Monday, December 26, 2011

Pentagon Giving Billions In Military Equipment To Local Police Forces

The militarization of the United States has taken a huge step forward in recent years as the Pentagon has been supplying local police forces (free of charge) with a wide array of military equipment - M-16 assault rifles, surveillance drones, helicopters, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers.

The recent designation by the Obama administration of the entire country as a battlefield in TWAT* was not a symbolic or procedural matter. The US government has declared war on its own people. And having seen the anger and potential power of the Occupy movement, it is busy making battle plans.

* - The War Against Terror

According to both the Justice Technology Information Network and the Virginia State Police website,
The 1033 Program (formerly the 1208 Program) permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

The 1033 Program has allowed law enforcement agencies to acquire vehicles (land, air and sea), weapons, computer equipment, body armor, fingerprint equipment, night vision equipment, radios and televisions, first aid equipment, tents and sleeping bags, photographic equipment and more.
Dallas, Texas, SWAT team

Robert Johnson, Business Insider:
1033 was passed by Congress in 1997 [streamlining a law passed in 1994] to help law-enforcement fight terrorism and drugs, but despite a 40-year low in violent crime, police are snapping up hardware like never before. While this year's staggering take topped the charts, next year's orders are up 400 percent over the same period.

This upswing coincides with an increasingly military-like style of law enforcement most recently seen in the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns.
According to Benjamin Carlson, a reporter for The Daily:
Thanks to [1033], cops in Cobb County, Ga. - one of the wealthiest and most educated counties in the U.S. - now have an amphibious tank. The sheriff of Richland County, S.C., proudly acquired a machine-gun-equipped armored personnel carrier that he nicknamed "The Peacemaker."

This comes on top of grants from the Department of Homeland Security that enable police departments to buy vehicles such as "BearCats" — 16,000-pound bulletproof trucks equipped with battering rams, gun ports, tear-gas dispensers and radiation detectors. To date, more than 500 of these tanklike vehicles have been sold by Lenco, its Massachusetts-based manufacturer, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

When asked why they need equipment that might seem better suited to Fallujah than Florida, many police point to safety concerns, even as violent crime nationwide has fallen to 40-year lows.

Sheriff Bill Hutton's department in Washington County, Minn., purchased a $237,000 BearCat four weeks ago using a federal grant. Hutton said it has already come in handy during a kidnapping. ... His department also received grants to buy a 3-foot-tall, $70,000 robot and a $75,000 riverboat, he said.
Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, Center for Investigative Reporting:
North Dakota's largest city [Fargo] has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there's not been a single international terrorism prosecution in the last decade.

But that hasn't stopped authorities in Fargo and its surrounding county from going on an $8 million buying spree to arm police officers with the sort of gear once reserved only for soldiers fighting foreign wars.

Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation - if it ever occurs - officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. ...

Like Fargo, thousands of other local police departments nationwide have been amassing stockpiles of military-style equipment in the name of homeland security, aided by more than $34 billion in federal grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a Daily Beast investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found. ...

The buying spree has transformed local police departments into small, army-like forces, and put intimidating equipment into the hands of civilian officers. ...

"The argument for up-armoring is always based on the least likely of terrorist scenarios," says Mark Randol, a former terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress. "Anyone can get a gun and shoot up stuff. No amount of SWAT equipment can stop that." ...

"I don't see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society," former Los Angeles Police chief William Bratton says. "And we are a gun-crazy society." ...

In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff's department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn't died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots, while an Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank. ...

[T]he Department of Homeland Security awarded more than $2 billion in grants to local police in 2011, and President Obama's 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contributed an additional half-billion dollars. ...

Many of America's newly armed officers are ex-military veterans from the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Charles Ramsey, who was police chief in Washington, D.C., on 9/11, upgraded the weaponry when he moved to Philadelphia in 2008. Today, some 1,500 Philly beat cops are trained to use AR-15 assault rifles.

"We have a lot of people here, like most departments, who are ex-military," Ramsey says. "Some people are very much into guns and so forth." ...

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Stephen Graham, professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle University in the U.K., and author of Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism:
There's been a longstanding shift in North America and Europe towards paramilitarized policing, using helicopter-style systems, using infrared sensing, using really, really heavy militarized weaponry. That's been longstanding, fueled by the war on drugs and other sort of explicit campaigns. But more recently, there's been a big push since the end of the Cold War by the big defense and security and IT companies to sell things like video surveillance systems, things like geographic mapping systems, and even more recently, drone systems, that have been used in the assassination raids in Afghanistan and in Pakistan and elsewhere, as sort of a domestic policing technology. ...

[S]urveillance is being used to try and track activist groups, permanently sort of monitoring them, using video systems, using database systems, and to allow infiltration. These are very much seen as movements that need to be infiltrated. ...

[W]hat the Occupy movement is so powerful at is demonstrating that by occupying public spaces around the world, and particularly these extremely symbolic public spaces, it's reasserting that the city is the foundation space for democracy. ...

[L]ast year, we moved past the moment where 50 percent of the world was living in cities. By 2050, 75 percent of the world's population will be living in cities. But too often, political and military power is controlled by people who see cities purely as threats, purely as sites of unrest, sites that need strong military and security control. And what's so wonderful about the Occupy protests is that there's a different, a much more hopeful idea of cities being pushed there, in a world where we have a really radical crisis and a radical sense of illegitimacy for the social model that we're all still having to live under.
The right of peaceful assembly, Toronto, June 2010

Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's project on criminal justice:
The trend toward militarization was well under way before 9/11, but it's the federal policy of making surplus military equipment available almost for free that has poured fuel on this fire. ...

It's kind of had a corrupting influence on the culture of policing in America. The dynamic is that you have some officer go to the chief and say, people in next county have [military hardware], if we don't take it some other city will. Then they acquire the equipment, they create a paramilitary unit, and everything seems fine. But then one or two years pass. They say, look we've got this equipment, this training and we haven't been using it. That's where it starts to creep into routine policing.
Pecan Group:
Peter Kraska, a criminologist at the University of Eastern Kentucky ... found that by 1997, 90 percent of cities with populations of 50,000 or more had at least one SWAT team, twice as many as in the mid-1980s. The number of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 with a SWAT team increased 157 percent between 1985 and 1996.

As the number of SWAT teams multiplied, their use expanded as well. ... According to Kraska, by the early 1980s there were 3,000 annual SWAT deployments, by 1996 there were 30,000 and by 2001 there were 40,000. The average police department deployed its SWAT team about once a month in the early 1980s. By 1995, it was seven times a month.
The Daily Bell:
The militarization of American society is a long-term project in our opinion. It began shortly after Vietnam when the Pentagon, confronting the wreckage of failed military policies, began a rehabilitation campaign that resulted in the formation of a private, volunteer army. In retrospect, this approach was wildly successful. The all-volunteer army provided a way for the military-industrial complex to separate itself from the larger society and build its own power-base and expand funding sources unconstrained by negative public perceptions.

It is almost a truism by now that those in the U.S. military are in some sense contemptuous of their civilian counterparts. They are in fact taught (in a sense) to be contemptuous because it is part of the process of breaking down a potential soldier's personality in order to remove the social, ethical and biological barriers to killing. The soldier during this process becomes profoundly "other" – which is one reason why so many have trouble reintegrating when they return to civilian life. The U.S. suicide rate among young military veterans is tragically high.

What is also true about the modern American military is that those who have a military background have been increasingly welcomed into the standing power structure of the United States. The CIA, FBI and myriad intelligence agencies recruit from a military pool and thus military attitudes increasingly pervade these government entities.

The militarization of America's leadership has numerous ramifications, among them the assumption that military activity itself can trump culture, economics and of course individual human action. ...

For the past decades, especially under the Bush administration, the trends seemed to run against civil society. Habeas corpus was attacked, torture was legitimized along with anonymous "rendition." Most recently, the Obama administration has claimed the right to shoot American citizens on sight (and without any form of "due process") if it considered them a "terrorist" threat, or aiding and abetting a terrorist war effort. ... [H]istory shows us that the battle to restore the liniments of civil society to a culture that has abandoned them is difficult and often unsuccessful.
Other Reading:
Rania Khalek, AlterNet: "Why Are Police Attacking Peaceful Protesters? How OWS Has Exposed the Militarization of US Law Enforcement"

George Washington's Blog: "The Militarization of American Police – and Shredding of Our Constitutional Rights – Started At Least 30 Years Ago"
"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
George Orwell


laura k said...

This is so heavy and so scary. Not least because the US public has a fascist streak a mile wide. A good portion of the populace can be counted on to defend any military build-up, any police action, as necessary and deserved.

I never believed the US govt was scared of revolution, but now I'm not so sure.

I'm not familiar with some of the sources, like Pecan Group and The Daily Bell, but I'll check them out.

laura k said...

OK, Daily Bell is Tibor Machan, scary libertarian, and The Pecan Group are a scary bunch of ultra-right-wing Xian wackos. I won't be quoting either of them any time soon.

I'll stick to AlterNet, George Washington Blog and some of your other sources.

laura k said...

Mission of The Daily Bell:

A new, more effective approach to restoring freedom, free markets and limited government

At last, here’s an easy way for you to help out in the fight against socialism, tyranny and the welfare state

These people are not your friends.

Look here.

allan said...

I know, but I thought having links from a variety of places would be a good idea.

laura k said...

I know, but I thought having links from a variety of places would be a good idea.

To me it lessens credibility. When wingnuts are on about something, I'm less likely to listen.

But that's me. Many people feel as you do, that the range of viewpoints speaks of common ground.