To Protect and Serve the People, or the Government?
Over the last several days, the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, has been ground zero in racial strife, bringing back bad memories of bygone eras and places like Watts, Detroit and Newark. After the fatal shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in what Barack Obama called “heartbreaking and tragic circumstances,” the streets in the region have turned violent with rampant arson and looting, including reports of Molotov cocktails being thrown at police.
Yet while the scenes of devastation to businesses are troubling, just as disturbing are the images of police officers in military garb using tactics and equipment more suited to Fallujah than Ferguson. While much of the racial strife of the 1960s (as well as the 1992 Los Angeles riots) took place with the backdrop of war, historically military involvement only occurred when National Guard troops were called in to restore order. But now the local police have armaments and firepower exactly like that which the National Guard possesses, a fact not lost on either local citizens or outside observers.
In terms of equipment and tactics, the merger of police and military began in earnest during the War on Drugs in the late 1980s, with Section 1208 in the 1990 National Defense Authorization Act formally allowing the transfer of “personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is … suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and … excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” With military efforts winding down in Afghanistan and done-but-not-done in Iraq, there is plenty of surplus equipment such as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to give to local police departments — to better present an intimidating image. So far, $4.3 billion in equipment has been transferred.
This tactic of intimidation provoked a strong reaction from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who wrote in a TIME op-ed, “Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.”
So a situation that was already tense thanks to the imbalance between the racial composition of the city and its police department, as well as reportedly unfair enforcement, was made worse when police responded so militaristically. Yet while Obama appealed for calm and “an open and transparent process to see that justice is done,” he didn’t mention the militarization of the police. However, Attorney General Eric Holder did, saying he is “deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message.”
On that front, Missouri Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon has moved to place the Missouri State Highway Patrol in charge of security around the Ferguson area to replace the St. Louis County personnel who have handled the crisis since its inception. Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, a black native of Ferguson, is now in charge. It seems to be a good-faith effort to de-escalate the situation given the willingness of local officers to use tear gas and even rubber bullets.
But some in the race-baiting crowd don’t think this goes far enough. Witness the call by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a frequent exploiter of racial strife, for Barack Obama to “declare martial law” and “federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest.” Instead of local police bearing repurposed military equipment to maintain order, Lewis wants the National Guard to stand against police. Yeah, that’ll fix it.
Strangely enough, one of the cooler heads here is that of Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) — who once worried that Guam could “tip over and, uh, capsize” from the redeployment of 5,000 Marines from Okinawa. Johnson is working on a bill to limit the types of equipment being supplied to local jurisdictions as well as placing states in charge of tracking the items.
Yet even if that bill is passed, there’s still the matter of the equipment already in the hands of local law enforcement and the tendency to appear “tough on crime” beyond the dictates of the situation. Such a posture is often explained by citing the rampant drug problem or the continuing homeland security threat, yet neither is the case in Ferguson.
We may never know exactly what happened between the Ferguson police officer and Michael Brown, as reports seem to vary depending on the witness. It’s been a tragedy that has affected far more than the family of the deceased, though, as businesses have been looted and vandalized, affecting workers and customers alike.
Our fear is that America as a police state has been on display in Ferguson, and that doesn’t ring of Liberty. Local police departments across the nation are being offered this sort of military equipment free for the asking — all while they sometimes stand in opposition when average citizens exert their Second Amendment right to bear arms as a check against government encroachment.
Government at all levels would do well to remember that the solemn obligation of law enforcement is to serve and protect We the People, not the state
Columnist Michelle Malkin: “Are there bad cops? Yes. Does the police state go overboard sometimes? Yes. Do the demagogues decrying systemic racism and braying about ‘assassinations’ know what happened when teenager Mike Brown was tragically shot and killed last week? No. Here’s a reality check. While narcissistic liberal journalists and college kids are all posting ‘Hands Up’ selfies in hipster solidarity with Ferguson protesters, it’s law enforcement officers who risk their lives in ‘war zones’ every day across the country. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) reports that a total of 1,501 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 58 hours or 150 per year. … Just this week, NLEOMF released preliminary fatality statistics from August 2013 to August 2014. Total fatalities are up 14 percent, from 63 last year to 72 this year. … Al Sharpton, concocter of hate-crimes hoaxes and inciter of violent riots against police, had no comment.”
Patriot Post – Digest For Friday
My Opinion: Used to be your local cop was someone you looked up to, went to when there was trouble because you just knew he would help, and wanted to be like when you grew up. Now-a-days nobody wants anything to do with the Police even when things aren’t going well. They will come out and arrest you for defending your home against robbers & thieves breaking in. Everybody is suspect and guilty until proven innocent. They will read you your rights then treat you like you have none.
And when did the Cops become more militarized than the Military? And when did we Americans become the enemy?