I guess someone at Wikipedia noticed »« [Lounge #473]

Rowdy football games and the Testicle Festival. Sure, right.

The closest major city to me is Fargo, North Dakota — it’s a very pleasant place, quite a bit smaller than Minneapolis, but that’s part of the charm. It also has occasional problems: it’s very flat, and sometimes experiences major flooding, and of course, snow. If you want to invest in community infrastructure, the most useful contributions are sandbags and snowplows.

Sometimes, the kids get a little unruly — there have actually been small riots in Fargo, typically over sports events and rock concerts.

Before the North Dakota State University football team won its national championship during the 2011 season, Fargo police planned for the possibility that celebrations might turn ugly. The partying turned out to be peaceful, but police officials say sporting events, concerts or large protests are the most likely scenarios that could lead to unrest in the metro area.

The last riot to hit Fargo was in June 2001 at Lindenwood Park during the Testicle Festival (read coverage from 2001 here), a three-day, 33-band rock concert. At least seven people were arrested during a confrontation with about 40 officers.

But don’t you worry! Fargo, like many small towns across the nation, is well prepared to deal with future conflicts!

riotprep

That’s the Fargo police in camo gear, hanging on a $256,000 armored truck. In the white snow.

The article also points out that two rural counties, Richland and Stutsman, each with a total population of around 20,000, have sheriffs driving about in $650,000 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.

Don’t be fooled. All of this military hardware isn’t for maintaining the civil order — it would be overkill and incite more problems than it could solve. But maybe we ought to consider the possibility that we’re quietly gearing up to invade Canada.

We’ve got to do something about the camouflage gear, though. When the military might of the Dakotas rolls over the border into the Great White North, the Winnipegians will be able to spot them from far off.

Comments

  1. says

    What are they expecting? ISIS?

    Charming thought to let everyone see them coming! Considerate in the extreme. Really, they ought to have full snow suite outfits, and white camouflage armoured vehicles in support, advancing bravely into the fray. What do you mean it’s a football match? They get really hostile in soccer matches and throw toilet rolls at each other. Vicious stuff!

  2. bostonhook says

    There is something genuinely disturbing to me about police in military surplus gear, the result of a 1994 law and Pentagon program called the “1033 Program”. It even sounds like a secret, evil stormtrooper coup.

    To what degree should the police force have access to these kinds of resources? In instances like the 1997 LA bank robbery/gun battle, traditional police sidearms were useless…but are we safer and more free if every cop walks his beat with an M-16? I doubt it…especially given the rash of unjustified/blatantly illegal shootings this year alone. Especially when juxtaposed against the excessive, heavy handed and antagonistic use of force in Ferguson.
    he
    This kind of “heavy-duty” capacity…is this a task for National Guard units? Is there a place within the landscape of American culture for heavily armed and armored police forces…and at what point are we giving our protectors too much power in exchange for “safety”? I’m unsure. I have spent a decade in the fire/ems service…I can theoretically see a need for the police to have the capacity to respond to certain situations with enhanced weaponry, but with that power HAS to come the responsibility to use it.

  3. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I think the militarisation of police is only an additional benefit for the authoritarian jackasses, the other goal is something akin to money laundering. Or at least unscrupulous businessmen doing what they do best.

    All the wars US is engaged in bring a lot of revenue to companies that produce everything from military equipment to food for soldiers. It’s a business. And business is hungry. So you gotta keep that equipment moving, new has to be produced. New needs for equipment need to emerge. Hello, police suddenly needing all this new (more elaborate, more expensive, more, more ,more) equipment.

  4. methuseus says

    Honestly, if the US were to invade Canada, the militarisation would at least make a kind of sense. Though I’m sure the US armed forces would roll over the unsuspecting Canucks pretty quickly, worldwide opinion would end up biting the US in the butt.

    I really hope the US doesn’t invade anyone, but it would at least make some sense in a way…

  5. Pteryxx says

    oops, I should have posted this here.

    Saginaw Michigan police are getting rid of their MRAP armored vehicle that John Oliver mocked on HBO.

    Michigan Live

    “I made the decision about a month ago to decommission that vehicle,” Federspiel said, noting he did it based on financial concerns due to unforeseen maintenance costs.

    While the military was to provide any needed parts, Federspiel said he still had to pay for a specialized mechanic to install the parts, along with insurance and fuel for the vehicle.

    When Saginaw County Commissioners asked him to look for cost-saving measures before setting the budget in July, the MRAP was the first thing to go, he said.

    The decision also came because Federspiel decided to direct funds from drug forfeitures into the county’s general fund, he said. He previously planned to use drug forfeiture funds to pay for any costs associated with the MRAP and did so during the installation of a new starter and a new locking mechanism for the door since the vehicle has been in Saginaw County.

    When drug forfeiture funding was put into the county’s general fund, Federspiel said it created a situation in which taxpayers might have to fund some of the costs of the MRAP, which also prompted him to send it back to the Army.

  6. numerobis says

    If the US invaded we’d invite you over for cold beers and poutine. Until you bring out your guns, then we’d get the hell away.

  7. numerobis says

    The “die motherfucker die” machine was funded by drug money? Yeah, that’s a great idea.

    Even putting drug money into the general fund is icky to me.

  8. Dunc says

    Well, it’s one way around the Posse Comitatus Act… Sure, they’re tooled up just like the (Space) Marines, and quite a few of them are probably ex-military of one sort or another, so they’ve got the training, but they’re not technically the Armed Forces of the United States, so it’s all fine. Nothing to see here, move along. Or else

  9. Geral says

    Interesting how we have a surplus program at all. All those armor vehicles and such look perfectly viable for the battlefield thus saving money on future deployments. Additionally, even if they are a little old they can be used at military bases for training thus saving the bases money.

    It’s like the pentagon is so flush with cash they can give away their toys to whoever wants them so they can get the newest. Maybe it’s time for congress to look hard at the Pentagon’s budget but I wish them luck doing so..

  10. Larry says

    Outside of the occasional stuffing of persons into tree grinders, what criminal activities are there in Fargo that merit the Full Metal Jacket form of police response?

  11. Moggie says

    Pteryxx:

    When Saginaw County Commissioners asked him to look for cost-saving measures before setting the budget in July, the MRAP was the first thing to go, he said.

    I hope he’s budgeted for a shitload of ice-cream to deal with the resulting pouting and tantrums.

  12. U Frood says

    I can see a need for some police forces (probably not Fargo) to have this kind of weaponry in some situations. But it bothers me to walk down Wall Street or though Grand Central Terminal and see police armed this way, just standing there, not responding to any particular threat, just sending the message to the people “You should be afraid”.

  13. U Frood says

    There is a good question, what should the military do with obsolete equipment? Selling it to allies has had bad results when those allies stopped being allies. It seems wasteful to just destroy it.

  14. Julie says

    Did anyone watch that show Flashpoint. Why aren’t the police like that?

    methuseus @7

    unsuspecting Canucks

    Pretty sure we are not as unsuspecting as you think. You really do scare most of us if we sit down and think about it overly much. It’s a when not if in a lot of our minds.
    Fear not though we are mostly harmless … ;)

  15. ck says

    Jackie wrote:

    Shock and awe is coming home to bite us in the butt.

    Also known as terrorism, but practiced by people our government likes.

  16. methuseus says

    Julie @19

    Pretty sure we are not as unsuspecting as you think. You really do scare most of us if we sit down and think about it overly much. It’s a when not if in a lot of our minds.
    Fear not though we are mostly harmless … ;)

    I would welcome Canada invading the US. It would be even more unexpected than the US invading Canada. I wouldn’t even mind all the sorries you guys would say while conquering us, either. It might improve American society as a whole from the mostly harmless Canadians. ;)

    On a side note, I imagine the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy never took into account AMerican society in their “mostly harmless” entry for Earth, seeing as Ford never seemed to go there…

  17. kevinalexander says

    Let us know before you invade Canada. Half of our armed forces are on leave right now so we’d have to call both guys back from moose hunting.

  18. whheydt says

    Those cops better hope they don’t go up against a bunch of Finns lest they rediscover the Russian references to the “White Death”.

  19. says

    I think HHGTTG was, in fact, thinking of the USans when they wrote “mostly harmless”. You’re the reason for the ‘mostly’. :)

    Also, people from Winnipeg (or “Winterpeg”, as it’s affectionately known elsewhere) are called “Winnipeggers”, with the double-g optional.

    As to our military invading you, please don’t fool yourselves that this will help with the structural racism issues. Sadly, my serving compatriots have a bit of form on this one.

  20. Martin, heading for geezerhood says

    @borax #15:
    Yes, you’re right…the troops are meant to be inside. But after reading the article posted by Pteryxx #8, it seems as though they needed a “…new locking mechanism for the door…”. I guess all the troops were locked out and had to be content with a “hang on” ride.

  21. says

    On a side note, I imagine the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy never took into account AMerican society in their “mostly harmless” entry for Earth, seeing as Ford never seemed to go there…

    Yes he did; he wrote extensively about the best way for aliens to get by in New York (get a job as a cabbie; no one will notice).

  22. Moggie says

    U Frood:

    I can see a need for some police forces (probably not Fargo) to have this kind of weaponry in some situations. But it bothers me to walk down Wall Street or though Grand Central Terminal and see police armed this way, just standing there, not responding to any particular threat, just sending the message to the people “You should be afraid”.

    People on Wall Street should be afraid. Ah, now I’m fantasising.

  23. Desert Son, OM says

    U Frood at #17:

    what should the military do with obsolete equipment?

    Components useful in other applications should be re-purposed. Components that are not useful, or not cost-effective for re-purposing, should be broken down for recycling into raw material that can then be manufactured once more into something else.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  24. says

    As long as we don’t get another war monger as president (W Bush), I think we can expect the police to be required to go through special training to keep their unnecessary military toys (though they have shown their inept lack of discretion in Ferguson). At least I would hope so. It would probably be best if every year they had to complete a National Guard boot camp to be authorized to use them. (Sorry Jethro, but you don’t get to play with the machine gun.) Don’t point guns unless you plan to use them. And don’t deploy military hardware until there is need for a military response. Boot camp would do them some good. And to regularly be subject to a drill sergeant couldn’t think of a nicer approach (hopefully one who constantly berates them, it seems like a good reality check is in order).

    I don’t understand the camo though. They’re not military, so they shouldn’t be allowed to be on duty out of uniform (police officers have a uniform, no need for another one.)

    Lastly I would like to emphasize that my post in no way is meant to endorse police using military equipment. They are here to police citizens and this means they shouldn’t as a general rule need any of this to properly perform their duties. If this equipment is needed let the National Guard deploy it, they are better trained and held to higher standards when performing their duties.

  25. JohnnieCanuck says

    I note that the Fargo police have scored a vanity plate for their MRAP that says ‘POLICE’. Now every other force in the State is going to have to go them one better, somehow.

    Also it seems a little redundant, given that the same word appears right beside it in much bigger letters. Maybe it’s a perk for government agencies that they don’t have to pay for frills like this.

    I don’t see why American police forces shouldn’t be invited into Canada. We already host US military units for training, on a reciprocal basis. Might even be able to give them some pointers on winter camouflage.

  26. carlie says

    what should the military do with obsolete equipment?

    What does “obsolete” mean, exactly? Obviously it still works fine, and we have more firepower than all the other countries combined. Who are we in a technology race with?

  27. ck says

    carlie wrote:

    What does “obsolete” mean, exactly?

    Often that the manufacturer has discontinued the model, and spare/replacement parts are increasingly expensive to do maintenance on them.

  28. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    what should the military do with obsolete equipment?

    Recycling comes to mind….?

  29. Ichthyic says

    what should the military do with obsolete equipment?

    uh, who said it was obsolete? that’s not what they said when they sold it to the police departments.

    yes, that’s right, they didn’t GIVE this shit away, PDs had huge budget surpluses from Homeland Security they could use to buy this stuff with. A lot DID use their budgets for that. about 75 BILLION dollars worth in fact.

    a lot DID NOT.

    I don’t know specifically what the limitations on spending were for DHS grants, but I doubt the ONLY things one could spend the money on were fucking 30 ton armored vehicles and machine guns.

  30. Ichthyic says

    anyone who cares to can probably find the answers here:

    http://www.dhs.gov/law-enforcement-resources

    but instead, I say why bother? it’s obvious that the ENORMOUS boondoggle that is “Homeland Security” was never ever useful to begin with.

    write you congressman and urge them to defund the fucking thing.

  31. Pteryxx says

    from Feminist Batwoman: an image of, apparently, the ONE PAGE form a department needs to fill out to join the 1033 surplus program.

    A reblogger:

    I had to spend hours filling out applications to get health care coverage, which the system then still fucked up, and the only way to fix it is a combination of endless hold music hell and emails that evidently disappear into the void for all the good they do. Golly, I might be trying to game the system with my radical change of address form! Someone’s got to verify these kinds of things.

    BUT BY GOD, we can cut through governmental red tape to make sure LEAs can obtain rocket-propelled piranha guns and amphibious doom tanks with just five minutes and a fourth grade reading level. Because hey, some things are too important to let bureaucracy slow down the process.

  32. carlie says

    Often that the manufacturer has discontinued the model, and spare/replacement parts are increasingly expensive to do maintenance on them.

    Hm. One would think that it would make sense for military contracts to stipulate that said purchases remain in production and easily serviced for a long period of time.

  33. kevinalexander says

    What does “obsolete” mean, exactly?

    It means that the military industrial complex has to move the old stuff out so they can charge you for the new stuff.
    It’s a business model.

  34. says

    ck @33

    Often that the manufacturer has discontinued the model, and spare/replacement parts are increasingly expensive to do maintenance on them.

    I going to disagree with you here. This only works for foreign made products. But when it comes to military hardware there is a very simple reason why they change. Gun manufacturers can’t continue to make good money on old models, because as aftermarket parts and (identical) guns become available the manufacturer has to sell the item at a reduced price. The best example of this is the AK-47 vs M-16. M-16 where made out of plastic to be light and had a high fire rate, however they were plagued by bad design. The butt would break, the firing mechanism would fail regularly unless soldiers diligently cleaned them daily with the proper oil which wasn’t easy to come by at times. The AK-47 on the other hand could be buried in sand, submerged in water, cleaned once in a while and maintain fire and it was sturdy and heavy enough for a decent rifle butt shot when an enemy got too close. The most amazing part about the AK-47 is the fact that it has been used for soo long because it works and rarely fails (It has been around since the second world war).

    Much like the bastard child of the Air-Force. The A-10 Warthog (yes I did say bastard child, the Air-Force has a long history of dislike for this slow moving air tank, but it’s so efficient they can’t get rid of it), the A-10 thunderbolt is the same jet with new electronics (many of the jets had no navigation system pilot had to use a map or targeting systems literally they would point and shoot with the jet and yet they still did the most damage in Desert Storm. This jet truly is the most viable (it can provide close air support for long hours, seek and kill tanks with a vengeance, and take fire like no other jet can, seriously it can lose 35% of its total wing space plus an engine and still carry out the mission) cheap to build and one of the longest serving the military. Sorry had to geek out about the A-10, have loved this jet ever since I first saw it and the more I’ve learned about it the more awesome it is.

    kevinalexander @39

    Yep totally agree. Obsolete means the manufacturer can’t make good money on it anymore.

  35. ck says

    Well, I didn’t say that the manufacturer discontinued it because it was expensive for them to source the replacement parts. The contracts usually stipulate a term for maintenance, and after that’s done, it’s in the manufacturer’s interest to get you away from that product and onto a completely new one. Add to that is the fact that the patents are probably expiring, and you could start facing competition from other companies making retrofits and replacement parts for your product.