Friday, August 29, 2014
Blindness on the 'Militarization' of Policing
There have been widespread objections raised to the acquisition by local police forces, of 'surplus' military equipment. Here in NJ, the Bergen County sheriff has been harshly criticized for expressing the desire to take delivery of "two mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, which he said have saved officers’ lives in other states." Question: how are such vehicles "surplus"? Does the military no longer need such vehicles abroad? Do they not work for their intended purpose on the battlefield?
Elsewhere in the news, alarms have been raised about the danger to the United States of U.S. citizens (and other people who have the legal right to enter the U.S.) going abroad to areas controlled by ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations, where they are trained and motivated to create havoc within our borders upon return.
Why hasn't anyone in media put those two things together, to see that the Federal Government wants to see localities provided with appropriately mighty defensive equipment to empower them to cope with domestic terrorism?
Is it physical distance, ISIS (or ISIL) to the U.S. heartland, some 6,000 miles, that causes people not to put these two things together? Is it an unwillingness to think about unpleasant things? Or is it something as banal and dopy as abysmal stupidity?
Not every community in the United States is within quick reach of a military base. A quick search of the Internet astonishingly failed to reveal how many military bases in the Nation have been closed in recent decades. You'd think that "how many military bases in u.s. in 1960" and then a followup "... in 2014" would allow you to do a quick calculation to see how many bases have been closed, but the search for 1960 data (and similar searches) that I conducted in Google and Bing did not produce simple gross numbers, but only lists of bases that I was not about to slog thru. Suffice it to say that there must be HUNDREDS of bases that have closed since I was in high school (1958-1962), including major installations like Fort Monmouth, less than 10 miles from my home at the time. We spend a great deal more on the military now than then, and have more people in the armed forces, but fewer places from which military force might deploy quickly to any given place in the Nation.
Thus it is important that the (inadequate) replacement for the military in case of a terrorist emergency, local police, county sheriffs, state police, and each state's National Guard's hyperlocal depots, be equipped to deal with what everyone understands to be a powerful desire on the part of (mainly Radical Islamist organizations) to inflict mass death and disruption inside the United States. Now do you see why the 'militarization of policing' is NOT the 'threat to civil liberties and our way of life' that some paranoid people have characterized it as being?
In an age of individual terrorists trained abroad and not intercepted on their return to the United States, conventional military force is useless. But military EQUIPMENT in the hands of local authorities and first-responders well trained to use it prudently may well prove crucial.
I'm not naive, and have been subjected to police excess myself on a couple of occasions. But if the question is posed, whom do I trust more with my safety, Jhokar* Tsarnaev and his ilk, or the Newark Police Department, Essex County Sheriff, and New Jersey State Police, I have no hesitation in answering the latter, without equivocation.
* Typically, media have largely opted for the more absurd spelling "Dzhokar" over the less absurd spelling "Jhokar". Actually, "Jokar" should do. But this country rushes to embrace bad spellings. The more bizarre the spelling, the more the media like it.
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