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Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 2:24 pm

Why does a police department which hasn’t had an officer killed in the line of duty in over 125 years in a town of less than 20,000 people need tactical military vests like those used by soldiers in Afghanistan?  For that matter, why does a police department in a city of 35,000 people need a military-grade helicopter? And what possible use could police at Ohio State University have for acquiring a heavily-armored vehicle intended to withstand IED blasts?

Why are police departments across the country acquiring heavy-duty military equipment and weaponry? For the same reason that perfectly good roads get repaved, perfectly good equipment gets retired and replaced, and perfectly good employees spend their days twiddling their thumbs—and all of it at taxpayer expense. It’s called make-work programs, except in this case, instead of unnecessary busy work to keep people employed, communities across America are finding themselves “gifted” with drones, tanks, grenade launchers and other military equipment better suited to the battlefield. And as I document in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, it’s all being done through federal programs that allow the military to “gift” battlefield-appropriate weapons, vehicles and equipment to domestic police departments across the country.

It’s a Trojan Horse, of course, one that is sold to communities as a benefit, all the while the real purpose is to keep the defense industry churning out profits, bring police departments in line with the military, and establish a standing army. As journalists Andrew Becker and G. W. Schulz report in their insightful piece, “Local Cops Ready for War With Homeland Security-Funded Military Weapons,” federal grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have “transformed local police departments into small, army-like forces, and put intimidating equipment into the hands of civilian officers. And that is raising questions about whether the strategy has gone too far, creating a culture and capability that jeopardizes public safety and civil rights while creating an expensive false sense of security.” For example, note Becker and Schulz:

In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots, while an Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank.

Small counties and cities throughout the country are now being “gifted” with 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. MRAPs are built to withstand IED blasts, a function which seems unnecessary for any form of domestic policing, yet police in Jefferson County, New York, Boise and Nampa, Idaho, as well as High Springs, Florida, have all acquired MRAPs. Police in West Lafayette, Indiana also have an MRAP, valued at half a million dollars.

Universities are getting in on the program as well. In September 2013, the Ohio State University Department of Public Safety acquired an MRAP, which a university spokesperson said will be used for “officer rescue, hostage scenarios, bomb evaluation,” situations which are not increasingly common on OSU’s campus. In reality, it will be used for crowd control at football games.

Almost 13,000 agencies in all 50 states and four U.S. territories participate in the military “recycling” program, and the share of equipment and weaponry gifted each year continues to expand. In 2011, $500 million worth of military equipment was distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. That number jumped to $546 million in 2012. Since 1990, $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies through the 1033 program, in addition to various other programs supposedly aimed at fighting the so-called War on Drugs and War on Terror. For example, the Department of Homeland Security has delivered roughly $34 billion to police departments throughout the country since 9/11, ostensibly to purchase more gear for their steady growing arsenals of military weapons and equipment.

It doesn’t look like this trend towards the militarization of domestic police forces will be slowing down anytime soon, either. In fact, it seems to have opened up a new market for military contractors. According to a December 2011 report, “the homeland security market for state and local agencies is projected to reach $19.2 billion by 2014, up from an estimated $15.8 billion in fiscal 2009.”

In addition to being an astounding waste of taxpayer money, this equipping of police with military-grade equipment and weapons also gives rise to a dangerous mindset in which police feel compelled to put their newly high-power toys and weapons to use. The results are deadly, as can be seen in the growing numbers of unarmed civilians shot by police during relatively routine encounters and in the use of SWAT teams to carry out relatively routine tasks. For example, a team of police in Austin, Texas broke into a home in order to search for a stolen koi fish. In Florida, over 50 barbershops were raided by police donning masks and guns in order to enforce barber licensing laws.

Thus, while recycling unused military equipment might sound thrifty and practical, the ramifications are proving to be far more dangerous and deadly. This is what happens when you have police not only acquiring the gear of American soldiers, but also the mindset of an army occupying hostile territory. In this way, the American citizen is no longer seen as an employer or master to be served by public servants like police officers. With police playing the part of soldiers on the battlefield and the American citizen left to play the part of an enemy combatant, it’s a pretty safe bet that this particular exercise in the absurd will not have a happy ending.

Attorney John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit legal agency concerned with constitutional rights and religious freedoms. His column runs on Tuesdays. Reach him at johnw@rutherford.org.

© 2016 The Belgrade News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • concerned_parent posted at 6:10 pm on Tue, Nov 26, 2013.

    concerned_parent Posts: 8

    Okay, I stayed out of this for a while - I was "asked" to. I can remember when communities came together to assist other persons/functions that are ailing in the community at least they did in, dare I say, Northern California. The people here are right; for the most part, why do we need all of these things? Our school district's a mess. Where is the teacher's union that's supposed to stand-up for the teachers who stand up for the students? The administration is laughing at you. My daughter took the better part of her first semester so far learning Moodle (not "noodle" as I called it earlier) just to submit her assignments. Your big conference last month proved one thing - either computer technology in the district is seriously lacking or the section in charge of it is. And how is it so many people in this district are related to each other anyway? I said it before, you could use the money for the band, get new props for the drama kids. Maybe re-wax the Event Center's floors or even, as my neighbor's boy told me fix CAD - he is tired of losing his files. Maybe you can get grades out on time next time around. How about buying better locks for the doors so easily defeated as we saw last year. Books, real ones, not those that are so out of date there are still photos of the twin towers in them jeez. Money should be allocated to help educate instead of further the fear we seem so despondent about. As I said before, I am glad we're leaving because this town is going to kill itself competing with its neighbor. We don't need tanks and Blue Thunder; and the police here are some of the best in the state (I mean that, helping this single mother when her car wouldn't start and then 10 minutes later when I discovered I should really get better tires for the snow). I think even the officers would say we need to take care of our kids' future too. [sneaky]

  • Copper posted at 8:44 pm on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    Copper Posts: 2

    Let me know if the author wants to defend his position... otherwise, posting and responding is a waste of time. I just had to make it clear that this Whitehead is misleading.... no, he's outright lying.... to the readers. If you are ever curious about what your police have and why they have them, I would highly encourage you to visit your local police. Heck, I bet some of you savvy RTKL people can get a complete list of what they have.

  • Copper posted at 8:41 pm on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    Copper Posts: 2

    The author has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. None whatsoever. Where on earth did you get your information from?

    This is the kind of information that creates unnecessary hysteria among the public. You're not concerned with constitutional rights or religious freedom, you're just plain old fashioned anti-police and anti-government.

  • ghostsniper3893 posted at 8:05 pm on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    ghostsniper3893 Posts: 1

    this report is not true to facts, as in the 1033 program the police departments don't have to pay for items they get from the program as they are free.
    With the cost saving to the police departments they can than use that money to send officers to schools and have more money to help patrol the streets as it is the grants that are used by police departments are drying up and it is harder to put officers on the streets.
    The 1033 program saves millions of money for city's also case in point Katrina, if the city of New Orleans would have had just a few items from the 1033 programs it would be safe to say that a lot more people in that city would have made it safely out of the high water and had power to help keep food cold and had fresh water.
    Small departs in areas of tornados use the MRAPs to get to people who are hurt and can't get out from the damage areas and at the same time if you had to drive to get a person out of harms way would you not want to be in a vehicle that can withstand an IED ?
    Most of you that post on this report are blind to what police departments use this DOD equipment for, and think that its only going to be used to round you up and put you in a FEMA camp not so, if you look at most of the police department that are talked about in the report you will find that most are in areas of the country that have had bad weather and also have had active shooters, would you not want your child to be pulled out of harms way with one of these items?
    It should also be noted that the MRAP that is being used by OSU is not their truck it still belongs to the government and when they no longer have a need for it, it has to be returned to the DOD 1033 program as it is an item that has to be demil, which it has to be cut up into very little pieces, and that cost the DOD about 10,000 USD per vehicle, so you tell me where would you want your Tax money spent, pulling you out of harms way or being used to cut up a million dollar vehicle and getting only hundreds back ?
    the reporter should have gotten his head out of his office and gone to a police department and seen just what good this type of equipment give away is used for and made he/she would see it in a better lights.

  • HDMania posted at 12:06 pm on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    HDMania Posts: 1

    Its like Christmas for the cops..if santa (corrupt government) is giving you gifts ya usually dont turn them down..its for people control..not crime control..the drug war is never gonna end as the corrupt government runs that business and they dont like competition..Obummer hopes the corrupt cops will side with him so he has to arm them..

  • JSC3716 posted at 10:25 am on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    JSC3716 Posts: 1

    Will the local Police do the will of the federal government if it hits the fan? Some will, some won't, depending on the situation. The more oppressive the federal government becomes, the less the chance of the local Police following their lead. It also depends on the story the federal government concocts to "protect" the people by stealing more of their rights. First, when complaining about some of the things being done by government it is better of leaving out some of the nonsense which makes you look paranoid and foolish. It is right to question the need for certain items such as MRAPs but it looks foolish when you ask why do they need Body Armor. You point out that in Augusta, Maine a town less than 20,000 they bought 8 tactical vest at $1,500 each and that there hasn't been a police officer killed there in 125 years. So what, maybe they want to make sure they never lose another one, neighborhoods change and 8 stinking tactical vests will only protect the 8 people wearing them and do not a coup make. That type of vest is the type needed by police officers executing search warrants and bench/ fugitive warrants every day. 40 years ago the vest didn't exist that's why no one wore them then but almost all police officers wear them now, just without the rifle plates, due to the weight. The bomb disarming robot protects the lives of those bomb technicians who work for the police agencies. Those gratuitous lines by you looks foolish and paranoid. The real concerns are cheapened by your fixation on items which are meaningless. The real concern are the military items such as drones, MRAP vehicles, the surplus Army tank, even though that may actually be needed on our unprotected southern border, the illegal stops and searches, like those in Fort Worth Texas, where a federal agency hired off duty police officers in uniform to work with them to collect DNA samples "voluntarily" from random motorists and used passive alcohol sensors, testing the "volunteer's" breaths illegally, the prepositioning of military equipment around the country, etc. these are dangerous. The deliberate violations of civil rights by government and they are put forth for the most part by elected officials, the politicians, who are elected by the people and the people the politician appoint to the agencies, who violate those civil rights. It is the people who vote for these scum, who have brought us to the situation we now find ourselves in. If government continues in the manner and way they are going, they may find those very same items which they "gifted" to local law enforcement used against them if they decide to make their move on the American people.

  • knightflyerii posted at 4:47 am on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    knightflyerii Posts: 1

    Only in the USA can the brain-dead-entertainment-crazed-public accept such a thing as nazi germany. Patriots, these armored vehicles are molotov cocktail magnets.

  • Deputy Duffy posted at 3:51 am on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    Deputy Duffy Posts: 1

    I have no problem with local Police and Sheriff's departments OR State Police Departments being armed with heavy weaponry as long as they are going to be using this equipment to protect We the People from the DHS and FEMA thugs that make up the Palace Guard of the Kenyan King.
    Otherwise they need to stand down on these $700,000 parade floats.

  • mickrussom posted at 1:59 am on Fri, Nov 22, 2013.

    mickrussom Posts: 1

    The police state needs heavily armed goons to make sure these gestapo thugs get their public pensions. We the worker bees (formerly We The People) need to be under heavy armed guard as the police state debases our currency, taxes us near 50%, and takes all of our freedom and liberty. The sell out traitors in law enforcement get pensions as payoff and they keep the worker-bees under heavy armed guard. Meanwhile crime is rampant, they only watch the tax payers to make sure we keep paying into the system.

  • msatta2d posted at 8:56 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    msatta2d Posts: 1

    As often as this man has lied to the American people he thinks gifting our local police with war time equipment is going to garner him favors when he tries to take over the entire country? This should be interesting, and we'll just have to wait and see how many of these cities side with the traitor.

  • Patricius posted at 8:12 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    Patricius Posts: 1

    I understand the fear of an administration that is heavy handed and I don't like this current administration. However, the local police departments don't serve the Federal Govt. I think that some of the examples are absurd, but I don't think some people understand the danger from terrorists, gangs and drug lords. The city of Oakland has close to 20 shootings per day. Many of those on the street have much better weaponry that those police officers who do serve and protect the public. The number of armed gang members in some of these cities come close to equaling the number of the police. I don't have a problem with tactical vests. The men and women in the thin blue line should feel safe on the streets and their families shouldn't have to worry that they may not make it home. Some of the cities are are a bit like war zones. If we need to rise up against a tyrannical I will be there with my rifles along with a good many conservative and like minded police officers.

  • Rosemarysbaby posted at 5:30 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    Rosemarysbaby Posts: 1

    Here's a thought......What if, What if, the Police Dept's who have all this military gear, decide that they don't want to follow the agenda of the "fearless Leader" in D.C. What if they decide that their oath is to the Constitution and they are going to honor their oath. What if.....all this military gear becomes part of the "revolution". What if.........

  • MarcusAntonious posted at 4:37 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    MarcusAntonious Posts: 1

    How else is the Obama/Bush, Marxist/Fascist, Police State going to be continued to be implemented?
    Wake Up !
    Government has become your enemy and Our Constitution and the Rule of Laws enemy.

    Sic Semper Tyrannis !

  • Ruckweiler posted at 2:42 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    Ruckweiler Posts: 1

    The concept of Police Infantry is a BAD idea. These guys are not rifleman in an Infantry unit but policeman. There is a great difference. Posse comitatus keeps military from working as police except in unusual circumstances and police should not be Infantry. To me this smacks of Barney Fife and his one bullet. Close down this Police Infantry and get back to police work.

  • Chestry4Boston posted at 2:22 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    Chestry4Boston Posts: 1

    Seems to me HITLER set the model these yahoos are implementing. Not for public safety, National Defense or Domestic Tranquility, but for POWER IN THEIR HANDS TO BE SOLIDIFIED. DOWN WITH THE TYRANTS!!! ALL OF THEM including the CZARS and parasites.

  • billusnret posted at 1:50 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    billusnret Posts: 1

    Police departments and federal agencies are getting military small unit tactical training they are being trained to use any weapon that an infantry Marine or Army grunt would use.

  • DocDave88 posted at 1:49 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    DocDave88 Posts: 1

    The answer to the question posed in the opening line of this article is this - "so that they will have a chance to survive when they make that knock on the door in the middle of the night on the door of some crazy bitter clinger like me who just might object to being hauled off for ThoughtCrime. And object violently and explosively."

    Look, I am very much a law and order guy. But I am quickly getting to the point that I fear our government.

    And whether or not it is B. Hussein Obama, another Bush, another Clinton, or anyone else at the pinnacle, one thing is very clear. Anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, who attempts to disarm me has declared himself (or herself I suppose) as my enemy. I will neither ask nor give quarter.

    It's simple really.

    When the law no longer means what the plain text of the legislation says, then there is no law. When those charged with implementing and enforcing the law fail to do so without consequence, then there is no law. In a lawless society only the strong and the well armed prosper.

    I am 65 years old and while I may still have some skills and techniques, the strength and reflexes leave me at the mercy of any 18 year-old knockout game player. My defense is what American's defense has always been. I will rely on John Moses Browning's greatest creation and deal with the consequences after I have survived the attack. And trust me, if I am attacked there will be only one survivor. I fully intend for it to be me.

  • DwnRange posted at 1:49 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    DwnRange Posts: 1

    Excellent article IMO.

    Folks should just remember it don't matter how big or bulletproof the tank or APC/MRAP is; infect the fuel system with a can of sterno, ($5-6 at the sporting good store) and it'll be a roadblock in less than an hours running time.

  • simpletony posted at 1:31 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    simpletony Posts: 1

    Cancel all this when obamacare is ejected

  • Citizen Joe posted at 1:24 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    Citizen Joe Posts: 1

    They are preparing for mass riots or civil war.

    A military veteran warned at his local city council meeting that the government is pre-positioning weapons caches all over the country for potential conflict. He said it was exactly how they do it in war zones.

  • endless15594 posted at 12:56 pm on Thu, Nov 21, 2013.

    endless15594 Posts: 1

    This scenario is the arming of the Civilian Security Force which the President talked about in his 2008 campaign. Thank you, Mr. Whitehead for your presentation of this investigative and insightful publication of this information. Officially, the oppression of American citizens has begun.


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