Warrior Cops

One of the things that I noticed around the Montgomery County courthouses is how heavily equipped the local cops were. Given the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, more and more people are noticing the militarization of policing in America.

Don’t get me wrong. I think police officers should have access to whatever they legitimately need to do their jobs, but I’m uncomfortable in places where the beat cops are better equipped than the average soldier or Marine on a day-to-day basis.

After all, unless they get drafted or enlist, the members of police forces are civilians.

UPDATE—Most soldiers here in America don’t wear a full set of combat gear most of the time.

54 thoughts on “Warrior Cops

  1. Radley Balko has been writing about this for years, and released a book on the subject back in May, I think. Part of this trend is to serve routine search warrants with SWAT teams. Shooting the family dog has become routine. This will continue until citizens put a stop to it and hold police and elected officials accountable. Popehat wrote about this yesterday, as well.

  2. When we are all living under uniform martial law and all elections to replace our administrators have been suspended in order to preserve the general welfare by eliminating socially contentious issues, our partially retired president will continue to rule by edict and we will all celebrate our collectivization. The film “1984” starring John Hurt offers a chilling and realistic prescient view of what will be here in one to two years from now.

    While there are some who will think these words are nothing short of ridiculous, most citizens throughout the heartland now have come to the sad realization that the “guardians” now have adopted a “us vs them” attitude towards the general public.

    SWAT teams are but one example. It may already be too late to reverse this direction.

    As Plato wisely observed, “Who guards the guardians?”

  3. Is this really true? In a war zone, ground troops would be wearing body armor that includes rifle plates (which are rather heavy), and very possibly carrying grenades that can be thrown or launched.

    If these police are just carrying rifles or carbines I’m not sure it’s as big a deal as you’re making it out to be. At least, I too have one of those, as well as soft body armor, and one rifle plate so that a hit by a pistol bullet on my front torso has less of a chance of temporarily disabling me during a firefight. All legal for civilians outside of some slave states, and we’re not significantly at a disadvantage there, especially in numbers. And the modern “patrol carbine” is a more discriminating weapon than the old fashioned police shotgun (I’ve got one of those for that matter, from when I lived in a place where owning handgun was difficult to impossible).

    If they’re parading around in MRAPs or other at least minimally armored vehicles that’s of course different, and in general we have an issue there. As well as the bigger issue of the change in attitude from old fashioned peace officers to the modern “warrior cop” who’s number one priority is to survive his shift. But I gather that proceeded the changes in equipment.

    • Heh. A neighbor one block over had two MRAP’s pull upto his house last week and a horde of local police and Sheriff’s deputies, all fully dressed out in full body armor, ballistic helmets and balaclavas over their faces descend on his house while I was having a smoke on my front porch. They smashed in all his front windows and battered in his door (which I learned later was unlocked, the wooden door open and only the screen door closed). Several flash-bang grenades were used. About 10 minutes later, the neighbor, his wife, mother in law and four children, all under the age of seven, were brought out of the house, all with zip-tie restraints behind their backs. They were laid face down in the street (including the children) each with an officer, armed ans armored, standing with a foot in the middle of their backs. They were held that way for almost a half hour before a police transport van arrived and they were all loaded into the van. On Monday of this week I saw the neighbor talking with my next door neighbor about the event. He shared the paperwork from his arrest: A misdemeanor charge of theft of services for being more than 60 days in arrears on his cable bill. He also shared the letter from his cable provider telling him his cable would be shut off next week. A letter that arrived four days after his arrest. Now he has to fight to get his children back from the Department of Children and Family services, replace all his windows and doors. The reason he was in arrears? He lost his job. Militarized police? Yes. It doesn’t take a SWAT team to serve a misdemeanor warrant to a man with no criminal history, a long term (more than 15 years) resident of that home and an all around nice man. Things are getting ridiculous here in Florida. Those who should be arrested aren’t and those who should have a mailed notice or summons are subject of this kind of idiocy. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes and then read the documents myself, I would have thought it an exaggeration. Not a peep in the papers or on the news. Truly sad we have fallen so low as a society.

      • EXACTLY. Also, balaclavas? Who do they think they are? Undercover DEA? NOT.
        I am pro law and order, but LEOs at every level, plus mayors, county boards, senators, congressmen, etc., etc., have forgotten who they are supposed to serve and who pays them. The people are not the enemy.

        • My point exactly. Give these fully automatic weapons, some with silencers no less, and military surplus vehicles and it’s no surprize that their is over-reach! They have to play with the toys and spend the tax dollars granted or they will lose those funds next fiscal year.
          Sheer madness!

      • “Also, balaclavas? Who do they think they are?”

        I believe anonymity should be left to writing. If you’re in public, excepting occasions like Halloween, your face should be visible.

      • Somebody SWATTED a guy because his cable bill was more than 60 days late?

        My guess is the suit filed against the police department will pay for repairs to his house and his cable bill and maybe a bit left over.

        • I did encourage him to file suit. I even gave him the name of an attorney friend of the family who has experience in that area of the law. I hope he goes forward and files suit against the city, county and cable provider too. The county needs to be included for two reasons: first, there were sheriff’s deputies involved and second, the county commission are the ones that passed the ordinance a few months ago to make it a misdemeanor to be more than 60 days in arrears on any utility bill.

      • Indeed, he wants to ban civilian possession of rifle plates. Which would have prevented a lot of families from buying them in the US and shipping them out to the sandbox when the military either didn’t have enough on hand and/or had supply system screwups.

        Civilians have been buying these since the ’70s, which I think think is about when they were first developed, with no known problems. Not that facts or logic matter to most Democrats, let alone those from California, but I doubt this will get anywhere. Just explaining the fine details between normal soft body armor, which even he is not willing to propose to ban (now), and what he wants to ban, is going make it a very difficult sale. Not that we should ever underestimate the Stupid Party….

      • That’s stupid. The problem isn’t defensive gear; I don’t think the police would be trying that sort of swat entry just because they are wearing a better body armor. It’s going around all tarted-up with weapons and MRAPs etc., like soldier/mercenary wanna-bes that causes all the grief.

      • I disagree, librarygryffon. “going around all tarted-up with weapons and MRAPs etc.” is just a marker for a change in attitude from the old fashioned peace officers that preceded the Federal government handing out MRAPs etc. like candy. Even without these “weapons of war”, such “warrior cops” are a mortal threat to a free republic. They didn’t really need much in the way of special weapons or body armor to terrorize the family Paul H. Lemmen mentions in his first reply to me for an unpaid cable bill. Or for that matter, I don’t recall any incidents of “puppycide” with rifles, although I’ve probably missed some.

        It’s as the old maxim holds: There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people. If limited to normal concealable soft body armor and service handguns, plus battering rams (an ancient and very simple technology) or shotgun breaching charges, they’d be just as dangerous.

  4. Here in the socialist utopia of Mass., we have two fine examples of what you are talking about:
    1. When the police finally narrowed down the location of the remaining Marathon bomber. they basically declared martial law, locked down whole cities, and illegally went door to door searching for him. It should be noted that the guy wasn’t found until they lifted they shutdown, and a guy out for a smoke saw something not right.
    2. Many of the smaller communities don’t have their own SWAT teams – they are parts of these collectives that manage the teams. These collectives have organized as LLCs, and are now taking the position that they are private companies, and don’t have to comply with FOIA and Public Record laws. Yet they are wholly funded with public funds……

    • That response in Boston was utterly impractical, and any terrorist organization watching such events could adjust its strategy accordingly in order to maximize the damage an attack can do. It shouldn’t need to be said, but a competent response to a terrorist attack should mitigate the damage done, whereas the Boston response did the opposite. I think people may have gotten too emotional about the whole subject and rationality went out the window somewhere as a result.

      • Yes, that response was stupid and — as agiledog noted — a failure. It wasn’t until people were out and looking around that someone saw something. The free/open source people have a saying: “with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow”; the police should learn that.

  5. The police ARE civillians, even though they would like to think themselves otherwise. Civillians should be given the right to posses the exact same weaponry that is provided to the police, IMHO.

    • I would bet that the most heavily militarized police departments are in areas with the strictest gun control laws.

      • I won’t even consider taking you up on that bet. It’s not like they have to worry about an honest civilian responding in kind. And of course I’d consider making a bet that the criminals in those areas are better armed and more likely to use those weapons than those in areas where non-LEO civilians are also allowed to carry and defend themselves.

    • Which pithily sums up the problem.

      I am deeply opposed to up-arming the police. They don’t shoot well enough, frankly. I’m a 50 year old woman with terrible eyesight, and I shoot better than a few cops I regularly run into on the range. I don’t have a lot of confidence in heavily armed people who don’t shoot well. It goes not just to accuracy, but to judgment.

      • http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/crime_court/article_5a0f7e72-e5cb-11e3-a8de-001a4bcf6878.html

        The site loads poorly. So, salient paragraphs:

        “As he got out of his vehicle, Hone’s rifle barrel came out first, Mathis said. The police officer felt his life was in danger and fired several shots.

        “By all accounts, (Hone) was pointing his gun at the officer,” Mathis said.

        Hone did not shoot, and he was not shot or injured. He got back into his vehicle and held up his hands in surrender, Mathis said.”

        The police officer fired three shots from less than 25 feet away–and missed. Oh, and the guy (Hone) said he was headed onto Fort Rucker, a military installation, with his rifle and magazines of ammunition. He would have driven right past a pretty red and white sign that says “no guns” on the way onto the installation, where all the soldiers and civilians who follow the rules are…say it with me…DISARMED!

  6. Given what I’ve seen on the news, I think if you transported the St. Louis Police Department to Donetsk today, they’d have enough better equipment to single-handedly defeat the Russian army invading Ukraine.

    Of course, for all their equipment, if the LAPD and NYPD are any indication, police officers need 700 bullets to clip one bad guy while killing fourteen innocent pedestrians a mile away. So since the police shoot like storm troopers, Russia would actually still win that theoretical war.

  7. Regarding your update: it’s my understanding that US military personnel are FORBIDDEN from going armed on military bases under normal circumstances. Two shootings at Fort Hood and one at the Washington Navy Yard prove me out.

    • You would be correct. Arms are very controlled on military bases. Munitions are kept on base in locked vaults or in secured areas that are not easily accessible. Soldiers are only allowed to have access to ammo and munitions during training exercises as part of qualifications which happens in yearly cycles. The only exceptions are the MP’s on base, and they are armed. Although individual soldiers may possess private arms while they live on base, they are required to store their weapons in the unit armories.

      As far as the rest of this, the conundrum that faces us is having to deal with a public that is becoming increasingly armed. It’s not necessarily that the people who want arms want to start a conflict, rather, it’s those who wish take on authority with arms, even if its for minor things, let alone armed criminals. Public officials live under the constant cloud of death threats. The same officials also have the means to authorize this kind of protection. I’m not against police having all the weapons they need to take down armed criminals, but where do we draw the line about protecting officials and maintaining civil order without creating militarized civilian forces? It’s a thought exercise that is long overdue, IMO.

    • actually it was an executive order from Bill Clinton that Officers could no longer carry loaded sidearms while in uniform – which greatly contributed to the lack of armed response in Military based shootings. I never understood why Bush didn’t nullify it

      • Oops – posted before I saw this, EPWJ. Yes, I never understood that either, until I realized that he didn’t because he liked the policy.

      • He did it because an off duty marine captain dispatched three thugs who were robbing a grocery store in California and hew was worried that it was going to be another riot

      • I have been actively attacking that restriction to no avail. I am retired military/current federal employee with a valid state concealed carry permit.

        I am not allowed to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights on the installation where I work. As a result, I am also unarmed in transit to and from from my off-post home…in spite of the recent and extensive list of attacks on military installations.

        I have challeneged the Army regulation (AR 190-11) all the way up to the Pentagon Provost Marshall office and they have simply ignored me. It will take congressional action to get it changed.

        But, hey, at least there is a sign at the gate that says “no guns allowed.” That should do it.

  8. It is indeed alarming. I have seen the police lie in court and get away with it. They are unaccountable. Having a bunch of heavily armed, unaccountable people running around seems like a bad idea.

    • As a criminal defense attorney, I cannot emphasize enough how many police officers I have observed on the witness stand, brazenly lying through their teeth to ensure a maximum conviction. The only remedy is to catch a police officer lying on the stand during a trial or hearing that is being transcribed and then publishing/providing the transcript to all other defense attorneys for the sole purpose of impeaching that officer’s testimony. They are quickly out of a job!

  9. Police (as citizens and not military) should have the same weapons that non-police citizens within their jurisdiction have legal access to. If nothing else, maybe places like Chicago and DC would be less likely to pass gun-grabbing laws then…

    • The story is VERY one sided and is full of non news – are cops perfect? no, do people lie about who they are when they are arrested OH YEAH. Is it easy to identify someone if there are no prints, nope.

      Did someone cause a problem in the cell?

      All are unanswered questions – since the totally story of Ferguson was incorrect I’m disinclined to believe any further pile on’s would have a higher standard of facts

      • Yes, many unanswered questions and one sided; nevertheless, they charged him with getting his blood on their uniforms. That alone raises a lot of flags. A ludicrous charge.

      • A1 I don’t think that happened that’s an old 1950’s civil rights story that gets recirculated every once in a while..

  10. Wayyyyyyy back when policing used to be pretty straight forward. Sure you had your murders and such, but mostly is was being out in the community being seen, investigating burglaries, car accidents and such. With the proliferation of heavily armed drug gangs, the police have had to ramp up to keep pace. Both in firepower and tactically. When serving a warrant on a guy known to have full automatic weapons do you want the police going in with nothing more then a 9mm? Nope. BUT……the police have also come to abuse the power and weapons they are given. Some small town with almost 0 crime now have armored personal carriers courtesy of the US Military ramp down from war. And yes, they want to play with their toys.

    Bottom line is some departments in high risk areas, South Central LA, Chicago, etc. may need military style equipment and tactics, but your average police department does not and should not have them.

  11. John is right in his update.

    I was a computer programmer in the Army. When I was in Germany we’d wear chemical suits and be issued our rifles only for quarterly alert drills; when I was in San Antonio I saw a weapon only when it was time to re-qualify at the range.

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