Police Militarization Roundup

Friday, June 17th, 2011

A few militarization stories that have been collecting in my inbox . . .

Here’s the latest addition to the Roanoke, Virginia, police force, thanks to a DHS grant:

Here’s photo of the police APV making appearances around Lancaster County, Pennsylvania this month. The city bought the vehicle in 2009 thanks to a quarter million dollar grant, also from DHS. I always wonder about the cammo. Why do so many SWAT teams wear camouflage? Are they really serving many warrants in the woods? I’ve been reporting on and researching this issue for more than five years now. I can’t recall a single story in which a SWAT team needed to sneak up on a drug dealer, fugitive, or hostage taker who was hiding in the trees.

Here’s one of a number of military-style pieces of equipment the Sun-Sentinel recently reported have been acquired by Florida police departments through DHS grants or the Pentagon’s surplus program. (Screen cap from a video you can watch at the link.)

Here’s an article about similar vehicles DHS has funded to fight the terrorism threat in terrorist hotspots like Garfield County, Colorado. And here’s a local news commentary about the city of Portland, Maine’s acquisition of a Sherman tank in 2009. (Actually, it’s a modified M-113 APC.)

Note the easy conflation of cops and soldiers in this article, headlined, “Area officers hone combat skills.”

And finally, for the kids . . .

The last time Chris Jones was at the Simi Valley police station, the matter was somewhat serious: She was filing a report for her stolen GPS.

But on Saturday, she and her family visited just for fun.

Her 4-year-old son, Brandon, had already checked out the SWAT team’s armored vehicle, but suddenly he was sprinting toward it again. He climbed in the side door and within seconds was popping his head in and out of the top hatch, a big grin on his face.

Hope they also handed out pellet guns and stuffed dogs for target practice. Here’s one more:

Michael Haecker and his 4-year-old son went to see the firetruck and the police department’s armored personnel carrier first, but then visited the Board of Health table and learned about brushing their teeth.

There’s something appropriate about juxtaposing the APC to an activity mundane as teeth-brushing. These sorts of images have become about that common.


Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

63 Responses to “Police Militarization Roundup”

  1. #1 |  CharlesWT | 

    Sources of grants for police specialty vehicles.

  2. #2 |  CharlesWT | 

    “Why do so many SWAT teams wear camouflage? Are they really serving many warrants in the woods? I’ve been reporting on and researching this issue for more than five years now. I can’t recall a single story in which a SWAT team needed to sneak up on a drug dealer, fugitive, or hostage taker who was hiding in the trees.”

    Well, there is this, Waco writ small:

    It was like a “war zone” in Wisconsin

    All to serve a civil process. Another case of where it is likely the person could have been approached while he was off his property.

  3. #3 |  CharlesWT | 

    […]
    No arrests were made during the sweep in the $250,000 armored vehicle, paid for with Homeland Security money. But the show of force sent a message.

    Whether it was the right message is a matter of debate.

    With scores of police agencies buying armored vehicles at Homeland Security expense, some criminal justice experts warn that their use in fighting crime could do more harm than good.
    […]
    Law enforcement agencies say the growing use of the vehicles, a practice that also has its defenders in the academic field of criminal justice, helps ensure police have the tools they need to deal with hostage situations, heavy gunfire and acts of terrorism.

    “We live on being prepared for ‘what if?'” said Pittsburgh Sgt. Barry Budd, a member of the SWAT team.

    Critics say that the appearance of armored vehicles may only increase tensions by making residents feel as if they are under siege.

    Most departments do not have “a credible, justifiable reason for buying these kinds of vehicles,” but find them appealing because they “tap into that subculture within policing that finds the whole military special-operations model culturally intoxicating,” said Peter Kraska, an expert on police militarization.
    U.S. police departments deploying heavy armor

  4. #4 |  Joe | 

    I have been watching the Andy Griffith show on Netflix. It should go without saying, but cops should be acting more like Andy Taylor and less like Barney Fife.

  5. #5 |  Oh, It Is So Nice of Romney to Mingle Amongst the Riffraff, Isn’t It? » ReasonAndJest.com | 

    […] Balko: Police Militarization Roundup and more police stealing from the […]

  6. #6 |  Overkill | 

    The vehicle in the third picture down looks suspiciously like the M-1117 Guardian Armored Security Vehicle that I used during my tour in Iraq. I don’t know what all the fuss is about, don’t the police have an obvious need for the sort of protection that can only an 8 foot tall 15 ton armored vehicle can provide?

  7. #7 |  David | 

    They like to buy toys but they don’t train. It’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian. Calling them “militarized” is an insult to the military.

  8. #8 |  David | 

    OP:
    “Why [do] so many police SWAT teams wear camouflage?”

    the innominate one:
    “Because many cops are soldier wannabes, I’d guess, just like many security guards seemingly are cop wannabes. Playing dress-up and pretend is fun!”

    @ the innominate one:
    This is not correct. The reason is; SWAT teams have learned over the years that solid black uniforms make for an easy target. The green and camo uniforms are simply what is available from supply houses.

  9. #9 |  David | 

    It’s good that people are concerned, but it’s really less nefarious than it seems.

  10. #10 |  albatross | 

    David:

    So, after we’ve made sure that every two-bit town, federal or state agency, and rural county in the US has a paramilitary force with military weapons and at least some military tactics, what do we imagine will happen next? Is there any way this could plausibly work out well for us?

  11. #11 |  “Show Me What A Police State Looks Like!” | 

    […] has been bandied about in the US for a long time, increasingly so, and that’s definitely for some very, very, very good reasons. Of course, “mainstream America” has been reluctant to […]

  12. #12 |  We got your police state right here in Amerika. » Leftwing Nutjob | 

    […] has been bandied about in the US for a long time, increasingly so, and that’s definitely for some very, very, very good reasons. Of course, “mainstream America” has been reluctant to accept the […]

  13. #13 |  We got your police state right here in Amerika. Police brutality at Occupy events this weekend | 

    […] has been bandied about in the US for a long time, increasingly so, and that’s definitely for some very, very, very good reasons. Of course, “mainstream America” has been reluctant to accept the […]