The New York Times has a lengthy Sunday piece on the continuing militarization of America’s municipal police, which you can read here.
The article questions the need for, and the possible motives behind, the wholesale adoption of military tactics and gear in cities and communities whose violent crime problems, where they exist at all, typically don’t gibe with comparisons to war zones.
“The [decommissioned military] equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units,” The Times laments. “Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of ‘barbering without a license.’”
People who read websites like Personal Liberty Digest™ likely already know all that. But the story included an infographic from the Department of Defense that offers a breakdown of the number of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles (MRAPs) currently in service in every State — and, even if you accept the premise that armored tank-cars are an acceptable addition to our new era of militarized policing, the proportions in several cases seem to be a little out of whack.
Take New Mexico, the 36th most-populous State in the U.S. with slightly more than 2 million people. If we’re counting the little square boxes on the DoD graphic correctly (the graphic bears a strong resemblance to some Common Core math puzzles), the Land of Enchantment has 42 MRAPs, making it No. 1 among all the States for MRAP-owning bragging rights.
Oklahoma, the 28th most-populous State, is a very close second, with 40 MRAPs in service. South Carolina, 24th on the population charts, has seven more MRAPs (28) than California, which is the most populous State in the Nation.
How many MRAPs do the populous States have? California has 21; Texas has 37; New York has 16 and Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio have 10, eight and eight, respectively.
For some strange reason, local authorities in Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire (which isn’t too far down the population list from New Mexico) and Rhode Island haven’t hopped on the MRAP/military surplus gravy train — or, at last count, they hadn’t done so successfully.
Law enforcement agencies offer a predictable variety of reasons to justify their rush toward militarization, with the appeal of free stuff that local taxpayers don’t have to pay for typically topping the list.
But we like the alternate-universe myopia earnestly reflected in the comments of Pulaski County, Ind., Sheriff Michael Gayer, who (presumably while wearing a straight face) told the Indianapolis Star over the weekend that we live in a Nation that’s all war, all the time — even tiny Pulaski County (pop. 13,124):
“The United States of America has become a war zone,” Gayer told the Star. “There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Jeez, now we’re afraid to get in our cars at the end of the day and brave the public streets.
Can private citizens get in on the free MRAP racket, too?