Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You? 7

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Have you read about the militarization of our local police?  If not, let me share some stories from  Summer  2013 – you can’t make this stuff up:

– 13 police raid a “no-kill” animal shelter to shoot a baby deer.

– Police in riot gear storm a nursing home and shoot and kill a 95 year old World War II Veteran who was frightened of surgery.

– S.W.A.T. team raids a Texas family garden after confusing okra for marijuana.

These stories aren’t one-off examples of police going off the deep-end.  It’s a disturbing national trend where police respond with far more force and violence than is remotely necessary.

In the 1970s, S.W.A.T. teams were deployed approximately 500 times a year. By 2006, S.W.A.T. teams were deployed over 40,000 times a year.   In 2012, that number has allegedly jumped to 50,000.

To put that in perspective, in 2012,  a SWAT team is raiding an American home every 10 minutes.  40 years ago, this happened about every 18 hours.

It’s gotten so bad that the police in Paragould, Arkansas, recently proposed patrolling the streets of their 25,000 resident city in this monstrosity, to make sure that people walking their dog were really out there walking their dog (seriously, that is what their mayor said – read the linked article). Talk about viewing the community as the enemy – way to raise the bar, Paragould.

How did it happen?  

As best as I can tell, a few factors play into it:

1) After 9-11, we have become so frightened as a people that we have asked our Federal government to pass billions of dollars to militarize police agencies.

2) The War on Drugs has become a great excuse for pissing away billions and billions of dollars to accomplish absolutely nothing.

3) Our police increasingly have a “battlefield mentality” approach to policing: police look at citizens as a threat rather than the people they are meant to serve and protect.

4) After increasingly hateful, vile, untruth-filled, and polarized political campaigns, our innate desire for happiness and sanity has so detached us from our “government” that the clowns left in power can justify pretty much anything as long as it makes for a popular sound bite on some Crappy News Network or Faux News Network.

Why should you care?

1) In a time of national economic hardship, do we really need to spend BILLIONS of dollars so that  local police can buy Armored Personnel Carriers, and enough gear to storm the Syrian capital? (If a S.E.A.L. or CAG Team can deploy around the world in just hours, isn’t just ONE well-trained S.W.A.T. team per state more than sufficient, and far more efficient?)

In 2012, the ironically named Department of Homeland (in)Security alone gave $1.4 BILLION dollars to local police departments to buy equipment like this.  The situation won’t get any better: in 2013, the Dept of Homeland (in)Security will dump another $1.5 BILLION into the Local Police Militarization Program.

[Does the City of Dallas REALLY need $9,418,362 to fund its S.W.A.T. Team? Or are we better off spending that  $9 million to improve the Dallas School District?]

2) A good deal of the time, S.W.A.T. teams bust down the wrong door, kill the “wrong” person, or terrorize the “wrong” family.  Maybe next time they’ll bust your door down? Or mine?

3) The police aren’t making us more safe – they are giving us something else to be afraid of.  Take the killing of 26 year old Robert Ethan Saylor this past January:

What parent of a child with Down Syndrome, or cerebral palsy, or autism,  ADD/ADHD, (or any other physical or mental or intellectual limitation which, historically, frightens the uneducated masses) isn’t scared shitless of the possibility that under-trained, over-armed, and over-zealous “police” won’t kill their child over a $10 movie ticket.

(If you think that is a one-off incident, its not: read here about 3 other incidents where under-trained and over-armed police jumped the shark in neutralizing a non-threat).

What can we do?

Frankly, I don’t know.  Its inevitable that those that speak out will be the first to be targeted by police.

Perhaps it starts, though, with taking 30 minutes a week to check in on  your local, city, or state police to see if they are syphoning-off massive amounts of your taxpayer dollars to militarize their police force.

If it turns out they are, start talking to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues and ask why.

Don’t wait until the Dallas City Army busts down your door, and blinds your child with a flash-bang grenade because they thought your backyard campfire  and marshmallow roast with the neighbors was a meth-lab.

In the end, the people that serve on police forces are our neighbors, our friends, and in some cases, our co-workers.

Maybe if we can convince these folks to stop seeing us as the enemy, and instead become a PART of our community, we can be a little safer, a lot happier, and won’t have  to read about SWAT teams being used to bust up illegal okra-growing operations.

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7 thoughts on “Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?

  • Tom Williams

    It’s definitely scary. While there are definitely valid times to use a highly trained SWAT team, they are not nearly as often as the militarized police forces would lead you to believe.

    The Bearcat is a very good piece of technology, but does not belong in small cities and towns. Regional or state SWAT teams? Perfect. Give one to them. I don’t need one in my backyard thought.

  • Brenda

    I feel for the police, especially after being in lockdown in Boston after the marathon bombers killed a police officer and had a shoot out in Watertown. The policemen are people like you and me, and they must have been scared and freaked out even more than I was, here safe at home. But would a tank have helped? What did armoured personnel carriers do? Did they save lives?

    A tank would have just been scarier and more surreal. No one wants to face potentially have limbs amputated because of a homemade bomb, but I hope to never see a tank roll by my house, nor should a tank ever be discharged in a highly populated place because there is too much risk of human death and serious property damage.

    I hope we have not become a society where potential threats matter more than a real person’s actual rights to not be invaded, traumatized and terrorized. Especially if the justification is a paranoid or vindictive neighbor’s “tip” or illicit surveillance. As for that poor boy being killed for staying in his movie chair, that just breaks my heart.