Command and Conquer

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Strong editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the show of police force at the Virginia state capital during last weekend’s abortion rights protest:

Saturday’s display of force is far from unique in the commonwealth. Homeland Security grants lavished on local police departments in the wake of 9/11 have only encouraged the tendency to blur the distinction between civilian and military operations. A number of Virginia localities now have armored assault vehicles such as the Lenco Bearcat — an 8-ton, quarter-million-dollar behemoth with half-inch steel plating. Among those localities is Warren County, a bucolic community of 40,000 people with an average of one homicide every three years — not exactly Hell’s Kitchen.

But the grants only accelerated an existing — and troubling — trend that started many years ago. Law enforcement exists to protect the rights of the citizens; maintaining order is a means to that end, not the end in itself. Police officers decked out like combat patrols in Fallujah send a far different, far more threatening message: that they have come not to protect and to serve, but to command and to conquer. Saturday’s events in the capital of Virginia stain a state with a reputation as the cradle of democracy.

The editorial begins with a quote from a publication regular readers might recognize.


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26 Responses to “Command and Conquer”

  1. #1 |  Mattocracy | 

    Command and Conquer was a great game. But I never wanted to live it in real life. SWAT Teams really do remind me of the Brotherhood of Nod.

  2. #2 |  Aresen | 

    I guess if the cops play “Command and Conquer”, we are expected to “Submit and Render Tribute”.

  3. #3 |  omar | 

    Mattocracy, you know Red Alert would be a way better game if submarines in lakes weren’t impossible to sink.

  4. #4 |  Bob | 

    And of course, the canard that having personnel transports is for “Officer Safety” is trotted about routinely, when they really mean “Drug related warrants”

    Like this story in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a Deputy was injured by a man with a gun:

    The Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department has an Armored Personnel Carrier, an Alvis Saracen. This thing makes the Lenco Bearcat look like a pickup truck! So… If “Officer Safety” is so important, why didn’t the Deputy run over to the Tulsa Police Department and pick that up on his way to respond to a call with shots fired?

    Obviously, that would have been ridiculously impractical. The police would never be able to respond if they had to “Go get the Saracen” every time they went out on a call.

    So, they just use it for warrant duty.

  5. #5 |  Brandon | 

    Careful Bob, you’ll probably just convince the police that each officer needs a Bearcat for patrol.

  6. #6 |  (B)oscoH | 

    The editorial begins with a quote from a publication regular readers might recognize.

    Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I think the pissing match between Crane and the Koch brothers will end after each empties his respective bladder and taps out, i.e pretty soon. Police militarization and security theater is a huge issue that is one flashpoint away from being the central political, even voting issue of our time. Those that want Cato to be the research arm of the Romney campaign can simply point to the billions spent, innocents killed, and cops made to look completely silly by this game over the past 4 years.

  7. #7 |  Dave | 

    I live just outside of Richmond, and I am hearing a lot of people complaining about the blatant show of force at the Capitol, and these folks do not sympathize with the protesters position, they just know the difference between military and police. Do these officers know how they look to the public? Do they even care?

  8. #8 |  Jim | 

    No, they don’t. Just shut up, pay and OBEY.

  9. #9 |  PogueMahone | 

    I think the words on their shields have been mistakenly reversed. The shields should read “Police State.”

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Law enforcement exists to protect the rights of the citizens…

    This misconception is what permits a nation to morph into a police state. What conceivable motive do cops have to protect the rights of citizens? To them, rights are a hindrance.

    The only place where the rights of the citizens receives protection is in the voting booth. Government (including police) is the primary threat to the rights of citizens.

  11. #11 |  Brian V. | 

    Good on Radley and the RTD!

  12. #12 |  Yeah, that guy... | 

    It should be illegal to provide gear (weapons or equipment) to local police with federal money. All that the grants accomplish are an end run around the local taxpayer having any say in how the police conduct their jobs.

  13. #13 |  Pablo | 

    The editorial was a good start but unfortunately did not address the issue of the officers covering their faces. To me that is the most egregious aspect for various reasons–lack of accountability, the dehumanization factor, intimidation, etc. No honest person behaving decently ever has a good reason to cover their face.

  14. #14 |  Wiregeek | 

    @ #13.

    Pablo, you wanna go fishing this weekend? It’s gonna be about twenty below….

  15. #15 |  Brandon | 

    ” No honest person behaving decently ever has a good reason to cover their face.”

    May wanna rethink this generalization.

  16. #16 |  StrangeOne | 

    Smart-ass detractors aside, Pablo is right, the police had no just cause to conceal their faces with ski masks (which provide no protection from chemicals or irritants), or to put tape over names and badge numbers like many were photographed doing.

    This wasn’t an attempt to protect themselves from whatever imagined dangers they perceived from peaceful protesters. It was a pretty blatant and systematic attempt at concealing their identity and removing accountability if any of the police decided to use excessive force. It was premeditated thuggery.

  17. #17 |  Wiregeek | 

    @ #16

    I agree, actually. I should have put more effort into that to clarify, and I apologize. Northern Pike and Grayling are not noted for demanding accountability of their predators, and apparently, neither are we.

  18. #18 |  Pablo | 

    #14 and 15–Ok guys, I can see why someone would want to cover their faces if it is bitter cold outside, or if you have a Halloween costume on. Cant think of another legitimate reason off the top of my head.

    Anyone know the outside temperature at the Virginia state capitol on that day? Seeing as how the protestor in one picture had on a thin dress, and several officers have their sleeves rolled up, I don’t think the weather was a valid reason for the masks.

  19. #19 |  Whim | 

    The heavily-armed Virginia State Police also covered their faces with balaclavas and hid their nametapes behind web gear and protective vests during the Bradley Manning Rally at Quantico VA in early 2011.

    They simply do so in order to remain anonymous from individual civil suits for police brutality.

    Any LEO who hides his nametape should be fired.

  20. #20 |  Mike | 

    Yeah, yeah, yeah — look, folks, if this had been the Richmond Tea Party protestin’ and a-hollerin’, you can bet the hacks at the RTD wouldn’t have uttered a peep. Or if they had, they would have expressed support for “Our Boys in Blue”, protecting Obama/America/”The Children” from the racist wingnuts.

    Need I remind you what happened in Quincy, IL back in 2010?

    The comments are really juicy — full of Blue-State Fascist goodness.

    All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others, right?

  21. #21 |  Dante | 

    Trying to prevent Virginia from becoming a police state is like trying to prevent the sun from rising. A few of the reasons are:

    We are ground zero for military-fetishishts (the Pentagon is in Virginia). These wanna-be authritarian freaks outnumber the regular folks around here, and they vote with religious ferver. Of course, they do EVERYTHING with religious ferver, including religion.

    Virginia has an extremely high percentage of federal employees. See above note about people with a military fetish. Authoritarians love other authoritarians.

    There seems to be 4 cops to every non-cop. In one NOVA town, there are town police, county police, federal uniformed police and, of course, undercover government agents with badges and guns that are policing who-knows-what for who-knows-whom. Four individual police agencies, all patroling the same streets. On Sept. 11, 2001 several of the agencies armed their guys with M-16 rifles and posted them on street corners (yeah, that helped a lot).

    Virginia is a “gun” state – lots and lots of guns here but not our neighbors in DC or Maryland. This attracts “gun people”, most of whom appear to be the kind of folks who admire the police, rather than distrust them.

    Virginia is already a police state.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  22. #22 |  Pugnacious | 

    Scott Horton interviews Stephan Salisbury on the DHS war on Muslims, domestic and foreign.

  23. #23 |  croaker | 

    @19 Any “LEO” that tapes over his badge and nametape should be shot. Because at that point he’s a terrorist, not a LEO.

  24. #24 |  Command and Conquer | 

    […] […]

  25. #25 |  Colonel Mustard | 

    The editorial is a good one. It’s about 30 years late, but it’s a good one. The “serve & protect” motto is just propaganda. “Submit & obey” is the real message. I don’t like seeing our local police in combat boots. If they’re soldiers then who is their enemy? Me? Hope to hell not.

  26. #26 |  John | 

    It’s certainly unfortunate — no one seems to remember Ohio State. Hopefully it will not take something like that or worse to bring some reality and common sense back into police as a public service.