Police Militarization Continues

Radley Balko, who has done more than anyone else to draw attention to the astonishing militarization of police departments over the last 30 years in this country, has a couple of brief notes about recent developments on that issue.

Deputies in Richland County, South Carolina will get “Navy SEAL” training.You remember Richland County. It’s the county where Sheriff Leon Lott put out a press release a few years ago to celebratethe new tank from the Pentagon’s 1033 program—one with a turreted, belt-fed, 360-degree rotating machine gun that shoots .50 caliber ammunition, and that he charmingly named “The Peacemaker.” He’s also the one who sent his SWAT team into the homes of University of South Carolina students whose only transgression was to have appeared in the same photo where Michael Phelps was pictured smoking pot…

The thumbnail to your right is from a series this photographer took of the Aventura, Florida SWAT team. Aventura is a town of 35,000 people, described on various blogs as a haven for shopping malls and country clubs.  The town has recorded one murder in twelve years.

Remember, violent crime has been going down steadily for two decades. But during that same time frame, local police departments have been beefing up with tanks, machine guns and tons of other surplus military equipment. And once they have that stuff, they have to use it to justify it. That’s why you’re seeing SWAT teams, armed to repel an invading army, serving warrants on non-violent offenders.


  1. jeremydiamond says

    Remember, violent crime has been going down steadily for two decades. But during that same time frame, local police departments have been beefing up with tanks, machine guns and tons of other surplus military equipment.

    Militarization must be working!

  2. says

    To be picky the link above notes that Richland County received an armoured personnel carrier, not a tank.

    Canadian police forces have followed the same trend, although not to the same level. Here in Saskatoon the police have just acquired a “armoured rescue vehicle” for the Emergency Response Team. And only for a mere 300 grand. http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Police+roll+rescue+vehicle/6699161/story.html (That video also reveals that SPS has apparently been out gun shopping, as one ERT member has a Heckler and Kcch UMP submachine gun instead of the H&K MP5 that has been ERT issue for years.)

  3. says

    There was an episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Barney Fife bought a police motorcycle even though they didn’t have a need for one. He wanted to wear the helmet and the leather jacket and goggles.

    This is what happens when you give Barney a bigger budget.

  4. baal says

    You should see the crap the Charlotte,NC police force is pulling out for the DNC.

    They used NSAaa info to ‘pre-arrest’ protestors at the RNC in MN last go round.

  5. lorimakesquilts says

    This stuff just freaks me out. They look like they’re preparing for a civil war. Although their APCs and 50 cals aren’t going to be enough in my part of the country. Hillbillies don’t take kindly to folks telling them what to do.

  6. Tualha says

    They are preparing for a civil war. Blue vs. red, 99% vs. 1%, Joe Arpaio vs. the ACLU. Fascists gotta have their brownshirts.

    I would also note that this is happening at the same time that all the politicians are crying that they just don’t have the money to support good schools, libraries, or social services. Same thing that’s happening at the national level: plenty of money for the military and wars, everything else goes begging.

  7. jufulu says

    I don’t know if anyone else saw this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/pentagon-suspends-weapons-program-cops-military_n_1585328.html

    Sorry for the large copy/past.
    “The Pentagon has temporarily put the brakes on a popular program started in 1994 that transfers surplus military equipment to local police departments.” …

    “On Friday, The Associated Press reported that the Pentagon has asked all participating law enforcement agencies to provide a comprehensive account of each piece of equipment acquired from the program, and that it would halt further transfers until agencies complied. The audit comes after a series of reports of agencies alleged to have misused the program, including an Arizona Republic investigation, which found that the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department had transferred some equipment to non-police agencies, and was planning to sell some other equipment at auction.”…

    The money quote from the article.
    “The Pentagon’s recent concerns, however, appear to be limited to domestic law enforcement agencies mismanaging and losing track of the military equipment, not the effect that its use might be having on how domestic police agencies interact with the public.”

    America, Fuck Yeah!!11!1!

  8. bnewfield says

    This wave of police militarization is no surprise… Did you know that the Israeli Mossad is training some of our small-town cops now? The Posse Comitatus act has prevented the military from being used as law enforcement, so they’ve found a clever way around it: make the police INTO the military! This is just one piece of the bigger picture showing that the US is headed for martial law… Check out Martial Law USA if you want to see more signs that our Constitution is being dismantled.

  9. CT says

    They used NSAaa info to ‘pre-arrest’ protestors at the RNC in MN last go round

    and I don’t see NC being anywhere near that progressive — they probably already arrested them and are holding them in the lowest level of the BOA bldg parking garage of doom. <–charlotte joke, BOA parking garage is like a living breathing piece of Mordor complete with nazgul in the booths.

  10. Kevin nyc says

    interesting comment…

    #22 | CHRISC | February 13th, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    maybe the sheriff can take this opportunity to lobby for some stimulus money so he can train several deputies in Navy/SEAL tactics too. You know, just in case they have to take down Michael Phelps in the water…

    wow! guess the sheriff was reading the blog!

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