My father was a MAD man. “There’s only one reason Russia doesn’t attack the United States,” he’d pronounce in a heavy Hungarian accent. “Mutually Assured Destruction. Those commie bastards know if they go to war with us they can’t win.” I wish the old man had lived long enough to discuss MAD’s domestic implications. No, I don’t mean his relationship with Mom. I wonder if he would have agreed with the idea that the same balance-of-terror = peace relationship exists on the local level. In other words, the equality between privately-held arms and the firepower available to law enforcement protects our freedom from state-run tyranny. If so, boy are we in trouble. To wit this via officer.com . . .
A Hamilton JournalNews investigation found budget-challenged Ohio departments are increasingly using military surplus to arm and equip their staff — last year acquiring a record $12 million in equipment and weapons through the Pentagon’s 1033 program.
That was more than a third of the $33 million in surplus gear obtained since the program started in the mid-1990s. On top of that, Ohio police have received more than 6,000 firearms valued at $2 million, mostly M16 assault rifles.
Readers of this website have addressed the issue of police-issued militarization in general and standard-issue AR rifles in specific for years. The general consensus is, sure, why not?
The underlying philosophy: we have them (and by “we” I mean bad guys as well as good guys) so the cops probably need them so what the hell, let ’em have ’em. Underlying that: the same operating principle that accounts for the British reaction to their burgeoning police state. If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Yes, well, it pays to remember that We The People couldn’t buy “assault weapons” during the Clinton years. Which highlights the fact that obeying the law—however unjust—doesn’t necessarily prevent a police state. In fact, it can tip the balance of power towards the Powers That Be. More poetically, an unquestioning acquiescence to unconstitutional laws may till the soil of tyranny.
All this hand-wringing over 6,000 rifles? Yes, actually. The easier it is for police departments to obtain box-fresh M16s and the attendant clobber, the more likely they are to form SWAT teams. The more SWAT teams in existence, the greater the likelihood that the police will use them.
But critics say the program is fueling an increasing militarization of police that has civil rights and public safety implications. They say heavily armed SWAT teams, originally formed to respond to rare events like sniper and hostage situations, now often are used for routine police work like the execution of search warrants, sometimes resulting in botched raids and even deaths of innocent residents.
A mishandled marijuana raid by a Preble County SWAT team resulted in the 2002 death of Clayton Helriggle, who was shot as he came down a stairway. The SWAT team was later disbanded, and Helriggle’s survivors received more than $500,000 to settle a civil lawsuit.
Not so disbanded. The incident described above went down in 2003. whiotv.com reports that the Preble County SWAT team raided a house in December 2011.
In any case, we’re talking about more than assault rifles and SWAT teams.
Several years ago, [Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones’] office obtained a pair of helicopters from the military and sold them after five years and used the proceeds to purchase a new one. Since then, the agency disposed that helicopter for another new one.
“Our current helicopter is being kept up by drug seizures and forfeitures from the drug dealers, which is nice of them,” Jones said.
In the main, citizens do not have helicopters. And what’s wrong with cops in choppers? They could airlift accident victims to hospital for example. Only they don’t. (Ohio already has at least 12 medical helicopters in service.) They’re used for surveillance.
And what if there’s no need for surveillance? Protecting the cop choppers’ budget demands that the whirlybirds get airborne on a regular basis. So airborne they are. Doing something—that the people they serve and protect can’t. Advantage police.
Ohio agencies in fiscal 2011 more than doubled their acquisition of surplus items like bulletproof vests, helmets, chemical and biological gas masks, military vehicles, computers and office furnishings, a JournalNews/Middletown Journal analysis of data from the Ohio Department of Public Safety found.
Police say the program helps law enforcement, especially in small towns, keep pace in an arms race with drug dealers and other criminals.
Carlisle Police Chief Mike Bruck said the program allows his small agency to obtain these weapons for emergency use.
When was the last time the Ohio po-po saw a drug dealer wearing a bulletproof vest, helmet, chemical or biological mask driving a military vehicle? And if that’s not enough to ping your cop militarization radar, ask yourself this: what kind of emergency use does Chief Bruck have in mind? A terrorist attack, presumably.
No question: 9/11 was the tipping point. And man have the cops tipped. Thanks to our collective desire to protect the Homeland (scary word right there), the cops got all the toys, many of which the average American doesn’t or can’t have.
The state data shows 23 police departments, from Toledo to tiny Uhlrichsville, obtained free armored personnel carriers that look like small tanks without cannons, each with an original acquisition cost of $244,844. The Allen County Sheriff’s Office in Lima has acquired more than $4.8 million in gear, including $491,000 worth of laser range finders. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office got a helicopter, and police in Delaware, north of Columbus, got a grenade launcher that can fire tear gas canisters . . .
“We’ve invested a tremendous amount of firepower among people who are not trained to use it, and of course they’re using it against our own citizens,” said Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati attorney specializing in police misconduct cases and a lawyer in the Rush and Wilson lawsuits.
Of course? No wonder my father loved nuclear submarines. “I’d like one for myself,” the Holocaust survivor used to joke. No joke.
The only way to stop the militarized anti-MAD madness: de-fund these federal “Toys for Tots” programs and starve the cops of money needed to use all the military gear. The freedom we save will be our own.