Author Topic: Police militarization and excesses  (Read 7877 times)

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Offline VDB

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Police militarization and excesses
« on: June 09, 2014, 01:10:07 PM »
No shortage of these kind of stories, so might as well document them in one spot.

Starting off: this lovely tale from the New York Times about how police departments are stocking up on military-grade war gear from machine guns to mine-proof assault vehicles.
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Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2014, 02:25:27 PM »
Sure, why wouldn't you need a 9-ft-tall, 30 ton armored truck in a town of 25,000 that hasn't seen a murder in 5 years. Bumblefuck, WI is a real hotbed of potential terrorist activity.

Offline emay

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2014, 02:36:32 PM »
Yeah right after I left Boone, the watuaga sheriff dept got a tank from one of the local military bases around. They use it in hostage situations and busts where people wont surrender and come out of their homes.

Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2014, 04:04:40 PM »
Yeah right after I left Boone, the watuaga sheriff dept got a tank from one of the local military bases around. They use it in hostage situations and busts where people wont surrender and come out of their homes.

The problem with that line of thinking is that as police departments acquire this warfare equipment, they become more inclined to use them. That's why you end up having flashbangs thrown in a baby's crib.

Similar story in WaPo this morning too. Key section:

Quote
This idea of “whatever we need to do to go home safe at night” has essentially replaced “protect and serve” as the primary mantra in many law enforcement agencies. It’s a mentality more suited for a battlefield than for a peace officer. Sheriff Cox’s job, in fact, is to protect and serve the people of Johnson County. It is to keep them safe, and to protect their rights. Keeping his officers safe is of course important, but it’s secondary. And if the two conflict, the citizens’ rights and safety take priority. Now, there’s a debate to be had about whether using equipment designed for war in domestic policing jeopardizes the rights and safety of U.S. citizens. But we can’t really even have that debate if law enforcement leaders believe that citizens’ rights are secondary to the safety of police officers.

Offline VDB

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2014, 04:25:21 PM »
Radley Balko nails it again.
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Offline emay

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2014, 04:32:53 PM »
Yeah right after I left Boone, the watuaga sheriff dept got a tank from one of the local military bases around. They use it in hostage situations and busts where people wont surrender and come out of their homes.

The problem with that line of thinking is that as police departments acquire this warfare equipment, they become more inclined to use them. That's why you end up having flashbangs thrown in a baby's crib.

Similar story in WaPo this morning too. Key section:

Quote
This idea of “whatever we need to do to go home safe at night” has essentially replaced “protect and serve” as the primary mantra in many law enforcement agencies. It’s a mentality more suited for a battlefield than for a peace officer. Sheriff Cox’s job, in fact, is to protect and serve the people of Johnson County. It is to keep them safe, and to protect their rights. Keeping his officers safe is of course important, but it’s secondary. And if the two conflict, the citizens’ rights and safety take priority. Now, there’s a debate to be had about whether using equipment designed for war in domestic policing jeopardizes the rights and safety of U.S. citizens. But we can’t really even have that debate if law enforcement leaders believe that citizens’ rights are secondary to the safety of police officers.

Boone being such a small town, I find it hard to believe there are many situations in the town where they would need a military tank to do the job.
My friend said the only time he heard they had to use it for a meth bust where the guy wouldnt leave his house and was threatening to blow it up or something.

Offline Superfreakie

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2014, 12:17:04 AM »
But who will buy all the surplus military gear from the winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan? You can sell only so much to that joyous powder keg in the middle east.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2014, 12:19:17 AM by Monstruo de Super »
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Offline rowjimmy

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2014, 08:09:33 AM »
I'm sure there are plenty of "sovereign citizens"/ammosexuals who will buy that shit and parade it downtown because it's their right.

Offline VDB

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Offline PhishJY

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2014, 08:32:15 AM »
After reading some of the statements on this thread & the other thread regarding the flash bang incident, I'm going to throw my $.02 in. 

As one of the people who has run into a house with no idea what/who is on the other side of the door, I can easily justify the use of a flash bang in certain situations.  It's easy to Monday morning quarterback, as Radley Balko has done.  Is law enforcement right 100% of the time?  Absolutely not.  However, decisions sometimes have to be made in a split second and are reviewed in-depth for weeks, months, and even years after the fact.  Sometimes they're the right decisions, sometimes they're the wrong decisions.  At the end of the day, I'm going to make the best decision I can to make sure that I'm going to go home, because the WaPo article seems to omit one very important fact: I can't "protect and serve" if I do something stupid and get killed.  Notice that I used the phrase "I"... This is very personal to me, because as some of you are aware from the "Ask a Cop" thread, I do this every day.  I wonder how many search warrants Mr. Balko has served?  Please don't misunderstand me, I don't condone killing or injuring innocent bystanders at all.  Every time I draw my weapon, I have to consider not only the target, but what's in the background as well.

To illustrate my point, let's use an example of a man in a house with a gun.  He's already shot his wife and is holding a child hostage.  I walk into the center room of the house and confront the man with the gun.  No children around to be seen or heard.  While I'm trying to talk to him and get him to consider giving up, my thought process is "If I have to shoot this person, what if the bullet goes through him?  What's it going to hit next?"  While we're talking, I'm trying to get in position so if I have to shoot him & the bullet goes through him, it'll go into the back wall of the house (more material to dissipate the energy of the bullet).  That would be an ideal situation.  Now, let's say that as I'm trying to move, before I get the angle right for the bullet to go into an exterior wall, he raises his gun & points it at me.  Now, I have no other choice than to shoot him, and I'm going to shoot him.  Obviously, I cannot stress enough how much I REALLY don't want it to come to that, but he's left me with no option.  At this point, I have no other choice, and I just have to hope that his body is enough to stop the round & keep it from going through the interior wall into the next room.  Now, I'm not a ballistics expert by any means, but let's say the bullet goes through the guy, an interior wall & strikes a child in the next room.  A bad situation just became worse.  Would a rational person suggest that I not shoot the guy, because I don't know where the child is & he/she might get hit by the bullet? 

My point is that officers everywhere have to make these kind of split-second decisions & then have their actions judged by supervisors, governments, the media, and the public every day.  Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're wrong.  As everyone here would agree, articles can be written with a slant towards whatever beliefs the author holds.  I can't help but wonder if now that the kid in my example above has been "shot by police", is Mr. Balko gonna write an article about reckless use of weapons by police?

I will address some of the other articles later today, but I have to get ready for work.
Honestly though, this whole post whoring thing is getting to be a little ridiculous.  But does having a higher post count make a cooler pauger?

Offline VDB

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2014, 09:17:43 AM »
As one of the people who has run into a house with no idea what/who is on the other side of the door

I have also done this professionally, in a previous life. When I criticize law enforcement, I don't do so reflexively or without a personal understanding of that world.

This is why I'm specific in calling out "militarization" and "excesses." Of course, it invites a debate over where those lines are drawn, which is just fine and is in fact the point.

I can easily justify the use of a flash bang in certain situations.

Yes, I would agree. But it's certainly fair -- and necessary -- to examine the outcome of situations and determine if the actions taken were appropriate. For example, if you blindly throw a flash bang into a house and it lands next to the head of an innocent child of an innocent relative of an innocent homeowner, because you were looking for someone suspected (innocent until proven guilty) of selling a small amount of meth, based on a CI's report, who turns out to not even be at the house.... Or said grenade burns down someone's house or causes so much confusion and disorientation that cops shoot each other... The simple test to apply, as I stated in the other thread about the flash-bang episode in Georgia, is: if "standard operating procedures" cannot prevent the maiming/death of innocent individuals or the destruction of private property, then those procedures are fully indefensible. Find another way to get the perp.

Now, I'm not a ballistics expert by any means, but let's say the bullet goes through the guy, an interior wall & strikes a child in the next room.  A bad situation just became worse.  Would a rational person suggest that I not shoot the guy, because I don't know where the child is & he/she might get hit by the bullet?

I know you know that you're responsible for your bullets until they come to a complete stop. It's fairly well established that police can and do shoot people who raise guns at them -- pretty understandable. If a round were to travel through a person, through a wall and then strike an innocent person beyond that wall, I still would not like to see the department simply shrug and say "well, it was him or our guy." I still believe that law enforcement organizations ought to be responsible for damage wrought to innocent bystanders and property when they engage in shootouts. As I see it, that's what comes with the power and responsibility we grant them, and the different standard applied to LEOs with respect to carrying and discharging weapons vs. the general public.

I wonder how many search warrants Mr. Balko has served?

I'm sure you aren't suggesting that only those who are or have been cops can criticize cops, correct? In fact, the police (and all public servants) work for the public, and therefore are absolutely subject to criticism from the public. A person can make rational objections to the behavior of public employees and officials without having to have firsthand intimacy with the intricacies of how those people spend their days.

And this is a point that bears emphasis. If we didn't have people pointing out abuses of power (in whatever form) and demanding accountability, then we could consider ourselves screwed. It may not be true of all, or even most, individuals in a given system, but there will always be enough bad actors that create and maintain the need to keep that system as a whole in check, including through observation and complaint.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2014, 09:34:43 AM by V00D00BR3W »
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Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2014, 11:04:56 AM »
What VDB said.

Also, I think the situation you described is (and would be interpreted as) a clearly justifiable use of force, even if it resulted in an accidental injury to an innocent bystander. The problem is that excessive force that has become an all too common piece of police operating procedure. So we end up with these horror stories that, as VDB said, become completely indefensible.

I think people recognize that most (but certainly not all) cops are responsible and deserving of our respect and gratitude. In general, I am even willing to give the cops the benefit of the doubt when they use force that it is justified (although that is becoming harder and harder as more of these stories come to light). I think the key point is that in most cases it is the policies, not the individual actors, that are to blame. It is the ceaseless assault on people's liberties in the name of an inexplicable and unwinnable War on Drugs that results in these tragic outcomes. I also don't think it's contradiction to say that you support cops but condemn operations where innocent people are put in harms way.

Also, VDB, put the bong away; there's a cop in the thread!!!!

Offline PhishJY

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2014, 08:17:03 PM »
My apologies for not replying when I said I would.  I had forgotten a prior obligation.

Moving on....

As for law enforcement agencies obtaining military surplus, I am of the opinion that it isn't a bad idea.  With advances in technology come advanced weaponry.  This advanced weaponry is available to pretty much anyone who can afford it & pass a background check.  As such, law enforcement agencies should be better equipped than the people that they have to engage.  I'd say that the big push for being better prepared started as a result of the North Hollywood shootout in 1997. 

Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Hollywood_shootout
YouTube video:

The North Hollywood shootout was resolved after officers, realizing that they were outgunned, started getting rifles from local gun stores.

While it's impossible to be prepared for every single scenario, law enforcement agencies are going to do their best to be prepared for as much as possible.  In the nytimes.com article, the mine-resistant vehicle that the police department obtained could be used for any number of reasons.  Obviously, the department has no intention of going mine hunting, but I would imagine the vehicle would make an excellent armored car, which would be invaluable should an active shooter situation arise.

Another example:
In a rural area, a guy who is off his medication is shooting at neighbors' houses with a semi-auto rifle.  The houses aren't real close, like in a downtown area, but close enough that guy is clearly posing a danger to anyone in the residences in the immediate area.  An armored vehicle (courtesy of the military) is brought in, so it is used to provide cover while negotiations take place to get the guy to come out of the house.  Guy comes out, gets committed, family members take the guns.

Now, that could've turned out very differently.  Having the armored vehicle bought time & opportunity.  To be clear, it didn't require a tank.  An armored vehicle was sufficient.  I honestly can't think of any situation where a tank would be required, with the exception of a criminal stealing a tank & having the knowledge and desire to use it to inflict harm on other people. 

Something else to consider about the Neenah PD: I bet they'd gladly offer assistance to any other law enforcement agency requesting assistance.  Realistically, it probably doesn't cost a whole lot to maintain, and the one time that it was needed, it would be worth every penny.

Aircraft?  They can be used for locating runaway juveniles, dementia patients, and people suspected of committing serious offenses (robbery, murder, etc.).

IMO, the article did a pretty good job of showing both sides of the argument.  One question that I have after reading the article is, "Why would law enforcement need silencers?"  I don't understand that at all, but maybe there is some reasoning behind that request that I'm overlooking.

RJ, I'm glad you mentioned sovereign citizens.  Sovereign citizens are scary folks.  If you haven't heard about their beliefs & values, read up on them.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with believing one way or another, but when they get so wrapped up in their radical beliefs that they start acting out...that's where the problem begins.  And they're stockpiling ammo and firearms, all of which are obtained legally.  The FBI has declared some sovereign citizens to be domestic terrorists (source: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2010/april/sovereigncitizens_041310).  If a group of well-armed sovereign citizens gets out of hand, it'd stand to reason that an armored vehicle would be useful.

As for the woman getting stripped... it'll be interesting to see how that case turns out.
Honestly though, this whole post whoring thing is getting to be a little ridiculous.  But does having a higher post count make a cooler pauger?

Offline Buffalo Budd

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2014, 09:30:31 PM »
RJ, I'm glad you mentioned sovereign citizens.  Sovereign citizens are scary folks.  If you haven't heard about their beliefs & values, read up on them.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with believing one way or another, but when they get so wrapped up in their radical beliefs that they start acting out...that's where the problem begins.  And they're stockpiling ammo and firearms, all of which are obtained legally.  The FBI has declared some sovereign citizens to be domestic terrorists (source: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2010/april/sovereigncitizens_041310).  If a group of well-armed sovereign citizens gets out of hand, it'd stand to reason that an armored vehicle would be useful.

Case and point - what went down here in Moncton last week.  I think I've gained a new level of respect for the types of dangers faced and the split decisions needed to be made by law enforcement.  I in no way condone the choices made by the police in Georgia in this particular situation but you have to appreciate the fact that they are there for our protection, I would like them to be as equipped as necessary.  How they use that equipment needs to be the focus of public scrutiny.

Offline rowjimmy

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Re: Police militarization and excesses
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2014, 07:03:30 AM »
Pretty, PhishJY, sure you described an arms race up there somewhere which would bleed this into the gun control topic. The only way to end an arms race is to put limiters on the arms available or to crush one side completely.