The police response to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, is latest example of how citizen abuse is an unavoidable result of the unconstitutional collusion between community law enforcement, the Federal government and the military-industrial complex.
Since the passage of the 1990 Defense Authorization Act, which included a clause allowing for the transfer of military equipment from the Defense Department to local law enforcement departments throughout the Nation, America’s police officers have begun to look more and more like soldiers on the battlefield.
A USA Today column published as Americans began to question why Ferguson so resembles a war zone explains how the legislation has changed law enforcement in the area in recent years.
From the column:
St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013, a Missouri public safety official confirmed Thursday. Ferguson, Mo., is within St. Louis County. The Pentagon allows information on “tactical” equipment to be released only at a county level, so which police department(s) in the county received the weaponry is not available.
In addition to the firearms, the town has received heavy duty military vehicles through the program.
The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson recently posed some legitimate questions about the scene in Ferguson:
Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?
In the years since, the proliferation of military equipment in local police arsenals has been accompanied by increasingly heavy-handed police practices.
A Wall Street Journal essay published last summer, titled “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” chronicles a number of examples of local police forces acting like military units, using undue force and terrorizing residents who are involved — and sometimes mistakenly believed to be involved — in nonviolent criminal activities.
Some highlights from the piece:
- “The country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.”
- “The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.”
- “Among the new, tough-minded law-enforcement measures included in [the War on Drugs] was the no-knock raid—a policy that allowed drug cops to break into homes without the traditional knock and announcement. After fierce debate, Congress passed a bill authorizing no-knock raids for federal narcotics agents in 1970.”
Unfortunately, rather than work out a targeted plan to deal with the criminals involved in illegal activities instead of Constitutionally protected peaceful protests, local police have taken a military approach and suited up for a blitzkrieg assault on everyone in the streets.