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Why do Ferguson’s police officers look like soldiers?

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,712
3,169
126
We need to stand up and let our voices be heard against the militarization of our local police departments!!
http://news.yahoo.com/why-do-ferguson-s-police-officers-look-like-soldiers-184517098.html


Police officers responding to protests in a St. Louis suburb Wednesday night were outfitted in fatigues, wore gas masks and body armor, carried military-style rifles, and were backed by tanklike armored vehicles as they sought to clear the streets.

Tear gas, smoke bomb explosions and the pop-pop-pop of nonlethal projectiles added to the picture, as photographs and video from Ferguson, Missouri, depicted a scene more reminiscent of a war zone than a civil rights protest against the police shooting Saturday of an unarmed teen in the largely low-income Midwestern town of about 20,000 people.

The military appearance of the St. Louis County police prompted an outpouring of responses from veterans and policymakers on social media and in statements. Brandon Friedman, a U.S. Army veteran, tweeted a photo of himself deployed in Iraq next to an image of a police officer in Ferguson. “The gentleman on the left has more personal body armor and weaponry than I did while invading Iraq,” Friedman wrote.

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia announced that he will introduce a “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month. And the issue even attracted a rare moment of bipartisan concern, as Republican Sen. Rand Paul wrote Thursday that local police departments are now “essentially small armies.” Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, said in a statement that he was "deeply concerned" about the the "deployment of military equipment and vehicles" in the town.

So how did small-town cops end up with tanks and so much other military gear?

The vast majority of America’s police departments have special paramilitary units — called SWAT teams — to respond to emergency situations, conduct drug raids and even, as we’re seeing in Ferguson, patrol the streets and control crowds. In the past few years, more of these SWAT teams have received armored vehicles and other military-grade equipment provided for free by the federal government to expand their capabilities.

The first SWAT team was formed to respond to the Watts race riots 50 years ago near Los Angeles, and the command structure soon spread to other police departments as the federal government began funding aggressive local responses to the “war on drugs” in the 1980s. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the federal government funneled even more money to municipalities for equipment to battle terror threats.

The Defense Department’s 1033 program, which began in the late 1980s to recycle old military equipment to local police, has given out tens of thousands of machine guns, military fatigues, and, more recently, at least 600 MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles) to help outfit SWAT teams. Police departments can also apply for grants through the Department of Homeland Security to buy lighter armored vehicles, like BearCats, and other military equipment to combat terrorism and drug dealing.

Police departments in St. Louis County have received equipment from the Pentagon program, including six Humvees, 12 M-16 rifles, and a bomb-defusing robot, according to DoD spokesman Mark Wright. The Bearcat, however, was not given to the county by the 1033 program.


Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia announced that he will introduce a “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month. And the issue even attracted a rare moment of bipartisan concern, as Republican Sen. Rand Paul wrote Thursday that local police departments are now “essentially small armies.” Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, said in a statement that he was "deeply concerned" about the the "deployment of military equipment and vehicles" in the town.

So how did small-town cops end up with tanks and so much other military gear?

The vast majority of America’s police departments have special paramilitary units — called SWAT teams — to respond to emergency situations, conduct drug raids and even, as we’re seeing in Ferguson, patrol the streets and control crowds. In the past few years, more of these SWAT teams have received armored vehicles and other military-grade equipment provided for free by the federal government to expand their capabilities.

The first SWAT team was formed to respond to the Watts race riots 50 years ago near Los Angeles, and the command structure soon spread to other police departments as the federal government began funding aggressive local responses to the “war on drugs” in the 1980s. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the federal government funneled even more money to municipalities for equipment to battle terror threats.

The Defense Department’s 1033 program, which began in the late 1980s to recycle old military equipment to local police, has given out tens of thousands of machine guns, military fatigues, and, more recently, at least 600 MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles) to help outfit SWAT teams. Police departments can also apply for grants through the Department of Homeland Security to buy lighter armored vehicles, like BearCats, and other military equipment to combat terrorism and drug dealing.

Police departments in St. Louis County have received equipment from the Pentagon program, including six Humvees, 12 M-16 rifles, and a bomb-defusing robot, according to DoD spokesman Mark Wright. The Bearcat, however, was not given to the county by the 1033 program.

Thanks to these programs, the presence of fully equipped SWAT teams in small-town America has become the norm. Eighty percent of small towns had SWAT teams by 2005, up from just 20 percent in 1980, according to research by criminology professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University. More than 90 percent of city police departments have the special units.

The federal government argues that giving local police tanks and other leftover war equipment is a great way to avoid the waste of throwing away expensive gear that taxpayers have already paid for. But critics counter that militarizing police forces escalates conflicts and creates needless violence. Nearly 50 civilians were injured in 818 SWAT raids over two years in 11 states, the ACLU found in a June report. Only seven percent of the SWAT deployments the ACLU studied were responses to hostage or active-shooter scenarios — the majority were for drug raids.

It’s unclear how many armored vehicles have been used in Ferguson since the protests began Saturday. But at least one of the deployed vehicles, which appears to be a BearCat, had a large military-style rifle attached to the top, with an officer handling it. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recently said he was ordering the St. Louis County Police Department out of Ferguson.

The clashes began after police shot a black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, saying he had grabbed for a white officer’s weapon. They have declined to release the name of the officer who shot him, angering residents. A friend of Brown’s who was with him at the time of the shooting said both he and Brown were attempting to run from police, without struggle, when an officer shot Brown. President Obama announced Thursday that he is ordering the FBI and Justice Department to investigate the shooting.
 

mizzou

Diamond Member
Jan 2, 2008
9,734
53
91
Thank god there is a breath of fresh air going on there right now.

As to your question, their police do not look military. What looks military are the tactical unit/SWAT teams. Everyone else has a regular uniform with an extra kevlar vest possibly and riot helmet/shield or riot pads, the things that protect them from bricks and such.
 

Oldgamer

Diamond Member
Jan 15, 2013
3,280
1
0
Washington Post News Article Source

Jet-black rifles leveled at unarmed citizens and mine-resistant vehicles once used to patrol the roadways of Iraq and Afghanistan rumbling through small town America. These are scenes playing out in Ferguson, Mo., which has been racked by protests for the last week following the fatal shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old named Michael Brown.

For veterans of the wars that the Ferguson protests so closely resemble, the police response has appeared to be not only heavy-handed but out of step with the most effective ways for both law enforcement and military personnel to respond to demonstrations.

“You see the police are standing online with bulletproof vests and rifles pointed at peoples chests,” said Jason Fritz, a former Army officer and an international policing operations analyst. “That’s not controlling the crowd, that’s intimidating them.”

The protests in Ferguson began in earnest just a day after Brown was killed, when a prayer vigil for the slain teen turned into an evening of looting.

Scriven King, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force’s law enforcement component and a SWAT officer, attributed the initial spasm of violence to a lack of leadership and mismanagement of public perception on the Ferguson Police Department’s behalf.

“The first thing that went wrong was when the police showed up with K-9 units,” Scriven said. “The dogs played on racist imagery…it played the situation up and [the department] wasn’t cognizant of the imagery.”

King added that, instead of deescalating the situation on the second day, the police responded with armored vehicles and SWAT officers clad in bulletproof vests and military-grade rifles.

“We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn’t wear that much gear,” said Kyle Dykstra, an Army veteran and former security officer for the State Department. Dykstra specifically pointed out the bulletproof armor the officers were wearing around their shoulders, known as “Deltoid” armor.

“I can’t think of a [protest] situation where the use of M4 [rifles] are merited,” Fritz said. “I don’t see it as a viable tactic in any scenario.”

Ferguson police have defended their handling of the protests and said some demonstrators have been trying to “co-opt” peaceful protests. But while the Ferguson and St. Louis county police departments may have made their presence felt in the streets, they have made only limited use of social media.

“They’ve kept people in an information black hole,” King said, mentioning that their decision not to share details about operations more widely has only exacerbated the situation.

“There has not been a dialogue about the tactical situation the officers faced,” he said, referring to the fact that there might have been a reason that caused the officers to respond with such heavy equipment. “There could have been threats to the officers, but that information has not been shared to the public.”

As the violence continued to escalate over the course of the week, King said, Ferguson police also exacerbated tensions by allowing individual officers to engage with protesters.

“Officers were calling the protesters ‘animals,’ ” King said. “I can’t imagine a military unit would do that in any scenario.”

King added that if it were a military unit in a similar situation there would be a public affairs officer or civil affairs engagement team that would help bridge the gap between the riot control elements and the general population.

“I would hate to call the Ferguson response a military one,” he said. “Because it isn’t, it’s an aberration.”

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It's amazing that even the active duty military are aghast at what they are seeing going on with this event. Many say this is way over the top and certainly needs to be dialed back on all police departments.
 

Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,063
495
126
Buddy of mine served in Iraq and was in Fallujah. He said the same thing. They didn't even have kind of body armor in an actual war zone. Why are police getting that in an US city?
 

Zorba

Lifer
Oct 22, 1999
10,154
4,185
136
Thank god there is a breath of fresh air going on there right now.

As to your question, their police do not look military. What looks military are the tactical unit/SWAT teams. Everyone else has a regular uniform with an extra kevlar vest possibly and riot helmet/shield or riot pads, the things that protect them from bricks and such.
Are their SWAT teams not police? :hmm:

Not sure we really need a new thread to discuss this, though.
 

mizzou

Diamond Member
Jan 2, 2008
9,734
53
91
Are their SWAT teams not police? :hmm:

Not sure we really need a new thread to discuss this, though.
when people say "police" they mean the average joe, who is a uniformed commissioned employee. your standard uniform is usually some type of formal/historic outfit with dress shirt and pants. non-standard uniforms include camo, bdu pants, shorts, etc.

some dept.s are diff though, some have standard bdu pants, polo shirt, or something else. I'm not aware of a standard dept. with camo.

but combine any uniform with a M4/AR15, they are going to look "military" sort of like how a regular Ruger rifle is an "assault rifle" when it's dolled up.
 

mizzou

Diamond Member
Jan 2, 2008
9,734
53
91
go read militaryphotos forum, it's an interesting perspective on the crisis.
 

LTC8K6

Lifer
Mar 10, 2004
28,520
1,573
126
Because they are St Louis County special units and not Ferguson units?
 

LTC8K6

Lifer
Mar 10, 2004
28,520
1,573
126
MRAP: Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Because there are lots of ambushes and mines to withstand on Main St.
That capability adds a lot of weight. I would guess that weight would be removed for civilian force use.
 

irishScott

Lifer
Oct 10, 2006
21,568
2
0
On one hand I kinda understand, they're paranoid that a protest will turn into the next Rodney King. On the other hand, paranoia is stupid.

Basically the cops are being trained to see the public as the enemy. It's sickening.
 

sportage

Diamond Member
Feb 1, 2008
9,885
1,733
126
(My repost)

This should be a wakeup call to all those American's that ask if a peoples revolution in general is near? Or should happen?
That revolution between American citizen and the US government.
That revolution where so many American's feel the need to own guns, a lot of guns, a lot of big guns, with this illusion that some revolution could in any way succeed. haha
From this episode happening in MO, we clearly see the power of the local police department.
And most every major US city now has this very same tactical assault weaponry.
So American revolutionary man and woman, this is what you would be up against.
You, with guns and maybe your assault weapons, and them with weaponry of mass destruction.
Doesn't look too good. Hey?
Anyone care to bet odds on the winner or the outcome?

So, owning all those guns and assault weapons, the general public, really boils down to not that much of a big deal after all.
So much for that American revolution rising up against the US government.

And the armored vehicles are just the beginning.
Who knows what other weaponry of mass destruction our local police department might have at their disposal?
All those weapons. Tactical assault weaponry.
And you with your hand gun(s).
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
639
126
We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. - Barack Obama

Many of you voted for this - twice. And given the opportunity, I'm sure you'd vote for it again.
 

Londo_Jowo

Lifer
Jan 31, 2010
17,303
158
106
londojowo.hypermart.net
Because they are St Louis County special units and not Ferguson units?
^ This

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. - Barack Obama

Many of you voted for this - twice. And given the opportunity, I'm sure you'd vote for it again.
Let me guess, you actually think it would be different under a McCain or Romney Presidency. This was already taking place under Bush's Presidency.
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
639
126
Let me guess, you actually think it would be different under a McCain or Romney Presidency. This was already taking place under Bush's Presidency.
Your guess is unfounded. My point is that the man told people what he planned to do, he's done it and his supporters are aghast at what has transpired. Nearly every federal agency has been armed to the teeth. When you're told what the plan is, you vote in support of it and it then happens, I just can't take the bewilderment at what happened very seriously.
 
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CZroe

Lifer
Jun 24, 2001
24,190
852
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LOL! Didn't read the thread, but don't you need riot gear when people are rioting? Sounds appropriate. I'm sure it's not their regular everyday dress.
 

emperus

Diamond Member
Apr 6, 2012
7,418
862
126
We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. - Barack Obama

Many of you voted for this - twice. And given the opportunity, I'm sure you'd vote for it again.
Wait, you think this is because of Democratic policies? Take a second and review the voices speaking out against it.
 

Londo_Jowo

Lifer
Jan 31, 2010
17,303
158
106
londojowo.hypermart.net
Your guess is unfounded. My point is that the man told people what he planned to do, he's done it and his supporters are aghast at what has transpired. Nearly every federal agency has been armed to the teeth. When you're told what the plan is, you vote in support of it and it then happens, I just can't take the bewilderment at what happened very seriously.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/12/police-militarization-9-11-september-11_n_955508.html

The militarization of police began under Reagan for his war on drugs

But Reagan was more than just rhetoric. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war–related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country.
Bush took it to the next level after 9/11

The September 11 attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America's police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism.

Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads (featured most prominently during the 2002 Super Bowl) tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets.

In 2004, for example, law enforcement officials in the New York counties of Oswego and Cayuga defended their new SWAT teams as a necessary precaution in a post–September 11 world. “We’re in a new era, a new time," here,” one sheriff told the Syracuse Post Standard. “The bad guys are a little different than they used to be, so we’re just trying to keep up with the needs for today and hope we never have to use it.” The same sheriff said later in the same article that he'd use his new SWAT team “for a lot of other purposes, too ... just a multitude of other things." In 2002, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida -- which had all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade -- were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”

In 2006 alone, a Pentagon spokesman told the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram & Gazette, the Department of Defense "distributed vehicles worth $15.4 million, aircraft worth $8.9 million, boats worth $6.7 million, weapons worth $1 million and 'other' items worth $110.6 million" to local police agencies.

In 2007, Clayton County, Georgia -- whose sheriff once complained that the drug war was being fought like Vietnam, and should instead be fought more like the D-Day invasion at Normandy -- got its own tank through the Pentagon's transfer program. Nearby Cobb County got its tank in 2008. In Richland County, South Carolina, Sheriff Leon Lott procured an M113A1 armored personnel carrier in 2008. The vehicle moves on tank-like tracks, and features a belt-fed, turreted machine gun that fires .50-caliber rounds, a type of ammunition so powerful that even the military has restrictions on how it's used on the battlefield. Lott named his vehicle "The Peacemaker." (Lott, is currently being sued for sending his SWAT team crashing into the homes of people who appeared in the same infamous photo that depicted Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Michael Phelps smoking pot in Richland County.) Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio also has a belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun, though it isn't connected to his armored personnel carrier.

After 9/11, police departments in some cities, including Washington, D.C., also switched to battle dress uniforms (BDUs) instead the traditional police uniform. Critics says even subtle changes like a more militarized uniform can change both public perception of the police and how police see their own role in the community. One such critic, retired police sergeant Bill Donelly, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, "One tends to throw caution to the wind when wearing ‘commando-chic’ regalia, a bulletproof vest with the word ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on both sides, and when one is armed with high tech weaponry."
Obama has done nothing more than follow the status quo that was put in place long before he became President.
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
639
126
Wait, you think this is because of Democratic policies? Take a second and review the voices speaking out against it.
I've taken that second. It actually didn't even take that long. Are you going to tell us that Obama is a Republican?
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
639
126
Obama has done nothing more than follow the status quo that was put in place long before he became President.
You didn't need to go to all that trouble. I understand all that. My point, for the last time is that Obama continued the policies and told us he was going to do so. The original question in the thread title is why do police officers look like soldiers. We don't have a president that told us he was going to cease these practices, we have one that told us he was going to intensify them.

The Reagan and Bush presidencies are over. We can't change what they put in place. Our current president continued and intensified the policies and he is still in office. Criticism of him has relevancy. It has the potential to bring about a change in the policy. Reagan can't change anything and neither can Bush.

If there is blame to be assessed it must be directed towards those that can affect a change. Bill Clinton brought us NAFTA. Can he rescind it? No. But who could? If the public wanted NAFTA rescinded, would the nation turn towards Clinton to do that? Continuance of a policy or policies by whomever holds an office is not excused because their predecessor's did it. That's a grade school mode of thinking that has gripped our nation far too tightly.
 
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