Why Are U.S. Police Being Given Excess Military Gear? Policy Being Reconsidered In Light Of Ferguson, Mo. Violence [Pics]

WASHINGTON (Associated Press) — After a decade of sending military equipment to civilian police departments across the country, federal officials are reconsidering the idea in light of the violence in Ferguson, Missouri.

The public has absorbed images of heavily armed police, snipers trained on protesters and tear gas plumes. Against that backdrop, Attorney General Eric Holder said that when police and citizens need to restore calm, "I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said police responses like that in Ferguson have "become the problem instead of the solution." Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said he will introduce legislation to reverse police militarization.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his committee will review the program to determine if the Defense Department's surplus equipment is being used as intended.

One night after the violence that accompanied the presence of military-style equipment in Ferguson, tensions eased when a police captain, unprotected and shaking hands, walked through a crowd in a gesture of reconciliation. The contrast added to perception that the tanks and tear gas had done more harm than good.

As the country concludes its longest wartime period, the military has turned over thousands of surplus weapons and armored trucks to local police who often trained alongside the military.

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union in June said police agencies had become "excessively militarized," with officers using training and equipment designed for the battlefield on city streets. The report found the amount of goods transferred through the military surplus program rose from $1 million in 1990 to nearly $450 million in 2013.

"Every police force of any size in this country has access to those kinds of weapons now," said David Harris, a police expert at the University of Pittsburgh law school. "It makes it more likely to be used (and) is an escalation all by itself."

In Louisiana, masked police in full body armor carrying AR-15 assault rifles raided a nightclub without a warrant, looking not for terrorists but underage drinkers and fire-code violations. Officers in California train using the same counterinsurgency tactics as those used in Afghanistan.

"They're not coming in like we're innocent until proven guilty," said Quinn Eaker. SWAT teams last August raided his organic farm and community, the Garden of Eden, in Arlington, Texas. "They're coming in like: 'We're gonna kill you if you move a finger.'"

Police Militarization

Police found no drugs or weapons and filed no charges after their search, which authorities said followed standard procedure.

In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism. Though violent crime nationwide is at its lowest level in generations and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have largely concluded, the military transfers have increased.

Police say the equipment, which includes free body armor, night vision goggles and scopes, keeps officers safe and prepares them for the worst case.

"A lot evolved from the military, no question," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Chief Bill McSweeney, who heads the detective division. "Is it smart for them to use that stuff and perhaps look like soldiers from Iraq going into a place? Is that smart or over the top? I'd say generally that's smart. Now, if you use that every time a guy is writing bad checks, that's getting rather extreme."

The U.S. has provided 610 mine-resistant armored trucks, known as MRAPs, across the country, nearly all since August 2013, including at least nine in Los Angeles County, according to Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the Defense Logistics Agency.

In rural western Maine, the Oxford County Sheriff's Office, which had not reported a murder in more than 20 years, asked for an MRAP. Cpl. George Cayer, wrote in his request that Maine's western foothills face a "previously unimaginable threat from terrorist activities."

In Orange County, Florida, masked officers in tactical gear helped state inspectors raid barber shops in 2010 to find people cutting hair without a license. Using a mini battering ram and pry bar at times, police arrested dozens of people. Officials said they found illegal items such as drugs and a weapon.

Customers%20watch%20a%20movie%20and%20collegiate%20football%20game%20at%20Strictly%20Skillz%20Barbershop%20in%20Pine%20Hills%2C%20on%20Saturday%2C%20October%209%2C%202010.%20In%20the%20African-American%20community%2C%20beauty%20and%20barbershops%20are%20a%20cornerstone%20of%20the%20community%20hub%2C%20socializing%20and%20news-gathering.%20The%20recent%20raids%20on%20local%20barbershops%2C%20putting%20barbers%20in%20handcuffs%20as%20they%20%22check%20their%20licenses%22%20and%20look%20for%20drugs%20are%20creating%20a%20groundswell%20of%20outrage.%20%28RICARDO%20RAMIREZ%20BUXEDA%2C%20ORLANDO%20SENTINEL%29

McSweeney said it's hard to argue that police shouldn't use the best equipment available.

"It's tempting to say, 'Shouldn't we wear these things? Shouldn't we approach this as if we could get shot?'" he said. "How do you say no to that question?"

Nick Gragnani, executive director of the St. Louis Area Regional Response System, said such supplies have proved essential in hurricane relief efforts and other disaster responses.

"The shame of it will be ... if somebody does a brushstroke and takes out all the funding and then we can no longer be prepared for that big incident," he said.

The LAPD's deputy chief, Michael Downing, who heads the department's counterterrorism and special operations bureau, said officers are dealing with "an adversary who is more sophisticated, more tactically trained."

Police Militarization

Downing emphasized that though police might train with soldiers, they're not warriors with a mission to kill but public servants with no "enemies."

"In police work there are times we have to become soldiers and control through force and fear," Downing said. "But we have to come back to being a public servant as quick as we can to establish that normality and that ethical stature with communities, because they're the ones who give us the authority to do our police work."

___

Abdollah reported from Los Angeles and can be reached athttp://www.twitter.com/latams. Tucker can be reachedhttp://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP


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Tags: Are, Being, Excess, Ferguson, Gear?, Given, In, Light, Military, Mo., More…Of, Police, Policy, Reconsidered, U.S., Violence, Why, [Pics]

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Comment by Eric Cee on August 18, 2014 at 1:11am
Its practice for the new world order when the dollar collapse and they start martial law.
Comment by SMP on August 17, 2014 at 4:53pm
messed up country either way
Comment by Young Kelz on August 16, 2014 at 10:30pm
both blacks and whites are b******.. n***** dead cops a killer now lets move one.. black ppl raiding weave shops for #FURGESON... GTFOH
Comment by Andre Whyte on August 16, 2014 at 10:28pm
If this is what their regular officers wear then what does the S.W.A.T have out there. Grenade Launchers?
Comment by Tim Myer on August 16, 2014 at 9:02pm
"A little more than a year ago, the Social Security Administration put in a request for 174,000 rounds of “.357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow-point bullets. Before that, it was the Department of Agriculture requesting 320,000 rounds.
More recently, the Department of Homeland Security raised eyebrows with its request for 450 million rounds,
at about the same time the FBI separately sought 100 million hollow-point rounds.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also requested 46,000 rounds.
experts estimate that at the peak of the Iraq war American troops were firing around 5.5 million rounds per month. At that rate, the [Department of Homeland Security] is armed now for a 24-year Iraq war."
Now who do you think those rounds will be used against ? Is the post office going to war over seas ?
Comment by NaeGurlShawty.. on August 16, 2014 at 8:30pm
It's NO surprise that congress passed this in 1990. This is what the new world order looks like. With this type of gear the war on drugs should have BEEN over. But we all know that isn't why they decided to militarize the police, the economic hitmen said it themselves.
Comment by paul on August 16, 2014 at 7:14pm
It's all big government. They want to run everything, but people will disagree. Weapons manufacturers and defense companies sell s*** to them for cheap or tax incentives. Slowly but surely even small local precincts in the middle of nowhere will be armed and ready for WW3.
Comment by Ze' on August 16, 2014 at 4:39pm
America the free and brave.........what do u expect about a country founded on death n rape.
Comment by Them504boyz on August 16, 2014 at 4:10pm
This is what America will look like when the economy crashes and if you aren't prepared you will be one of those looters yourself. Look at the big picture. The government knows the crash is coming. They (federal law enforcement agency's) have an opportunity to let this one town reach a state of chaos so they can test their response. Pay close attention, you may want to know the tactics they use
Comment by GULLY on August 16, 2014 at 3:43pm
we're moving in the right direction with this



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