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The Militarization of Policing in America

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, americans, children, corruption, crime, culture, death, dishonesty, ethics, family, freedoms, government, law, media, police, politics, society )

- 1677 days ago -
American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war.

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Kit B (276)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 3:53 pm
Image Credit: ACLU

American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war. Federal funding in the billions of dollars has allowed state and local police departments to gain access to weapons and tactics created for overseas combat theaters Ė and yet very little is known about exactly how many police departments have military weapons and training, how militarized the police have become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend. Itís time to understand the true scope of the militarization of policing in America and the impact it is having in our neighborhoods. Since March 6th, ACLU affiliates in 25 states filed over 260 public records requests with law enforcement agencies and National Guard offices to determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments. Stay tuned as this project develops.

Check out this map of the law enforcement agencies with which ACLU Affiliates have filed public records requests.

Consider these ten chilling stories. If the anecdotal evidence is any indication, use of military machinery such as tanks and grenades, as well as counter-terrorism tactics, encourage overly aggressive policing Ė too often with devastating consequences:

1) 7-year-old girl accidentally shot by SWAT team

Confused after throwing a deafening and blinding "flashbang" into a home, police mistakenly shot and killed a sleeping seven-year-old girl. Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was sleeping on the couch next to her grandmother in their Detroit, Michigan home when a SWAT team threw a flashbang through the window, which landed on her blanket. Seconds after Aiyana's blanket caught fire, the SWAT team stormed through the door, and mistakenly shot Aiyana through the neck, killing her. Flashbangs, developed for wartime raids, have caused severe burns, set homes on fire, induced fatal heart attacks, and confused police officers into thinking they are under gunfire.

2) "The Peacemaker" armored personnel carrier

A county sheriff's department in South Carolina has an armored personnel carrier they dubbed "The Peacemaker," which can shoot weapons that the U.S. military specifically refrains from using on people. Complete with a belt-fed .50-caliber turreted machine gun, the Richland County Sheriff's Department's "Peacemaker" is equipped with the type of heavy-duty artillery that even the U.S. military is reluctant to use against human targets (it is generally reserved for armored vehicles). Despite the fact that many of the crimes in Richland County relate to drug use or gambling, Sheriff Leon Lott insists that the "Peacemaker" will save lives.

3) Tanks as toys?

Police in New Hampshire received federal funds for a counter-attack vehicle, lying to the Department of Homeland Security about the need for terrorism-prevention tools and asking "what red-blooded American cop isn't going to be excited about getting a toy like this?" Police in Keene, New Hampshire, received a fully funded BearCat, an armored counter-attack vehicle, in 2012. To explain why the police included the word "terrorism" on their application for federal funding for this purchase, a city councilmember said, "Our application talked about the danger of domestic terrorism, but that's just something you put in the grant application to get the money. What red-blooded American cop isn't going to be excited about getting a toy like this? Thatís what it comes down to."

4) SWAT teams at Wal-Mart

Two SWAT Teams shut down a neighborhood in Colorado for four hours to search for a man suspected of stealing a bicycle and merchandise from Wal-Mart. Two SWAT teams were deployed and an entire neighborhood in Ft. Collins, Colorado was shut down for four hours to search for a man suspected of stealing a bicycle and a grocery cart full of merchandise from Wal-Mart.

5) "Shock cuffs"

A company in Arizona submitted a patent for "shock cuffs," which can be used by cops to remotely administer a Taser-like shock to detainees. In late 2012, Scottsdale Inventions moved to patent metal handcuffs capable of delivering "high-voltage, low amperage shocks to disrupt a person's voluntary nervous system," Ė much like the Tasers already routinely used by police nationwide. These "shock cuffs" come in a variety of models, some capable of injecting medications, sedatives or any number of liquid or gas substances into the detainee's bloodstream.

6) Predator drones seeking lost cows

Police in North Dakota borrowed a $154 million MQ-9 Predator B drone from the Department of Homeland Security to arrest a family of anti-government separatists who refused to return six cows that wandered onto their farm. After a standoff over the refusal to return the cows, local authorities called DHS and asked them to deploy a multi-million dollar drone to surveil the farmerís property. This incident was the first time a drone owned by the U.S. government was used against civilians for local police work.

7) Full SWAT gear in Arkansas

Police in Arkansas announced that they planned to patrol the streets wearing full SWAT gear, carrying AR-15 assault rifles, and threatening to stop anyone they wanted to, for any reason or no reason at all. The Police Chief in Paragould, Arkansas commented that he expected most people stopped would be innocent of any crime, but claimed it was the civilianís responsibility to "prove" innocence. Police in Paragould eventually pulled back the plan under pressure from the public.

8) Weaponized drones

Drone manufacturers may offer police remote controlled drones with weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas. Congress has required the Federal Aviation Administration to loosen their regulations on drones and allow more drones in domestic airspace by 2015. As the Department of Homeland Security makes more funds available over the next few years, we will likely see increasing numbers of state and local police departments acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles. In addition to concerns about the lack of sufficient rules protecting people from privacy violations, the potential for armed drones presents serious concerns regarding the excessive use of force by police officers in conducting law enforcement activities like searches and arrests.

9) Iraq War veteran shot by SWAT team during a raid

An Arizona SWAT team defended shooting an Iraq War veteran 60 times during a drug raid, even after retracting its claim that the veteran shot first. The SWAT team was trying to serve a narcotics search warrant as part of a multi-house drug crackdown, although it declines to say whether it found any drugs in the veteranís house.

10) "Counter-terror" measures in NYC

The New York City Police Department deployed "counter-terror" measures against Occupy Movement protesters. The surprise nighttime invasion of the protesters' encampment in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park was carried out by officers deploying klieg lights and a military-style sound machine, with officers in full riot gear.

ACLU Launches Nationwide Investigation into Police Use of Military Technology & Tactics

Militarization of Local Law Enforcement Erodes Civil Liberties, Encourages Overly Aggressive Policing

March 6, 2013

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK Ė American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 23 states today simultaneously filed more than 255 public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

"Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color," said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the ACLU's Center for Justice. "We've seen examples of this in several localities, but we don't know the dimensions of the problem."

The affiliates filed public records requests with local law enforcement agencies seeking information on the use of:

Special Weapons and Tactics teams, including:

Number and purpose of deployments
Types of weapons used during deployments
Injuries sustained by civilians during deployments
Training materials
Funding sources.

Cutting edge weapons and technologies, including:

GPS tracking devices
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or "drones"
Augmented detainee restraint, or "shock-cuffs"
Military weaponry, equipment, and vehicles obtained from or funded by federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and/or Homeland Security.

Affiliates filed a second request with state National Guards seeking information regarding:

Cooperative agreements between local police departments and the National Guard counter-drug program.
Incidents of National Guard contact with civilians.

"The American people deserve to know how much our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing," said Allie Bohm, ACLU advocacy and policy strategist. "The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans' right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections."

The affiliates which filed public records requests are: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Once the information has been collected and analyzed, if needed, the ACLU will use the results to recommend changes in law and policy governing the use of military tactics and technology in local law enforcement.

More information can be found here:

ACLU ---

JL A (281)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 3:54 pm
and this doesn't yet include San Diego's intended spending for facial recognition devices...we need a Congress that will start governing and restrain these excesses from being permitted uses of federal funds.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 3:58 pm

Each of the ten anecdotal situations listed above happened in 2013. You need to decide if this is the way American citizens should be treated, think again about NSA collecting information about who you call, what sites you visit on the Internet, and how much that Internet access will be limited by TPP. We have not before face so many limitations on liberty, this will not change with the name or party of a president. This can only change if you are ready to resist.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 5:37 pm
Thank you for this Kit-I hope the ACLU's action will be more successful than a/that petition to Holder. I was irritated about that comment by Sara V. on Beverly's petition post, that's why I didn't comment there.
Hope it is not too late as your Police state is in full swing already.

fly bird (26)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 6:13 pm
Can't send stars to anyone. Thank you for the report and appreciate the comments.
It's getting very ugly, and it has to stop. We have to take a stand on this.

Fiona Ogilvie (565)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 6:57 pm
This could and no doubt will get scary.

TomCat S (128)
Tuesday November 19, 2013, 10:23 pm
When enough anecdotes are actually verified and continue to fit a pattern they become a proof by inductive logic. For that reason, every police department needs to come under the authority of a citizen review board with the teeth to terminate officers refer them for prosecution. That said, most cops are honest people doing their jobs. It's the bad apples that make this necessary.

Terrie Williams (798)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 3:58 am
Fascist Police State anyone? Hell yes it's scary and it's coming to a local police station near you.....soon, if not already.

Yet, there are citizens out there that think this is perfectly alright, fine, wonderful, fabulous, jim frikken nauseum. And we all know who they are.


cecily w (0)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 4:57 am
From another angle: We are paying for this stuff. When you try to "peel the onion"--layer-by-layer on financial statements, you hit a brick wall. (Sorry for the cliche.)

Deborah W (6)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 6:03 am
When good and evil clash ... and neither side will give it up ... all options are on the table. Having said that,

COMING SOON TO YOUR SPACE, RIOTING IN THE STREET. Whic side will "win" (of course the truth is there will be no win as long as we remain divided in purpose, ready?

Judy T (227)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 6:58 am
These are intimidation and control tactics in our fast deteriorating beautiful country. Sadly, we're rapidly becoming a fascist police state!

Past Member (0)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 10:33 am

Kit B (276)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 10:40 am


The one about is at:

Kit B (276)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 10:41 am

Beverly M - Petition:

Sheila D (194)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 12:09 pm
Sounds like alot of males out there need all these fancy arms to feel like me guys, won't help you. Idiots. Thanks Kit for the info...on way to sign ones I may have missed.

JL A (281)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 2:12 pm
When the National Guard was ordered to fire on peaceful students at Kent State and four were killed, it became a flashpoint in inappropriate responses to peaceful protest. Will there be a similar flashpoint this century to reverse the horrific trend of overkill responses from those responsible for public safety? It feels kind of like a return to the Biblical Levitican law that were replaced by Hamurabi law (eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth instead of killing for a face slap--a response or punishment disproportionate to the offense).

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 2:43 pm

Thanks Kit :)
This is a dangerous line to blur. Here's a related article I saw last July:

The story is all too common: Police show up far more heavily armed than expected. Because they are police and not military, their primary goal is not to kill or neutralize a target, but to avoid harming people beyond what is appropriate under the law, so they just kinda stand there pointing guns at people. Even worse, their tactics are taken from the military and does not fit their mission, so there always comes a point in any real scenario for which the police are not trained, have to improvise on the spot, and discover why their procedures are normally so well planned-out ahead of time. The suspects, criminal or innocent, get scared and start shooting, not even recognizing the people far more heavily armed than is expected of police officers as such. Police officers, and sometimes the suspect too, get hurt or killed.

On top of that, SWAT teams emulate "Special Forces" in their tactics and weapons, but there is a reason why "Special Forces" are "special". Such military branches are small by necessity because the vast majority of people just cannot be trained up to the level required to do the job, and in those cases where people can be trained, budget-constraints keep the proportion who actually are low. In total, there are far too many SWAT teams and members of them in the U.S. for it to be even conceivable that they could be properly trained to do the jobs that they do. Insufficient training and very deadly weapons make for a bad combination.

All that said, sometimes something beyond usual the police-capabilities is needed. There should be SWAT teams, not the merely over-armed police that there are today throughout the U.S. Such teams would necessarily be rare and take time to deploy, but if something beyond normal policing is needed responsively rather than for aggressive purposes, then perhaps those responding should not be police at all. I am thinking of things like the Mumbai attack, full-up militias, and inability to enforce law within territory (effective loss of sovereignty), the last of which, shockingly, does occur in the U.S.

. (0)
Wednesday November 20, 2013, 3:32 pm
Noted & posted

Deborah W (6)
Thursday November 21, 2013, 7:01 am
When good and evil clash ... and neither side will give it up ... all options are on the table. Having said that,

COMING SOON TO YOUR SPACE, RIOTING IN THE STREET. Which side will "win" (of course the truth is there will be no win as long as we remain divided in purpose, ready?

Deborah W (6)
Thursday November 21, 2013, 5:34 pm
When good and evil clash ... and neither side will give it up ... all options are on the table. Having said that,

COMING SOON TO YOUR SPACE, RIOTING IN THE STREET. Which side will "win" (of course the truth is there will be no win as long as we remain divided in purpose, ready?)
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