Roger Hoeppner, a 75-year old resident of a rural Wisconsin county, has had a long-standing dispute with local authorities. He was challenging the zoning rules that they said required him to move some wooden pallets in his front yard. As he continued to defy them, the local authorities did what any small community when confronted with an elderly resident who was being difficult.
They sent in 24 armed officers and an armored military vehicle to his property in order to get him to comply and blocked his lawyer from getting to his house by cordoning off the area.
Hoeppner feels that he is being unfairly targeted by the local authorities and was refusing to pay the fines levied against him. He may well be a cranky and unreasonable guy. But why was it necessary to have such a show of force?
The way that small police departments have been given military equipment free of charge has resulted in the temptation to transform them into becoming effectively paramilitary forces who view the local populations they are supposed to serve as if they are enemy combatants. Once you have this kind of lethal equipment, the pressure to use it becomes strong. The use of SWAT teams by police departments has risen dramatically with the increase in the numbers of such teams. After all, why waste a good SWAT team and all those fancy uniforms and shiny equipment? It must give the police a real rush to don all that armor and break into people’s homes. You get all the thrill of dressing up like a commando without running the risk of going to war and actually encountering an enemy who might be as well-equipped.
Meanwhile Cliven Bundy continues to violate the law with impunity and nothing is being as against him. Maybe Hoeppner’s strategic error is that he did not elevate his case to that of a sovereign citizen fighting the Kenyan usurper who has illegally taken over the US government. Then maybe he too could have attracted a posse of armed vigilantes to come and protect him and his rights, the way that Bundy did.