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Columns : Editorial

When Did You Get Artillery?

The way the president, the press, and Congress are blustering about "militarization," you'd think the average police agency could hold its own against the North Korean army.

September 02, 2014  |  by - Also by this author

Pundits and political hacks have expended a lot of breath over the last dozen years or so talking about how difficult it is to unite the left and right wings of the political spectrum and get them to agree on a single topic. But actually it's not that hard. All you have to do is show them a picture of a lone police officer in tactical green sitting atop an armored vehicle watching over a demonstrating crowd with a scoped "assault rifle" and both conservatives and progressives will go bat crap crazy ranting about the "militarization of police."

I'm not sure what constitutes the so-called militarization of police, and I don't think your critics are either. They point to the fact that you receive surplus from the Department of Defense; they complain about your tactical uniforms and external body armor; they rail about your rifles; and they absolutely detest your "tanks." But I have yet to hear anyone explain cogently what is meant by "militarization of police." I guess it means you shouldn't have any weapons other than nightsticks and revolvers.

One thing is for sure: American law enforcement doesn't wield enough military assets to make a good showing on a combined arms battlefield. You have no artillery, you have no close air support, and your "tanks"—otherwise known as armored rescue vehicles—have no offensive capabilities.

Yet one of the most oft-repeated comments about the police response to the unrest last month in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., was about the officers' military demeanor and military weapons and gear. That's code for these guys had "rifles," wore helmets, and BDUs. And they had a "sniper" on top of the big, armored truck. Gasp.

I really feel for that "sniper." The media seems to think his job was to gun down peaceful protesters when of course his mission was counter-sniper: He was there to protect the officers and the crowd from a sniper or from an active shooter in the crowd. The media and the politicians should be singing the praises of that officer and his counterparts who stood watch on that truck for protecting the public, not decrying their intimidating military appearance.

I guess police critics would have preferred if these officers had just stood in the back of a pickup truck and smiled and waved at the protesters. Yes, that's what they would have preferred…unless some nut job had opened up on the crowd and killed dozens. If that had happened then the people condemning the militarization of law enforcement at the Ferguson protests would now be asking why the police didn't do more to protect the crowd. SNAFU, right?

Yeah, except the situation ain't so normal. While President Obama, Sen. McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and numerous TV talking heads are saying the Department of Defense should stop supplying you with surplus and the Department of Homeland Security should end its grant programs that allow you to buy things like night vision, tactical armor, and armored vehicles, the enemies of the law-abiding American public are becoming more sophisticated, more organized, and exponentially more brutal.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says most people are sheep. And sheep only have two speeds: graze and stampede. Right now much of the public and their leaders are stampeding because you have scary "machine guns" (known to the rest of us as semi-automatic rifles) and scary uniforms, and scary vehicles. And from the way they are gasping and fainting, you would think that every municipal and county law enforcement agency in America had started fielding howitzers and helicopter gunships.

The people yelling "militarization" are dangerous because they are so clueless. So if there is a solution to this problem, it's twofold. You have to be judicious in the upfront deployment of such gear because it isn't suited to every police operation and it does trigger cries of "militarization," and you have to educate your critics. Perhaps a good place for that education to start is with the story of an LAPD officer who was grievously wounded last month in a running gun battle. That officer was extracted from the kill zone by one of those evil "tanks."

Of course the critics will answer that places like Los Angeles and New York need tactical equipment like armored vehicles but Suburban/Smalltown USA doesn't. That's nonsense. Most school shootings occur in Suburban/Smalltown USA. So ask your critics, do they want well-equipped, well-trained, rifle-toting, "militarized" police units to respond to shootings at their kids' schools or do they want Officer Friendly with his nightstick and his revolver to do it? You can probably guess their answer.

Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

Doubting Thomas @ 9/2/2014 3:21 PM

You're an idiot, plain and simple. If you can't or rather don't want to distinguish between what is needed and what is being used, then you're an idiot. Riots, civil disturbances etc...are nothing new yet when you look at the real PD's i.e. NYPD, LAPD etc...that deal with these confrontations on a regular basis, they don't break out water canons etc...and they deal with these situations on a regular basis. The only image the dopes on the various PDs that respond to the shooting in MO left was cops afraid and out of control. It's interesting how the only PDs depending armored vehicles are small town Mayberry PDs with zero experience in handling these events while departments that have a real threat, are going the other way. Smalltown shootings are where this occurs? More proof you are an idiot. A large city cop sees more on one shift than these boneheads in MO see in an entire career. We just don't run scared and lose control of our streets.

Mark @ 9/2/2014 3:53 PM

The author of this article is the one who is clueless and he still has not explained cogently his position. There have been excellent cogent comments under these articles the past few weeks that sadly are better written than the articles themselves. Try looking there.

Dan Buckley @ 9/2/2014 7:42 PM

I don't understand why gear that brings the troops home safe is not good for police to use. It's already paid for by the taxpayers, and battle tested.
Maybe doubting Thomas and mark should go out and do the job for a few days and see what they want to use to survive.

TBOW426 @ 9/3/2014 10:22 AM

I'm just an old country cop that has been a K-9 handler for a long time. Been in coal country strikes/riots, shot, shot at, shot back, ran over and beat on. Because of K-9 I have had the opportunity to train/work with cops from big cities. LAPD, San Diego PD, Baltimore PD and ALL of them say I have seen more than they have. Most big city beat cops do not see dead bodies at a crash scene. The traffic unit works that. At a homicide scene the beat cop guards the door and waits for a detective. I work the scene along with a detective (if I get one)I see more guns in a shift then they see in a month. I see good people with guns on or in their vehicles that I think nothing about. The big city cops cannot understand that. LAPD K-9 handler told me they can put 20-30 units on a perimeter in short order. I don't have that many patrol officers in the Department so who takes more of a chance? I'll put my "war stories" up against any big city officer any time any where.

132&Bush @ 9/3/2014 8:13 PM

Speaking as civilian who has no LEO background but is retired military. I am on this site because I watch cop shows and read books and study cop stuff like I do military history. Therefore I think all this complaints about the "Militarization" is stupid.

First, almost all European countries police are federalized/militarized to a great extent. I think we would be better off from a cost and effectiveness standpoint if it was much more concentrated at the state if not the national level. But then I am a Federalist not a Stateist.

Second, "Militarization" is necessary because the threats cops face now require it. Do people forget North Hollywood already? It was only 1997. And think about the mass shootings. From Columbine to Conn. we have only faced up to two crazies. What a Mumbai situation where we have an organized group. That can happen anywhere.

Without "Militarization" you want to go back to pre1997. When cops had to go into a local gun store and commander an armored car.

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