The Militarization of America's Police

“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.” ~ James Madison

“When once a standing army is established, in any country, the people lose their liberty.” ~ George Mason

Our founding fathers greatly feared a standing army, as any serious student of history will agree. But I don’t think the founders ever considered the possibility that the constabulary would assume the role that formerly had been filled by the military, and in so doing become the oppressive monster they feared.

Since about 1991, when Congress authorized the US armed forces to provide surplus gear to civilian police forces, we have watched the steady militarization of our police – at every level. Every little po-dunk town in America now has SWAT teams, real assault rifles (not the semi-automatic variety found in the civilian gun community), heavy caliber sniper rifles, armored personnel carriers, night vision, FLIR, etc. These tools in and of themselves aren’t the threat. It’s the mentality of the police bureaucracy that controls these weapons that constitutes the threat to liberty. Simply put, when you have a large hammer – every problem takes the shape of a nail.

Now let me back up at this point and explain the change in view that I have personally undergone to reach the point where I am now at. I grew up believing that the police have a terrible and thankless job and that the citizenry should support them 100%. My political roots are that of your garden-variety law and order republican. I have always been in favor of being tough on crime and I voted for public officials that espoused that view. Now make no mistake…I still believe that crime needs a tough response from the public. But in recent years I have watched our courts descend into utter chaos and injustice largely due to political polarization.

You’ve got tough, take-no-nonsense judges benched right alongside bleeding-heart liberal judges, and their disparate rulings smack of pure nonsense. And this has led to a loss of faith by many Americans that they can get a fair deal in a courtroom. And there’s the ever present trampling of any sense of constitutionality at every level, again leading the citizenry to feel that the fickle whims of the judge are what matters, not an objective legal standard that gives equal protection under the law. So at the same time there is a lessening of control over the police departments by the legal system, there is an increased investiture of power via weaponry and a general broadening of enforcement scope for those same departments.

Think I’m nuts?

Start regularly reading The War on Guns Blog. David Codrea is trying to counter a fallacious point that is common among the gun-control advocacy that only police are adequately trained with firearms, and that only the uniformed officer is to be trusted with that power of life and death. Every post on David’s blog that contains the phrase “Only Ones” in the title is an incident of police misbehavior somewhere around the country. And there is a LOT of them! Furthermore, there are many many cases of officers being slapped on the wrist for something you and I would be held to a higher standard; the exact inverse of how it OUGHT to be. And this is exactly the point I am trying to drive home: Justice can only be just if it is applied equally. But all too many times the police are held to a LOWER standard of justice than the citizenry, which in turn leads to a loss of faith in “the system” in general.

Now let’s change tac for a moment. Over the years the corrupt political class, which never misses an opportunity to claim it has solutions to all our problems (usually problems that same political class caused) has rolled out the War on Terror, the War on Crime, and the War on Drugs; and they’ve gotten the support by and large of the law and order types of folks (like I once was). The War on Drugs is a prime example where police exuberance to catch even the small time drug dealer has led to mistakes that cost innocent people’s lives. And VERY rarely (if at all) is anyone within the police bureaucracy ever held accountable. But is a small baggie of pot, worth someone’s life? Again…if you aren’t looking at something like The War on Guns, you won’t know the pervasiveness of the problem, because the regular media actively suppresses stories of police misbehavior.

The War on Terror gave us the unconstitutional abomination known as The Patriot Act, a grossly misnamed piece of legislation if ever there was one. I foolishly supported that thing once upon a time, mainly because I felt the threat of Islam made it necessary. Now I realize that, while Islam is indeed a terrible threat to this nation, the bigger threat is the political class which is daily stealing our liberty bit by bit thru unconstitutional legislation. If the government can throw the 4th amendment out the window by claiming they’re chasing a terrorist, then all they have to do is redefine what a terrorist is, and they can chase anybody they want. So I am being totally honest when I say that I fear Barack Hussein Obama more than I fear Osama bin Ladin. It appears that they both want to enslave me, and/or steal my entire way of life…but Obama is far more likely to succeed in that quest.

Okay back to how this relates to the police. For eight years I ran the cash collections operation for the concessionaire at an NFL stadium. In that role I used local police officers for security and cash escort duty. During that time I got to know lots of officers personally and I made many friends among them. Like any human organization I found that they were mostly good men with an occasional scumbag thrown into the mix. I met officers who genuinely saw themselves as servants of the community, and I met officers who were pure thugs who were operating under the color of law. In fact, I can think of one police lieutenant I met who was so bad that if he were chasing me today, I would do my best to shoot him dead rather then fall into his evil clutches.

But there was one overriding quality that ALL those men had. I am referring to the attitude that all cops have of dividing the whole world into cops versus non-cops. Without exception they all have the view that it’s cops against the world. I never met a cop that didn’t have that view, and over the years I probably met hundreds of them. Even the best cop will defend another cop against non-cops. It’s a code that they have, and nothing is going to change it. So three cops pull you over, and one cop decides you are belligerent and need an “attitude adjustment”. Those other cops aren’t likely to come to your rescue no matter how unjust it is. And with the justice system in such chaos, you can’t expect help from that quarter either!

Now tie it all together:

- rotten judges
- unequal application of law
- jury manipulation or "Voir Dire" (see Vin Suprynowicz’s book Send in the Waco Killers for an excellent explanation)
- total disregard for the constitution displayed by all branches of government
- the mindless knee-jerk support of the police by a cowed and ignorant citizenry
- the code of the cops and the tendency to see EVERYONE else as a criminal
- the empowerment of cops derived from the hugely expanded scope of enforcement brought on by “emergency” situations
- the large “hammer” that has been placed in their hands thanks to Congress

What you have is a veritable perfect storm of threats lining up to smash our blood-bought liberty on the rocks and shoals of tyranny!

Now let me toss out some personal anecdotes that will further clarify my views on law enforcement these days.

About 18 years ago there was a local man whose wife and five year-old son had left him and moved into the home of a local cop. The man, accompanied by a friend, went to the cop’s house and knocked on the front door. In his own testimony the cop indicated that he literally opened the front door shooting. The estranged husband was in front so he was hit first. He fell facedown into the flowerbed by the front door, and the cop admitted standing over him and shooting him multiple times in the back at point blank range. Then he turned the gun on the friend who had accompanied the husband, who was now running for his life. That poor slob made it to the truck and started to back out even as the cop poured gunfire thru the driver’s side door, even going so far as to re-load his pistol and chase the retreating vehicle down the street - firing all the way. The “friend” crashed into a telephone pole a short distance down the street, his body riddled with bullets. Both men died. Neither man was armed. The state’s attorney ruled the shooting was justified.

About 10 years ago my then 15 year-old son, and a friend of his, were stopped by a cop as they were walking alongside the road. The officer said they were accused by another teen of beating him and stealing his watch. The boys were arrested, put in the back of the cruiser and taken to the accuser’s house, where he positively identified the boys as his attackers – while they were seated in the back seat of the squad car, and the”victim” stood on his doorstep a distance of some 50 yards away! Never mind that the accuser said his attackers were both black, and my son is obviously a mix of white and oriental! Never mind that the bike the attackers were riding was described as silver, and the bike my son and his buddy had was dark blue. Oh …and did I mention we later discovered the teenaged accuser was himself a troubled youth with personality disorders?

That begin a three-day stint in jail for those boys, and a courtroom appearance complete with orange uniforms and leg shackles! It also began nine months of probation with constant unannounced visits by a juvenile probation officer who continually urged the boys to admit their guilt. Many thousands of dollars in legal fees later I was able to get the charges dropped and their records supposedly expunged. But eight years later my son tried to get his insurance license from the state, and he was rebuffed because of his “criminal record”. Several more thousand dollars was required to resolve that.

Here’s another incident I’ve blogged about in the past that further describes police misbehavior as it relates to me and my family. There’s nothing like opening the front door and finding a black-clad SWAT team in attack mode on your front doorstep!

And finally there is what’s currently happening to my youngest son who is 19 years old. He was caught with an open bottle of beer. His punishment consists of:

- $300 fine
- 6 months of “pre trial intervention” that looks and acts exactly like probation
- Monthly trips (2 hours away) to the county where the “offense” occurred
- Supervisory costs of $50 per month for the six months (another $300!!!)
- 50 hours of community service
- Mandatory completion of a drug and alcohol awareness class

And as if all this was not enough, the county decided to contact the university where he attends (with a 4.0 GPA in a nursing program) and inform them of his “offense”. That had the effect of putting his scholarship at risk as the bureaucrats there just went bonkers over the whole affair! All this over an open bottle of beer. Words cannot express the rage I feel over this crap.

Yes, there is indeed a standing “army” in this country that does the bidding of the political class in a sort of parasitic or symbiotic way. And yet the sheep, in their slack-jawed willingness to trade liberty for security, are ever-clamoring for additional police on the streets. And the politicians make ample use of the excuse that any hint of budget cutbacks will scale back essential services like fire and police. And thus are the budgets preserved and even grown at the mere threat of a reduction in police forces. The thoroughly cowed public has been groomed from birth to outsource all the major life decisions in deference to the overarching Nanny State…and most especially the right of self defense.

We've reached a point in our society where we applaud heavily armed, masked men, who kick down doors at night while conducting warrant-less raids where many times the results are innocent people getting killed!

Is this the America we want for ourselves and our children?


Western Mass. Man said...

Damn well put GR4US.
After reading this post, I guess I will need to drill this point into my kids heads, especially my son.

The Other Mike S. said...

I took so much grief when Bush passed the Patriot act. I screamed and yelled, quoted Franklin, ("Those who would trade liberty....") and how it wouldn't always be the guy you like in power.

Politicians understand that people have a 2-second attention span. "We can pass this one little law, no big deal." But it is a big deal.

Because there's been no push-back, we're reaping what we've sowed.

I have a brother who's a LEO. He is truly one of the good guys. Still, you hit the nail on the head about them all giving a fellow cop the benefit of the doubt.

You've no doubt heard about the BART cop who shot the kid on the train platform. Shortly after it happened, we were talking about it.

He was very adamant that we shouldn't rush to judgment, and the cop should be given the benefit of the doubt.

I went off on him. I asked him what would have happened to a citizen with a CCW permit that was making a citizen's arrest had done the same thing. I said we all know that he would be immediately arrested, the video we all saw would be used as Item One for why normal people can't be trusted with guns, and that the citizen would be put in prison for a long, long time.

There was nothing he could say because he knew I was right.

Oh, and you left out on of the biggest reasons for the "guilty until proven innocent" laws - asset seizures. Many departments actually have a budget line for annual seizure funds. It's disgusting.

GunRights4US said...

Thanks Western. I 'preciate it.

Mike you're correct. I did leave off the whole shakedown for revenue thing. Duh. What came over me?

I guess I was just focused more on the infringement of liberties, as opposed to the infringement on the fruit of our labors.

Rio Arriba said...

Good essay. Too bad more folks won't read it.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that there is no government so vile that it can't find thugs to do its dirty work. No matter how fine and noble the national traditions may be, they are there. Maynot 'waiting' exactly, but certainly 'available when needed.'

Unfortunately there is a cadre of them already in the ranks of our police forces. I know police have a tough job, and I know that 'most' of them are Good Guys, but whenever I see a picture of one of those Swatsters, all in black, masked, no skin showing anywhere, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves, and SMG presented at the ready, I think— There's one.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.
This transformation of our former "Peace Officers" into Law Enforcement Officers is very troubling to me. I too once whole heartedly supported the police, but with all of their abuses coming to light I fear that they are our personal liberty's greatest threat.
Keep spreading the word, because it IS being heard.


GunRights4US said...

Thank you all for the good words

Anonymous said...

" Loss of right to possess firearms", Has your son been convicted of a violent felony? Sure didn't sound like it.

GunRights4US said...

Anon... you no longer have to have any sort of conviction to lose your gun rights. My son showed me the paperwork he was required to sign and it was VERY specific about his not being allowed to possess a firearm until his "pretrial intervention" was complete.

In case you aren't aware, you automatically lose your gun rights whenever any sort of restraining order is issed against you too. Of course that's not relevant to Josh's crime, but it is another case of loss of rights even there's been no conviction.