Police forces in cities across the Nation are becoming increasingly militarized, concludes a new report from the Center For Investigative Reporting.
Police, like those in Fargo, N.D., have bought bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets similar those used by soldiers in foreign wars. The onslaught of purchases for military-style equipment is being carried out with Homeland Security funds allotted since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. In Fargo, the police are equipped with a $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. Because opportunities to use such heavy firepower are rare, the truck makes routine appearances at town picnics.
Since 9/11, the Federal government has shelled out more than $34 billion in an effort to militarize police forces throughout the country. Following is a list of some of just a few of the things the report says that America’s now quasi-military police forces have purchased with the money:
- In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone.
- In Garland County, Ark., a local law enforcement agency acquired four handheld bulletproof protective shields costing $600 each.
- In East Baton Rouge, La., local law enforcement purchased $400 ballistic helmets.
- In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer has not 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, purchased two $180,000 bomb robots.
- The city of Ogden, Utah, is about to launch a 54-foot, remote-controlled “crime-fighting blimp” with a powerful surveillance camera.
Besides the military-style equipment being provided to officers on many forces, training procedures are taking on an increasingly martial style. Law enforcement officials in places like Fargo say that despite the fact that crime rates do not appear to be on the rise, concerns over terrorism and some right-wing militias and white supremacists have been long-standing threats.