob violence was from out of town, there is one thing I think should have happened that didn’t – and I know a lot of people on both sides of the debate will think I’m insane. The Ferguson Chief should have called out the community to help. In MO, it’s not just the sheriff that call on the posse comitatus. The people were getting quite fed up with the night-time mobs and some were already standing up to them. Some well placed words with community leaders and Ferguson would have had all the local manpower it needed. Crazy, yes. But I still think that at least in the county or here in the Metro East, it would have worked. In StL city? Not so sure. Anyway… just speculating…

      1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

        ” . . .The Ferguson Chief should have called out the community to help. . .”

        I thought the same thing myself. The chief was obviously overwhelmed and getting all manner of conflicting directions from the feds and the state. Already the little town is being framed as having a racist city government and police force simply because the 70% majority black population repeatedly elected white officials. Sadly, the people who lived in Ferguson were pretty much ignored. Things would have certainly been no worse if both the mayor and chief had asked the citizens for their help in securing the streets.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          I personally think the Ferguson Chief was in over his head and was suffering from “Obamitis” – so afraid of making the wrong decision that he made no decisions at all.

          All he really had to do was get on the horn with the Governor and say, “Look, this is MY town. Tell your people to sit down, STFU, and do what I tell them, and ONLY what I tell them.” Then get some ADVICE from the on-scene experts and make some decisions.

          But that was just too hard, and Sharpton, Jackson, Holder and the Grievance Committee took over the proceedings.

        2. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

          You don’t know how much I wish that had happened. Nixon pretty much threw everyone in North County under the bus trying to get a little political traction for a federal appointment in case the Dems win the White House in ’16

  22. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    While a well-equipped police force isn’t a threat to an organized community No. SWAT is now being used for anything and everything. SWAT is a menace and you know it.“SWATing” someone has become a deadly means of revenge. Unapologetic shooting of a family pet when it is the officer moving into family property is seen as unacceptably authoritarian.SWAT is hazardous to people and animals and is a war on both.

    1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

      Tom, I note both SWATing and the trail of dead pets – as well as injured kids – as part of the issue.

  23. avatar Paco says:

    I said in a recent similar post and will repeat here because it’s worth repeating; anyone who believes the official 9/11 version should accept the police militarization that followed in its wake.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      As a survivor, I say again to let the country move on and continue to heal. I’m not concerned about who did it because I’m thrilled to be alive. And I’m not alone in that.

      Now sit down and color. The grownups have more immediate problems to solve.

    2. avatar int19h says:

      How so? I do accept the official version behind 9/11, but 1) it is a statistically insignificant event in terms of victims, and 2) even if it weren’t, SWAT teams don’t deal with terrorists 99% of the time in practice, they just serve routine search warrants to non-violent suspects in a very violent and accident-prone fashion.

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