By Jim Hightower
From 1776 forward, Americans have opposed having soldiers do police work on our soil. But in recent years, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with police chiefs to circumvent that prohibition.
How? By militarizing police departments.
Through the little-known “military transfer program,” the Pentagon now ships massive amounts of surplus war equipment to local cops. This reflects a fundamental rewiring of the mindset now guiding neighborhood policing.
Police chiefs today commonly send out squads brandishing heavy arms and garbed in riot gear for peaceful situations. Recruiting videos now feature clips of SWAT-team officers dressed in black, hurling flash grenades into a home, then storming the house, firing automatic weapons. Who wants anyone enticed by that video working their neighborhood?
As a city councilman in rural Wisconsin commented when told his police were getting a nine-foot-tall armored vehicle: “Somebody has to be the first to say, ‘Why are we doing this?’”
The town’s police chief responded that, “There’s always a possibility of violence,”The New York Times reports. Really? Who threatens us with such mayhem that every burg needs a war-zone armory and a commando mentality?
Astonishingly, a sheriff’s spokesman in suburban Indianapolis offered this answer: veterans.
The sheriff’s department needed a mine-resistant armored vehicle, he explained, to defend itself against U.S. veterans returning from the Afghanistan war. War veterans, he said, “have the ability and knowledge to build (homemade bombs) and to defeat law enforcement techniques.”
That’s lame, loopy, insulting, shameful, and just plain stupid. Maybe he just forgot to pack his brain when he left for work that day. But I’m afraid it’s a window into the altered mindset of police chiefs and trainers.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.