Hey, Leon Panetta! You paying attention? We have so much surplus military equipment that we're giving it away to local police? That's out-of-control military spending. As to the continuing dependence on military weapons, we need to make our views known to local politicians. This war on civilians won't stop until we make them fear for their jobs. From Business Insider (h/t Odd Man Out):
Benjamin Carlson at The Daily reports on a little known endeavor called the "1033 Program" that gave more than $500 million of military gear to U.S. police forces in 2011 alone.1033 was passed by Congress in 1997 to help law-enforcement fight terrorism and drugs, but despite a 40-year low in violent crime, police are snapping up hardware like never before. While this year's staggering take topped the charts, next year's orders are up 400 percent over the same period.This upswing coincides with an increasingly military-like style of law enforcement most recently seen in the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns.
Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's project on criminal justice told The Daily, "The trend toward militarization was well under way before 9/11, but it's the federal policy of making surplus military equipment available almost for free that has poured fuel on this fire."
Thanks to it, cops in Cobb County, Ga. - one of the wealthiest and most educated counties in the U.S. - now have an amphibious tank. The sheriff of Richland County, S.C., proudly acquired a machine-gun-equipped armored personnel carrier that he nicknamed "The Peacemaker."
This comes on top of grants from the Department of Homeland Security that enable police departments to buy vehicles such as "BearCats" - 16,000-pound bulletproof trucks equipped with battering rams, gun ports, tear-gas dispensers and radiation detectors. To date, more than 500 of these tank-like vehicles have been sold by Lenco, its Massachusetts-based manufacturer, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.
"It's kind of had a corrupting influence on the culture of policing in America," Lynch says. "The dynamic is that you have some officer go to the chief and say, people in the next county have [military hardware], if we don't take it some other city will. Then they acquire the equipment, they create a paramilitary unit, and everything seems fine."But then one or two years pass. They say, look we've got this equipment, this training and we haven't been using it. That's where it starts to creep into routine policing."
Alternet published this eye-opening piece back in July 2011:
Weber found that "Between 1995 and 1997 the Department of Defense gave 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers" to law enforcement around the country. But this was only the beginning.
In 1997, Congress, not yet satisfied with the flow of military hardware to local police, passed the National Defense Authorization Security Act which created the Law Enforcement Support Program, an agency tasked with accelerating the transfer of military equipment to civilian police departments. Between January 1997 and October 1999, the new agency facilitated the distribution of "3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment to over 11,000 domestic police agencies in all 50 states. By December 2005, that number increased to 17,000, with a purchase value of more than $727 million of equipment," says Balko. Among the hand-me-downs, Balko counts: "253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles."
The military surplus program and paramilitary units feed off one another in a cyclical loop that has caused an explosive growth in militarized crime control techniques. With all the new high-tech military toys the federal government has been funneling into local police departments, SWAT teams have inevitably multiplied and spread across American cities and towns in both volume and deployment frequency. Criminologist Peter Kraska found that the frequency of SWAT operations soared from just 3,000 annual deployments in the early 1980s to an astonishing 40,000 raids per year by 2001, 75-80 percent of which were used to deliver search warrants.
Which helps explain all those raids where cops end up killing innocent people. After all, things happen in war!