Scenes from a Militarized America

Friday, September 28th, 2012

From the Facebook page of the Kennebec County, Maine Sheriff’s Office.

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the Augusta Police Department have been working collaboratively by combining resources such as our Special Response Team. This pic was taken recently by staff at the Kennebec Journal as the two teams trained together for tactical approaches and tactical entries. Lookin’ sharp, guys!

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44 Responses to “Scenes from a Militarized America”

  1. #1 |  ZK | 

    I actually don’t think this is fair.

    What appear to be ‘gasmask’ I believe are actually be training helmets, and while I can’t tell for sure given the black-and-white photo, it looks like the pistols may be blue-colored Glock-17T training pistols.

    This means that these police are training with simulated guns which are actually shooting real projectiles at them. Frankly, this is exactly what I want my “SWAT teams” to be doing.

  2. #2 |  ZK | 

    That is, these “masks” are protective training helmets, like one would use playing paintball.

  3. #3 |  Radley Balko | 

    Augusta averages less than half a murder per year. Why do they need a tactical entry team?

    Apparently, it’s . . . “To execute search warrants” for “undercover narcotics investigations.”

    Note that the team’s own page doesn’t even mention any other use for the team.

    Also, while I can’t tell from this photo if those are gas masks or something else, in their promo photo they’re also covering their faces with balaclava hoods.

  4. #4 |  ZK | 

    I’m not arguing that the rampant militarism of police in general isn’t real, only that using training gear while training seems like something that’s probably justified.

    You can put your eye out (or smash teeth) with those things.

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The problem with cops, versus your average teenaged boy, is that cops aren’t satisfied playing video games. They want it to be real.

  6. #6 |  marie | 

    I would rather my police department spent time and money preparing for situations they will face. Sure, it is possible that in the span of 100 years, there could be a situation for which SWAT is idea but it is highly improbable.

    You want them to spend your money on useless stuff? Plus, once they have spent the money on the cool toys, they will begin looking for opportunities to use them.

    Getting Fluffy out of the tree will require a bazooka…if they have one.

  7. #7 |  Pablo | 

    Also why in the hell are they wearing camo outfits? Does part of their mission include stalking suspects in the woods?

  8. #8 |  el coronado | 

    Well, you can’t very well pretend you’re a badass soldier/ninja if you’re wearing a *policeman’s uniform*, now can you.

  9. #9 |  Chris Mallory | 

    There is very little that a SWAT team can do that setting up a perimeter and waiting the suspect out can’t do better.

  10. #10 |  Eric | 

    This is a little off-topic, but here goes. I was recently reading my kids the Little Fat Policeman, a picture book from 1950, and in one of the stories he is investigating a suspected burglary in progress. He hears some funny noises and scratching and the book says that he “grabbed his pistol in his hand.” On the next page, we see that the cause of the noise was not in fact a burglar but instead it was a big scruffy dog.

    Because your blog has made me so thoroughly skeptical of police – even Little Fat ones from 1950 kids books – for a fleeting moment I thought “oh man, that dog’s gonna get it.” Strangely, though, the Little Fat Policeman didn’t shoot it dead on the spot but instead “laughed a big fat belly laugh,” accepted a lick on the hand, and then drove the dog to his proper home.

    That story would never fly today. They’d throw a flashbang in the house and then go in guns blazing.

  11. #11 |  JLS | 

    Compare that with these cops in Amsterdam who were giving breathelizer tests to the public when a couple a Dutch girl and and American guy, who had been drinking went through the police roadblock and breathed into the tube:

    ““What would have happened if you had failed, Irma?” I asked.

    “They would have pulled me over and asked me to step out of the car and go eat or walk, or do something, and then come back and take it again until I was under the limit for safety.”

    I am thinking. “This isn’t real.” But it was and it is. In Amsterdam, the focus is on prevention of problems via cooperation between the people and its government to provide safety for its people. It is a quite different relationship here in the USA.”

  12. #12 |  MikeV | 

    If you look at their Facebook page, the comments on that picture are almost universally very negative, probably far worse than the comments here.

  13. #13 |  Personanongrata | 

    The SWAT terrorists look very pretty in their costumes.

  14. #14 |  John C. Randolph | 

    Sounds like the Dutch have a police force, not an occupation force.


  15. #15 |  JLS | 

    John C. Randolph “Sounds like the Dutch have a police force, not an occupation force.”

    Wasn’t that amazing? I was shocked when I read that.

  16. #16 |  Not Sure | 

    “This pic was taken recently by staff at the Kennebec Journal as the two teams trained together for tactical approaches and tactical entries.”

    Definitely a lot more dramatic than the pics of training for approaching dogs tied up in the yard where they just shoot the dog and claim they “feared for their lives”.

  17. #17 |  KPRyan | 


    I’ll have to look for ‘The Little Fat Policeman’ book(s).

    Sounds remarkably refreshing. How difficult to believe that was written only 60 years ago….

  18. #18 |  Jim | 

    @12 Mike – As much as it is against my nature, I find a hopeful glimmer of optimism in that. Maybe, just maybe, the lights are starting to come on among the non-LEOs in this land – those ‘civilians’ LEOs so openly disdain.

  19. #19 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Go ahead and laugh. When the Red Army or the Albanian
    Elite Squadron or the Cubans attack, Kennebec is exactly the type
    of obscure locale they would choose and set up base camp….
    If you have seen the epic warning Red Dawn you’d know what I
    was talking about…

  20. #20 |  AlgerHiss | 

    Here’s the website for this fine department:

    As an added treat, here’s their at-the-ready narcotics officer…Gib. Gib is all tweaked up and ready for some asset forfeiture fun!


  21. #21 |  Dave | 

    #10 here is “The Little Fat Policeman”

  22. #22 |  mad libertarian guy | 


    I was actually witness to a similar situation in Canada (Vancouver). I was on a street corner in Gastown (home to various head/seed shops and the very excellent New Amsterdam Cafe) smoking a joint with my brother and some little Canadian dude. A cop pulled a car over for blatantly running a red light, and they stopped just across the street no more than 50′ away. I was a bit worried about smoking a joint in front of the police, but my worries were quelled when they didn’t even register us there on the corner.

    Long story short, they pulled the guy over. He was drunk. Very drunk. He was let go, his car detained and could be picked up in 24 hours for a $50 fee. No jail.

  23. #23 |  Anti Federalist | 

    @ “Jim” – post number 18 –

    Seems the Captain disapproves of such sentiments.

    Saw this posted this morning:

    From the Captain:

    To all… We work very hard to provide an outstanding level of service to the citizens of Kennebec County. Our Facebook page is here for our “friends” to promote the agency as well as share tips or ask questions about the law enforcement services we provide. What will not be done on this page is scrutiny of the approved budget, negative comments about personnel or the agency, or opportunities for people to post statements relating to their personal agendas.

    That is what YOUR page is for.

    Please refrain from engaging in this type of activity on this site as anything not approved will be immediately removed and you will be banned from visiting this page.

    Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

  24. #24 |  Mannie | 

    #17 | KPRyan | September 29th, 2012 at 1:35 am
    How difficult to believe that was written only 60 years ago….

    Sixty years ago, it was a different world. Possibly a different galaxy. Cops have always been thuggy, maybe they have to be, but they weren’t so aggressively militant and downright dangerous. I remember a conversation:

    “Remember when the cops would just slap the shit out of you and let you go?”

    “Yeah. And they’d even drive you home.”

    “And if you were cool, they’d let you out two blocks away, so your parents wouldn’t see you.”

    Yes, far from ideal, but they didn’t drag you out of the schoolroom in handcuffs, or break down your door, toss in flasbangs, and machinegun your dogs. Sadly, Officer Friendly is in a nursing home, on life support.

  25. #25 |  liberranter | 

    Marie said:

    Sadly, Officer Friendly is in a nursing home, on life support.

    Are we really sure that Officer Friendly ever existed in the first place? Officer Surly is probably the operative reference here. He was gruff, a bit “thuggish,” as you put it (probably because, as you assert, he had to be, to at least some extent), but didn’t go out of his way to look for trouble.

    If anyone is on life support today, it’s Officer Surly, who has been beaten to a bloody and comatose pulp by Officer 101st Airborne, a steroid and PTSD-addled, out-of-control pyschopath who has taken Surly’s place.

  26. #26 |  Whim | 

    Kennebec County is the largest county population wise in the state, with over 120,000 people.

    Maybe that’s why they wanted a SWAT team.

    Eventually, the majority of Americans will fully understand that SWAT teams deployed for anything other than a hostage rescue situation are entirely too dangerous for the citizenry.

    Using them to serve narcotics warrants in late night, no-knock raids just increases the danger to citizenry primarily. Wrong door raids occur, and even if served at the correct address, escalates into a violent, chaotic confrontation that does not warrant it.

    Ultimately, the judges that sign late night, No-Knock search warrants should just re-label them as:

    DEATH Warrants.

  27. #27 |  LivibgPre911Still | 

    It’s Kennebec county MAINE… I learned a bit about it as I lived there for 3 years… they need a SWAT Team as much as anyone would need hemroids… those redidents are the most courtious citizens in the U.S. however… if they are to invade the massholes to the south… oh nevahmind….

  28. #28 |  (B)oscoH, Yogurt Eater | 

    I made a snide remark on their Facebook page and got banned :-).

  29. #29 |  jmcross | 

    Looks like you’re not alone (B)oscoH. As of now 109 comments with only about a dozen visible. 4 or 5 attaboyz from a few days ago then nothing more than 10 hrs old(all negative). I bet they’ll be gone soon as well. Who says tough guys aren’t sensitive?

  30. #30 |  jmcross | 

    OTOH, Augusta Maine Police Department shared the post and seem to tolerate dissent.

  31. #31 |  Frank Hummel | 

    This might be a stupid question, but is it safe to run nicely lined up like that thru an open field in a tactical situation? Isn’t that what all them little APCs they purchased are for?

  32. #32 |  Cyto | 

    Just to reinforce something you already know, that our perception of SWAT is the extreme minority, I’ll relate this anecdote:

    I took my son to one of the local public libraries yesterday in a lower-class, minority/immigrant dominated neighborhood. A friend from school happened to be there and his mom told me about a “dog demonstration” they were about to have, hoping we’d join them. The neighborhood mother’s group had invited the police to show off their drug dog for the kids! Yippie!

    Well, not only did officer Friendly show up to lecture the kids about the police state, he wore his full battle dress SWAT-style uniform. The parents were uniformly impressed and happy to have the officer show off his german shepherd.

    For me the community outreach thing isn’t really a problem – but when they come dressed in combat fatigues it sends an entirely different signal to me. One that the largely lower/middle income group of parents present didn’t seem to share.

    So don’t count on any change in tactics any time soon.

  33. #33 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    What we know about Maine is strongly colored by the “Absurdly Prolific” career of Stephen King (thank you , A GIRL AND HER FED). If I was a cop in King’s maine, I would certainly want the whole G.I. Joe kit, and probably a vial of holy water and a wizard’s staff.

    That said, I agree with ZK that those masks look an awful lot like paintball masks. I think that ‘send SWAT to deliver all warrants’ business is absurd and dangerous, but I can think of lots of reasons for cops to be playing paintball as a team.

  34. #34 |  Phelps | 

    That’s how they are training? Really? Because I looked at that photo and thought, “mmmmm… enfilade.”

  35. #35 |  Rationality | 

    What is truly tragic is the massive time and money that are spent on these self-masturbatory fantasy hero sessions of once (actually less than once) in a career Deputy Dog/Navy SEAL raids when a fraction of that time and money could be used to screen, hire, and train competent “problem solvers” who had a default response to crisis other than “I feared for my life and was forced to shoot (the dog, granny, bystanders in the background)”. Funding these types of fantasies merely perpetuates and enforces the police culture of “Us v. Them” which results in many dead “Them” (meaning You).

  36. #36 |  Dave Krueger | 

    What I’d like to know is why is the picture in B&W?

  37. #37 |  Kris V | 

    That is horrifying.

  38. #38 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Storm Troopers. Or, for Half-Life fans, the Combine.

    All hide their faces for the same reason.

  39. #39 |  MH | 

    “This might be a stupid question, but is it safe to run nicely lined up like that thru an open field in a tactical situation?”

    The “tactical situation” just means they will be sneaking up on some petty drug dealer’s house — or the innocent person they’ve confused him with — in a residential neighborhood. There are no snipers or landmines worry about.

  40. #40 |  Phil in Parker | 

    I had a long discussion with a cop the other day about SWAT forced entries. The amount of “What if’s” needed to justify these tactics make the Anti-GMO people seem absolutely reasonable.

    My mind boggled at the answers to “Why don’t you just wait him out”.

  41. #41 |  marie | 

    I’d have liked to hear that conversation, Phil. My blood boils just thinking about what his answers might have been. Let me guess…safety for the cops?

  42. #42 |  Thomas | 

    I remember seeing a movie about Sgt. York and in the movie there were a bunch of german soldiers attacking him all in a row like that. What he did to them is the proper response.

  43. #43 |  Phil in Parker | 

    Actually, Officer Safety(TM) was never mentioned, but there are a lot of talk about the safety of other people in the house. A lot of “But, these are really Bad Dudes”, along the lines of Mexican drug cartel bosses.

    The retort for waiting it out was “what’s going to happen if he shootings someone while we’re outside waiting–AND IT DOES HAPPEN!” When?, I asked”. “IT DOES HAPPEN!”. I guess we don’t read the same newspapers.

    Anyway, the attititude is if you have a warrant, there is a remote chance are connected to the Medellín Cartels, and deserve whatever you get. It’s your fault, after all. I guess warrants don’t lie.

    I have take a shower now.

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