Police Militarization Back in the Spotlight
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
Police departments’ use of military hardware was a big issue for small-government conservatives a few years ago who worried about the implications for domestic civil liberties.
Those concerns have come back to the fore, with Congress debating whether to limit or outright ban, the sale of military surplus equipment to local law enforcement.
According to TechCrunch, the federal program used to transfer used military equipment to police has been “wildly successful”:
Based on public records requests from law enforcement agencies in 26 states and Washington. D.C., 1033 takes a central role in the study. In Arizona alone, the ACLU found a law enforcement cache that included, among others, 32 bomb suits, 1,034 guns, 120 utility trucks, 64 armored vehicles and 17 helicopters.
Since the late-90s, the program has transferred into the hands of civilian law enforcement some $7.4 billion in weapons and other Pentagon equipment.
But the program has long had its critics, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Writing for Time Magazine in 2014, Paul said:
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.”
Bernick continued, “federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.”
“Given these developments,” Paul wrote, “it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them.”