February 06, 2007

Coming To A Patrol Car Near You

"The Defense Department is giving away free equipment the military no longer needs to state and local police..."

I snipped from the article the specific items being given to local police departments:

"...fatigues, a tranquilizer gun, a doublewide trailer, night-vision goggles, copy machines, helicopters, bulletproof vests, armored vehicles, military fatigues, a military ambulance, 55 patrol rifles, boats, parkas, riot helmets, boots, a tractor, dump trucks & back hoes..."

Some of these items I can see as having legitimate use by the local cop. The heavy vehicles, especially the armored ones I'm not so sure about. Sure; they could have legitimate use in certain situations, but they seem more the utensils of an occupying force than a constabulary.

In explaining the armored vehicles one cop had this to say:

"If you're in your office and barricaded, and one of these things pulls up in your front lawn, it's very intimidating,' said Lt. Michael Clark of the Northampton Township Police Department in Bucks County."

I imagine it'd also be intimidating if you were barricaded in your home after repelling burglars who turned out to be cops. Or peacefully assembling contrary to the wishes of the local government.

But this should get gun nuts a little ticked:

"Last year, Forbes' department obtained 55 patrol rifles and paid only a few hundred dollars for shipping."

I'm no M-16 fan but damned if I like the idea of the .gov giving away rifles to cops when those same rifles are denied to the citizenry, especially as a function of law. You cannot even pay full price for a bran new M-16 in this country due to the Hughes Amendment to the Firearms Owner Protection Act.

My main objection to this practice is that via the hand-me-downs the .gov is giving out the militarization of the police force is becoming easier & more tempting. But I'm also a bit ticked that the .gov has made law forbidding us peasants from owning automatic firearms yet offers them to police departments for the price of shipping. Both things combined contribute to an uneven playing field. While I doubt it'll be used in such a way (except in limited instances) these things help to enable the police forces to become an army of occupation.

I'll remind you that when the constitution was ratified the military performed the duties of our present day military as well as those of our present day police forces. The caution concerning standing armies wasn't just because they feared the 23rd light brigade from taking over someone's farm; they knew that law enforcers could be used towards tyrannical ends if the people were not able to stand against them.

While it does save the taxpayers money for police departments to receive such gifts from the federal government it should also be troubling that the police are much better equipped than any group of citizens in their jurisdiction. Not that police shouldn't have the means to perform their legitimate tasks, but that we should always be weary of any item (especially a weapon) that the .gov says we peasants mustnít possess but yet gives them freely to its agents.

Posted by Publicola at February 6, 2007 04:32 AM | TrackBack

My gripe is that it's another way for the cops to believe they are a military force. I was listening to a CERT presentation the other night, and the cop presenter referred to equipment being provided by a "civilian organization". He was an ex marine though, so I didn't bring it up, but if one of the other non ex-military cops makes the same error ...

Damn that MG ban! It paved the way!

Posted by: anotherKevin at February 6, 2007 02:27 PM

What the hell do cops need suppressing fire for anyway? That is the only legitimate use of a full-auto and it is completely at odds with the protect-and-serve mantra that the police espouse. Although, on the plus side, I'm much more likely to hit my target with my 2-stage match trigger then an officer is when he's spraying-and-praying.

Posted by: Brass at February 7, 2007 09:16 AM