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War Gear Flows to Police Departments
June 9, 2014 3:37 PM   Subscribe

In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war. A look at the redistribution of surplus tools of combat to state and local law enforcement. (SL NYT)
posted by porn in the woods (128 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read that article this morning.

And all I can think of is that saying, "To the man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."
posted by suelac at 3:44 PM on June 9 [16 favorites]


I get that this is worrying for all kinds of reasons, but there is a middle ground.

In Canada, the opposite debate is underway given recent events in Moncton. In a similar case with a heavily armed shooter in Alberta in 2005, RCMP officers had to go door to door asking neighbors to borrow long-guns and rifles capable of confronting a shooter with a rifle.
posted by cacofonie at 3:48 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I really wish I could gin up more outrage or sorrow, but this article seems to be one of those "NYT discovers thing that black/poor people have known since the 90's" articles (like their "discovery" of "hipster thing x" that comes around every so often). America is really violent towards a certain kind of person? Cops think they're military? Have you ever met a person who's been to prison?!

sorry, i'll get off my high horse of sorrow. goddammit, where's my whiskey...
posted by DGStieber at 3:49 PM on June 9 [20 favorites]


Silencers? Grenade launchers? What the fuck for?
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on June 9 [9 favorites]


To scare the shit out of brown and/or poor people, and make white guys feel powerful.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:51 PM on June 9 [13 favorites]


I got to sit in the Cougar variant of the MRAP not too long ago. It was impressive, even by military vehicle standards. It feels like something that belongs in Future Detroit. There is not a police force in this country that could possibly need one of those.
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:51 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


In other words, we sent our boys and girls over to fight terrorists, and ramped up our police to fight terrorists. Now our boys and girls are coming back and we expect to fight them as terrorists, too.

A police sergeant said this with a straight face, as if it were the most obvious and non-ironic thing in the world.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:52 PM on June 9 [20 favorites]


Hey, they're keeping the peace, and silencers don't wake up the neighbors when they're doing raids.
posted by planetesimal at 3:52 PM on June 9


Fear, fear, fear...please tell me I am not the only person in the world who isn't scared right out of her wits...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:53 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


Chris Cowan, a department spokesman, said the vehicle “allows the department to stay in step with the criminals who are arming themselves more heavily every day.”

Is there any reason to believe this is true overall? Obviously there are exceptional shootings, Columbine (the specter of which is brought up in the article), Aurora, and others. But is that enough to justify millions in ordnance?
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:54 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”
posted by infini at 3:56 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


On another note, the constant paranoia, the watchfulness, the jumping at every shadow... seems like a collective case of mass PTSD if you ask me.

and yes, I've had my case of acute ptsd with the hypervigilance, the insomnia et al so I do indeed know whereof I speak... but I got over it in six months. This is chronic innit. Its been more than ten years...
posted by infini at 3:58 PM on June 9


Of course, none of this will help against attacks by nutters like the ones in Las Vegas, who just walked into a restaurant and shot two cops while they were having lunch.

And I'm pretty sure the kids who committed the Columbine shootings were armed with perfectly ordinary weapons, not superhero-universe-bad-guy weapons, and unless you can get a mine-resistant vehicle into a building and up a lot of stairs, then that wouldn't have helped. And you can't just fire grenades into a school full of kids (unless they're in a war zone, of course, and designated enemy combatants). The guy who shot all those people in Isla Vista would not have been stopped by cops with mine-resistant vehicles or grenade launchers.
posted by rtha at 4:00 PM on June 9 [21 favorites]


In South Carolina, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s website features its SWAT team, dressed in black with guns drawn, flanking an armored vehicle that looks like a tank and has a mounted .50-caliber gun. Capt. Chris Cowan, a department spokesman, said the vehicle “allows the department to stay in step with the criminals who are arming themselves more heavily every day.” He said police officers had taken it to schools and community events, where it was a conversation starter.
It's a conversation starter. You know, like a good hot dish recipe or football or trivia. An MRAP is basically like reciting a few quotations from Thomas Jefferson, or knowing how to do a good bar trick. It's a fun fact with a hardpoint.
posted by boo_radley at 4:01 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]


Is there any reason to believe this is true overall? Obviously there are exceptional shootings...

There's lots of reasons to believe that normal folks are getting more dangerous. You get more money, more weapons, more power, more unchecked authority...oh wait, you mean is there a factual reason for civilians to believe this is the case? Then, uh, no. not really.
posted by DGStieber at 4:01 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


a possible attack by veterans returning from war.

*Military* veterans, of course. Not law enforcement veterans.

After all, if we can't trust our thin blue line with the same equipment and experience that apparently turns our faithful soldiers into terrorists, who can we trust?
posted by weston at 4:02 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


What ever happened to budgeting?
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:02 PM on June 9


What ever happened to budgeting?

Asset forfeiture, mostly.
posted by jedicus at 4:03 PM on June 9 [16 favorites]


Budgeting only applies to healthcare, education, and social assistance. You know, that pinko commie bullshit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:04 PM on June 9 [17 favorites]


In Canada, the opposite debate is underway given recent events in Moncton

I hadn't heard anything to suggest what happened in Moncton would have been prevented by cops with machine guns.
posted by Hoopo at 4:07 PM on June 9


In Canada, the opposite debate is underway given recent events in Moncton

Cite, please.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:07 PM on June 9


NYT comment:

Leaders with military minds are gamesmen, letting scenarios play out the same way a good chess player quickly anticipates and visualizes the consequences and risks of any move. This "preparing for something that may never happen" reads like a Freudian slip of an admission that at many levels of enforcement, powers that be recognize current policies from how we manage our resources, to wealth inequality, to the "preemptive" arming and enforcement strategies described in this article--that all these policies are ultimately unsustainable in our current culture.

I take this as something of a tacit, unconscious acknowledgement from these authorities that more uprisings akin to OWS are seen as inevitable. Sadly this militarization of our police only fuels sentiment that will fuel those movements (such as fear of a police state). Between this militarization and the broad electronic surveillance, it is as if the American populace as a whole has been kettled well in advance to prevent any significant challenge from collective self-determination on the part of the populace. I fear the harm that overarming our police, and what it does to their thinking, will do next time there is widespread protest challenging the status quo in this country.

posted by porn in the woods at 4:14 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]


A couple of years ago I went to a minor-league baseball game (this was back when my local team, the Barons, played in a sterile concrete monstrosity in the whiter-than-white suburbs instead of the cool new park downtown). During the seventh inning stretch some sort of law enforcement vehicle that looked to be all armored up and bristling with weapons rolled out into the field and out of the turret hatch popped a smiling comely lass with a tshirt cannon, which she proceeded to fire into the crowd, who greeted her with cheerful applause.

And I was like holy shit, I live in North Korea or something. They're conditioning me to become accustomed to the sight of anti-personnel vehicles.

And then I felt paranoid. For thinking that way.

But hey, they're cops. You know, the profession that has a MAXIMUM IQ cutoff. What could go wrong?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:15 PM on June 9 [70 favorites]


I don't know what's worse about this, that law enforcement is escalating to this level, or that the sheriff is probably right about the coming increase in violent acts committed by people with training they picked up via some connection to one of the wars.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:15 PM on June 9


> criminals who are arming themselves more heavily every day

Two criminals who armed themselves heavily on one day

Making policy based on extreme outliers?
posted by morganw at 4:24 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


The guy in Moncton was caught by a civilian surveillance plane, the same plane used for costal patrols for smugglers and oil spills. It was the same plane, and the same technology, in fact that was used to monitor the 2010 BP oil spill.
posted by bonehead at 4:27 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


so they get a mine-resistant vehicle. big deal. i doubt it can go fast enough to write speeding tickets on the highway. meanwhile, that veteran terrorist cell spends its time waiting for a VA doctor's appointment scoping out the relatively soft targets - ordinary cop cars.
posted by bruce at 4:28 PM on June 9


the sheriff is probably right about the coming increase in violent acts committed by people with training they picked up via some connection to one of the wars

Given that veterans who picked up training during the wars have been coming home for about ten years now, I wonder what they're all waiting for.
posted by billiebee at 4:30 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


If they have it they will want to find a reason to use it.

What really bugs me is that we're building all the infrastructure needed for a totalitarian police state, and the principle of "if they have it they will want to find a reason to use it" applies to politicians as well.
posted by sotonohito at 4:31 PM on June 9 [14 favorites]


I know there's a ton of sinister motives being ascribed to these acquisitions but I can't help but to think some of this can be put down to simple "hoarder mentality". "We can get all this cool gear for free???!!! Well, no, we don't need it right now but it could come in handy someday! Did I mention it was free?" some people will always take free stuff whether they need it or not.
posted by MikeMc at 4:32 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


See also Sheriff Arpaio and Steven Segal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:32 PM on June 9


“All of a sudden, we start relationships with people,” he said.

This is not a relationship that I'm interested in.
posted by arcticseal at 4:39 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


"We can get all this cool gear for free???!!! Well, no, we don't need it right now but it could come in handy someday! Did I mention it was free?" some people will always take free stuff whether they need it or not.

Agreed. My husband just pointed out the downstream costs: How do you get parts for these specialized vehicles? Do training on them? Who knows them well enough to keep them in repair? How do you insure them? What costs will be associated later on with these free shiny toys?
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:46 PM on June 9 [9 favorites]


the sheriff is probably right about the coming increase in violent acts committed by people with training they picked up via some connection to one of the wars

That was the underlying fantasy in the first Rambo movie, wasn't it?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:47 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


If they have it they will want to find a reason to use it

With regards to returning vets, this is a matter of opinion, not a fact. I'm not even American and I find this disrespectful. You can send people overseas to risk their lives and then when they come home they're the potential enemy? I must be missing something.
posted by billiebee at 4:52 PM on June 9 [9 favorites]


That was the underlying fantasy in the first Rambo movie, wasn't it?

unfortunately, 'Second Blood' about Juan Rambo coming home from Afghanistan to a society that doesn't care is going to be anticlimactic: "after brief stand-off SWAT team kills deranged vet."
posted by ennui.bz at 4:57 PM on June 9


With regards to returning vets, this is a matter of opinion, not a fact. I'm not even American and I find this disrespectful. You can send people overseas to risk their lives and then when they come home they're the potential enemy? I must be missing something.

O come on, that comment was obviously directed at the police with relation to the military vehicles and equipment.
posted by emptythought at 4:59 PM on June 9


It was also a paranoid fantasy about returning black soldiers using their training and smuggled weapons to join the Black Panthers, plus all of those movies about the returning Vietnam vets going psycho.

Other than maybe biker movies like the Wild Ones, was the returning violent vet a trope after WWII?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:00 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


billiebee: Given that veterans who picked up training during the wars have been coming home for about ten years now, I wonder what they're all waiting for.

They're looking for that one guy who doesn't support the troops.
posted by dr_dank at 5:01 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Tanks without tracks.
posted by buzzman at 5:03 PM on June 9


O come on, that comment was obviously directed at the police with relation to the military vehicles and equipment

Fair enough. It came right after my previous comment so I thought it was a reply, apologies sotonohito. (Don't shoot me...)
posted by billiebee at 5:10 PM on June 9


In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war. pick up chicks in.

FTFThem.

I mean seriously, mines? How often do they even take the squad car out into terrain which could be mined? Maybe they should harden I-70 against durandal anti-runway munitions instead - you can't be too safe!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:11 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


...
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Dwight Eisenhower, 1961
posted by islander at 5:13 PM on June 9 [31 favorites]


That said, I was evaced in my regional police's APC once, so it's kind of hard to be too mean about this - every so often crazy people do shoot at them.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:13 PM on June 9


Asset forfeiture, mostly.

See also why law enforcement opposes ending the drug war though they know better than anyone how completely fucked up it is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:17 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Not really that new of a phenomenon. In the 60's the hippie/commie/negro scare pumped a lot of money into local law enforcement to buy paramilitary hardware to combat the perceived threat. In Austin a student protest at the University of Texas Student Union gave the local fuzz a chance to try out their new toys. The APD pulled up in their imposing armored vehicle packed with a sexy SWAT team that boiled out to fight the enemies of democracy, god, country and apple pie. Their cunning plan had a small flaw however: tires. There is nothing less awe-inspiring than a pricey piece of hardware waddling and flapping up the street on four flat tires. Every APD vehicle that answered the call that day suffered the same fate. And that was my first lesson in asymmetrical warfare...
posted by jim in austin at 5:23 PM on June 9 [11 favorites]


I don't really think it has to do with veterans, which is why I didn't use the term. I was agreeing with the notion that incidences of extreme public violence will continue to occur more frequently. Where the people who carry out the next attack using body armor, semi-automatic weapons, and explosives learned how to use those things doesn't really matter when you can learn it online or from a class taught by the local survivalist at the firing range. There is a tension between the occasional necessity for these types of machines in large cities, the fact that they're free (in terms of acquisition cost, when gotten through the right program, at least), and the idea that having the police geared up like the Army in such a way is frighteningly anti-democratic.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:32 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


That was the underlying fantasy in the first Rambo movie, wasn't it?

And of what seemed like every single cop TV show for a number of years. It was really tiresome. The Rambo movie was especially galling, since it starred a draft-dodger who spent the war years at a girls' school in Europe. Made him a lot of money, while painting Vietnam vets as unstable violent misfits.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:33 PM on June 9


I am convinced that this is detrimental to good and effective law enforcement and maybe not in the obvious way. Every study I've seen shows that the way you do effective policing is to get out of patrol cars, interact with, and get to know the public. That's not some random punk, that's Tyler who has a messed up home life and maybe you can gently convince him to go home and get some sleep so he can be awake in school tomorrow. That's not some random pawn shop owner, that's Sam who knows everything that goes down on his street. Rolling around in armor pretending to be GI Joe without having to actually enlist is the exact opposite of that. Plus, these beasts are going to be giant money sinks as soon as they need service. Money for that means less money for training, for community outreach, and all the rest.

Everybody wants to be pretend military these days. Police want to wear combat gear and drive armored vehicles. Good old boys like to dress up in fatigues and form pseudo-militias. I happen to live near a government facility. When I was a kid their security personnel wore gloss black shoes, blue pants, pressed white shirts, a cap, and honest-to-God white gloves. These days they wear desert camouflage fatigues, combat boots, and utility belts.

Sometimes I want to tell all of society to calm the fuck down, you know?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:40 PM on June 9 [60 favorites]


Sometimes I want to tell all of society to calm the fuck down, you know?
posted by LastOfHisKind


Is there a "so darkly apropos it makes me want to weep" version of "eponysterical"?
posted by Tknophobia at 5:50 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Has there been an epidemic of vets returning Stateside with landmine-in-pocket?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:52 PM on June 9


sotonohito: If they have it they will want to find a reason to use it.

"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off." -Anton Chekhov
posted by wenestvedt at 5:54 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


So now we have the Chekhov's MRAP trope?
posted by localroger at 5:55 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I am convinced that this is detrimental to good and effective law enforcement and maybe not in the obvious way. Every study I've seen shows that the way you do effective policing is to get out of patrol cars, interact with, and get to know the public.

Which, come to think of it, is very well-supported by another FPP four down from this one on the home page.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:15 PM on June 9


My favorite observation from the comments: "Protect and serve" has now become "search and destroy."
posted by monospace at 6:16 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Harumph now, but it'll be another story when the chickens come home to roost.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:31 PM on June 9


You have twenty seconds to comply.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:35 PM on June 9 [12 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder why many people are ambivalent towards, or even support this kind of transformation of law enforcement when other public safety figures (firefighters, say) are struggling for funding and making do with fewer personnel, considerably lower wages than LEO, and badly outdated equipment. I don't see the offers of so much free equipment and training with my pressed blue shirt, but I suppose I am slightly biased.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 6:35 PM on June 9


Sometimes I wonder why many people are ambivalent towards, or even support this kind of transformation of law enforcement...

Um, because their local media are feeding them a constant diet of THEY'RE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD COMING FOR YOU NEXT!!!!!

Also...and it's been said so often as to become trite, but...9/11 changed everything. Americans got a big scare and now they eagerly worship the holy First Responders™ Especially the ones with guns.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


every dollar wasted on these gadgets is a dollar that could pay police officers and attract top talent to the profession.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:46 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


At the risk of being sententious, the terrorists won. We're a country of plutocrats, angry lunatics, and disenfranchised citizens appalled by the changes but powerless to do anything. Every day, on an institutional level, we as a country misallocate resources to soothe the relentless fear and insecurity, taking food out of people's mouths and money from pockets, taking futures of decent work and dignified lives away. The neoliberals won the class war and every day they tighten the vice a little more. This is what decline looks like. And all it took was fear.
posted by clockzero at 6:46 PM on June 9 [16 favorites]


I think law enforcement has a more direct pipeline to goodies and political attention through the DHS than Fire does.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:46 PM on June 9


As long as we don't limit access to semi automatic weapons.
posted by notreally at 7:05 PM on June 9


And all it took was fear.

Which is why there is a small corner of my brain that thinks maybe the "9/11 truthers" are maybe on to something.
posted by maxwelton at 7:08 PM on June 9


Show up at my kids school with an MRAP and I will probably be the one initiating the conversation.
posted by Big_B at 7:10 PM on June 9


In other words, we sent our boys and girls over to fight terrorists, and ramped up our police to fight terrorists. Now our boys and girls are coming back and we expect to fight them as terrorists, too.

I said in 2003 or so that we don't want to have an army that could win the kind of war we were fighting in Iraq. Everything they learned to do over there is going to be brought home.
posted by empath at 7:14 PM on June 9


every dollar wasted on these gadgets is a dollar that could

...feed a child
...heal a sick person
...provide job training
...build a school
...provide daycare
...rehabilitate a released convict
...buy a book for a library
...build public transit
...go to scientific research

...shall I go on?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:18 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]


The neoliberals won the class war and every day they tighten the vice a little more.

Is "neoliberal" doomed to become this generation's "fascist", where it just means an authority figure one is criticizing from the left regardless of their actual ideological position? I think cops in MRAPs and SWAT teams using special forces doctrine is really more of a neoconservative project; neoliberalism's contribution to fucking up police work is more along the lines of Broken Window theory and CompStat.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:18 PM on June 9


We go to a lot of "touch a truck" types of events where various community businesses and services bring out their big special trucks (fire trucks, electric company cherry pickers, ambulances, etc.) for small children to inspect and we went to one last year where we learned the local cops had a chemical/biological attack decon truck that allows them to shower 12 people at a time to get chemical or biological agents off them, and it was super-cool and my preschoolers loved it, but I was perplexed and I asked the cop who was manning the station when they were ever going to use it because it seemed unlikely our city without mass transit in the center of the country would be chemically or biologically attacked short of full mobilization for war.

He said, "Probably just so people whose homes have been destroyed can take showers after a tornado or a flood, but the feds gave us a really big grant to get one."

Well ... I'm glad they have that ability? But I'd sort-of rather not have paid my federal tax dollars towards it and it seems like overkill?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:27 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Is "neoliberal" doomed to become this generation's "fascist", where it just means an authority figure one is criticizing from the left regardless of their actual ideological position?

Only when there is a democratic president. Otherwise, it's 'neoconservative'. Who all suddenly disappeared somehow when Obama was elected.
posted by empath at 7:31 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Other than maybe biker movies like the Wild Ones, was the returning violent vet a trope after WWII?

It was enough of a concern that Bill Maulden used a couple paragraphs to loudly and thoroughly dismiss the possibility in his book "Up Front". And that was a book vetted by the War Department, so somebody obviously saw a need for some PR.

Wars are complicated businesses, with lots of different opinions and concerns that aren't usually touched on in history books. It's unlikely that fifty years from now this aspect of the Middle East War will be remembered.
posted by happyroach at 7:40 PM on June 9


...it seemed unlikely our city without mass transit in the center of the country would be chemically or biologically attacked short of full mobilization for war.

Given that the difference between a biological or chemical attack and a really nasty hazmat incident is intent, expenditures that are equally useful in the event of a really nasty hazmat incident are probably the best thing our anti-terrorism dollars could be spent on. Indiana spent a bunch of their DHS money on two mobile command centers (and then parked them in different counties so one event couldn't take them both out). Useful for terrorist, or a really nasty tornado or flood or whatever.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:41 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I probably really shouldn't, but I'm going to try to be a somewhat modulated voice here.

One of the factors here is that the deal these police departments are getting from the pentagon is "we'll give you this stuff for free, so long as you pay to ship it to your town." And despite what someone said up-thread, it's not necessarily true that police departments have all the money they want while EMS and fire scrimp and save. These are mostly extremely local agencies, which means they vary widely from locale to locale. Offer a chief an armored vehicle worth $500k for the cost of shipping, it's not too surprising that she'll say "yes".

Also keep in mind that in emergency services generally and in LE specifically, the mindset is "try to imagine the worst possible outcome and prepare for it." When you're going through police academy, you see a TON of videos of cops getting killed, and then you talk about things those cops might have done differently to not get killed. And then you have situations like the Hollywood shootout where cops were requisitioning trucks from the local armored car services to have some degree of cover. Unfortunately, a modern 5.56mm or 7.62mm high velocity round will punch right through the armor on one of those trucks. I've talked with a detective that responded to a call where they robbed a truck by sniping the driver with a .308 rifle.

Now imagine you're a Chief Law Enforcement Officer. The pentagon is offering to give you a vehicle that would actually stop some of those high velocity rifle rounds. You try to imagine the worst case scenario, and it's not difficult at all to imagine a scenario where it would be nice to be able to get a rescue team up close to a building, safe from rifle fire. So maybe you take the MRAP, telling yourself you're unlikely to ever use it, but if you need it, it's there. Same thing with the chemical shower truck, which honestly, ammonia plants or whatever blow up sometimes. It doesn't have to be a terrorist attack for that truck to be useful (although IMO that resource would more easily fit under the Fire Department umbrella).

Regarding M16s/M4s vs. shotguns: personally, I find it a lot easier to be accurate with an M4-style weapon than with a shotgun. And the reality is that a 5.56mm round isn't going to punch through a cinderblock wall and 4 sheets of drywall the way a slug from a shotgun will. I think that if you have to use a long gun in a city, I'd rather do it with an M4 because I think it reduces risk to bystanders.

I'm not sure what's going on if a Sheriff's department somewhere has an M2 (.50 cal machine gun). I don't think there's any possible argument in favor of that.

Anyway. I get the upset and cynicism about stuff like this. And I think you can make a fair argument against stuff like this. For example the most likely responders to an active shooter scenario or street cops, who aren't going to have that armored vehicle anyway. But it is a more complicated picture than "thug cops want tanks".
posted by kavasa at 7:54 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]


For example, this happened today. You're in command of this scene. You're LA, so you have snipers that can just kill this guy, but you want to try to avoid that. How do you get resources like a negotiator or someone with sponge rounds to try to knock the guy off the roof without risking them getting killed? Remember that the rounds from his rifle will punch right through anything less than SAPI plates.
posted by kavasa at 7:57 PM on June 9


I know right? I mean what if there is a menacing toddler sleeping in a porta crib? Gotta use up those government surplus flash bangs the captain got us for cheap.
posted by Big_B at 8:02 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Is "neoliberal" doomed to become this generation's "fascist", where it just means an authority figure one is criticizing from the left regardless of their actual ideological position?

I wasn't talking about the police there, exactly, though I do think there's an ongoing liberalization of control over life and death which desacralizes the expectation of safety in a first-world, free society. In that sense, I think it is characteristic of neoliberalism. When I referred to neoliberalism above, though, I was thinking of the coalition demolishing public education and other public goods that enable broad-based prosperity, social mobility, and egalitarian distributive norms.

I think cops in MRAPs and SWAT teams using special forces doctrine is really more of a neoconservative project; neoliberalism's contribution to fucking up police work is more along the lines of Broken Window theory and CompStat.

I think approving of those special forces-style tactics as legitimate in a civilian context is merely reactionary, albeit very forcefully so. Revanchist, perhaps. Neoliberals have been at it since the late 70's-early 80's, and I think neoconservatives might be a period-specific distinction without a difference. They're neoliberals who are happy to flatter the egos of scared Americans to win elections and use the state to make money, the latter of which is essentially the logic of regulatory capture anyway.
posted by clockzero at 8:15 PM on June 9


On the one hand, I'm highly suspicious of cops having heavily armored vehicles and military-grade weapons for police duties, and agree with the Chekhovian position that they'll be used. On the other, I look at all the sovereign citizen types and the Infowars conspiracy theorists like the ones who killed the cops in Vegas and can't entirely blame various police departments for wanting an insurance policy against a few people who hate the government and are armed to the teeth. In terms of realistic expectations, the police shouldn't need military gear--but if you thought you might end up in the next Bundy-style standoff, you'd probably want it too.
posted by immlass at 8:21 PM on June 9


It's gotten bad enough that the new Battlefield game is about police instead of the military.
posted by empath at 8:50 PM on June 9


Yeah that's pretty much it with "neoliberals." I've seen it applied to everyone from the Clintons to Cliven Bundy.

But I think there is a thing you have identified, that you don't like, but can be broadly identified with all those. But that's because it is a broader social trend, and politics can't fight it. I don't think it will be as bad as you think.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:52 PM on June 9


\this is a little derailly, but we do all love being pedantic about words, right?

Neoliberalism doesn't mean 'like, new liberalism, man" any more than neoconservative means "conservative, but post 9-11." They're both words that refer to specific things, although the former tends to be- since the 30's, per wikipedia- applied to others, and the latter, though invented by its proponents, applies to nobody now, since the ideology it represents was thoroughly discredited, and its practitioners publicly shamed, by the abject failure of the war in Iraq to do or be any of the things that they insisted that it would do, and be.


So, from the wiki-
Neoliberalism is a form of economic liberalism whose advocates support for economic liberalizations, free trade, open markets, privatization, deregulation, and shrinking the size of the public sector to allow the private sector to take on a more active role in the economy.
And then
In the 1960s, usage of the term "neoliberal" heavily declined. When the term was reintroduced in the 1980s in connection with Augusto Pinochet’s economic reforms in Chile, the usage of the term had shifted. It had not only become a term with negative connotations employed principally by critics of market reform, but it also had shifted in meaning from a moderate form of liberalism to a more radical and laissez-faire capitalist set of ideas. Scholars now tended to associate it with the theories of economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.
So when clockero says "The neoliberals won the class war " he or she is referring, in shorthand, AFAICT, to some very influential politico-economic ideas propagated by people who- in Friedman's case- have a history of not minding totalitarianism, or caring what happens to the poor, as long as taxes don't get too high. You don't have to agree that Friedman and Hayek were class-warriors, but they both did have a near-religious belief that people with money deserved to keep all of it, because capitalism.

You can argue, if you want to, that those ideas haven't 'won', or that they have and it's a good thing, but you can't say that the word 'neoliberal' is being used as a cheap cognate for 'fascist' or whatever- it means something, and it's being correctly used here to mean that thing.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:59 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]


All hail Arpaio!

Poster child for overkill and insanity and hey, he still has a job.

'Murica !!!
posted by futz at 9:23 PM on June 9


...How do you get resources like a negotiator or someone with sponge rounds to try to knock the guy off the roof without risking them getting killed? Remember that the rounds from his rifle will punch right through anything less than SAPI plates.

hmm so a charitable view is that the police are thinking "how do we respond to crimes if we believe there is a significant chance of criminals using military-grade weapons"

well the sensible, albeit impossible, approach is to enter a time machine or time portal and alter the course of history so that ordinary people in the US cannot acquire military-grade weapons.

but that's not an option, so I guess it makes sense to fight the distribution of military arms by distributing more military arms. Hard to see how this could go wrong!
posted by serif at 1:15 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "...shall I go on?"
No need, Ike already said it:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
posted by brokkr at 3:06 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I'm aware, brokkr. I was making a point that Ironmouth has bought hook, line, and sinker into the idea that MOAR POLEEZ are the answer.

(Hint: not the answer)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:07 AM on June 10


Ugh. The worst part is that most of these MRAPS are unused because the program was so egregiously mismanaged, the things weren't widely available until the wars were winding down. This equipment was ordered for Iraq and Afghanistan, it just arrived about 8 years late.
posted by miyabo at 6:11 AM on June 10


I was making a point that Ironmouth has bought hook, line, and sinker into the idea that MOAR POLEEZ are the answer

I'm not sure he was saying that more police are the answer, rather than better police. I'm not saying that I agree necessarily, just that I think it's maybe a different point.
posted by billiebee at 6:20 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Six of one.

Again, ounce of prevention etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:30 AM on June 10


If the cops are using MRAPs, I hope they've worked this bug out.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:35 AM on June 10


Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight

From Desolation Row
posted by swlabr at 8:34 AM on June 10


At least in Canada, I don't think more police are the answer, but not because the police are JACK-BOOT THUGS. The problem is that police budgets, after health care, have been monsters for unsustainable growth in the past decade in Canada. Annual police department increases are the biggest single burden most municipalities face, with increases greatly outpacing tax growth and thus putting the squeeze on other deliverables like social assistance (done at the municipal level in much of Canada), social housing, libraries, parks, etc...

Adding large capital burdens to the police, either through balloon funding of special "counter-terrorism" equipment or by direct transfer of surplus military equipment doesn't help either. More people are needed to justify fancy new equipment. Lots of stuff also leaves the cities and towns with big maintenance and rust-out problems a few years down the line.

This is less about bad police behaviour and much more, in my view, about unsustainable levels of funding and funding growth for civilian police forces, which are beggaring (Canadian) city budgets. We've had more than a decade of insane growth in policing costs. We need to pull the reins back a bit, IMO.
posted by bonehead at 8:35 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


if you thought you might end up in the next Bundy-style standoff, you'd probably want it too.

If only there were some sort of organization that we could turn to instead of the police in situations that rise to the level of martial situations. Something with trained soldiers, used to such situations, but who have loyalty to their state and country. Some sort of guard for the nation against military standoffs.

I'll go see if the term "National Guard" is copyrighted. This could be a money-maker!
posted by corb at 8:45 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I'm aware, brokkr. I was making a point that Ironmouth has bought hook, line, and sinker into the idea that MOAR POLEEZ are the answer.

(Hint: not the answer)
f

Nice straw man. Not what I said. I'm talking about paying police more, not having more police. Why do we pay the people who are tasked with protecting us so little--and use the police we do have to do ungodly levels of overtime? It makes zero sense.

We should be paying police and teachers a lot so we attract folks with a lot of education and training to the two most important fields out there.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:30 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


So my tiny local PD recently bought a used electric three-wheeler, and were showing it off informally in front of city hall. I was a bit dubious about whether we really needed something like that when they've already got cars, bicycles, and motorcycles.

Then the police chief pointed out enthusiastically that its large trunk would hold a more comprehensive set of first-aid equipment, and that the small size would allow them to get closer to people who needed help in places a car couldn't reach. All right then! That's the kind of police equipment purchase I can get behind. We don't need tanks, we need funding and staffing levels that allow for proper training.
posted by asperity at 11:10 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


“Plus, these beasts are going to be giant money sinks as soon as they need service. Money for that means less money for training, for community outreach, and all the rest.”

Irony, that. A piece of equipment, tank, armored vehicle, etc. is not a single thing in itself but a stream of replacement parts in a logistics chain. There is such a gigantic gulf between warfighting and policing not only in philosophy, but practical effect.
And yet, people are led to believe that if only you can stick enough feathers up your ass, you too can be a bird.
I would love to give a local police department an A-10 or better still and AC-130 gunship with the 30mm chain gun. ‘Hey, y’know, just in case….’ and leave the unanswered question just hanging there.

There are solid, and simple, arguments for certain kinds of vehicles and equipment, but most of this stuff winds up to be an albatross around the neck.

Practically speaking, any IED is going to be directed at civilians, then first responders such as paramedics and firefighters. Any ‘crazed vet’ isn’t going to conveniently wait for an armored vehicle to show up to initiate an ambush, nor is he going to limit his mobility to paved roads, high bridges/overpasses, no power/phone lines or trees, etc.

Great for combat EOD. Heavy ordinance doesn’t seem to wind up in the middle of the street in the U.S. that often though. Mostly inside buildings. Mobile homes. Etc. And it’s not so big inside. All things considered, I’d sacrifice the armor for not only mobility (getting the hell out of dodge is greatly underrated, and only not an option if what you’re driving is too heavy to be agile) but equipment (mostly communications) and manpower. That is, given the general idea is to preserve the local infrastructure and pursue the suspect rather than the bomb.
But - one of the core philosophies of counterterrorism, and one of the main reasons it’s considered by people who don’t have their heads way up their asses as a policing rather than a military endeavor is that you can seize the initiative.

That is, being proactive and looking for the bomber instead of reactive and milling around a bad ass looking vehicle looking for the bomb.

In a combat scenario, not so much. You have to look at the thing in front of you rather than take the time for an investigation. Police though, that’s their mandate. Equipment like this puts a stick in those spokes. ‘Yeah, big heavy bomb-proof truck. Looks like we’re really doing something’
In many ways your tools do determine your own behavior. A properly engineered machine doesn’t need useless doo-dads glued onto it.

Unfortunately, politicians seem determined to keep sticking flanges and widgets into the works "just in case" like things are just blowing the fuck up all over the place.
Joe Random shooter, sure, tough to stop.
But if your department is clueless that Los Zetas is in their backyard until the granades start going off, probably an armored car showing up isn't going to make the difference.

On that note, your big problem isn't the 'crazed vet' stereotype, it's the now completely abandoned vet who's got mouths to feed being potentially recruited by cartels that's the problem. Same as it was during the great depression, prohibition, etc.

And we used tanks against them then too (Bonus Army). The more things change....


As far as silencers go – that’s always a mindscrew term. Silencers aren’t “silencers” in the movie sense.
They actually are very useful for any sort of shooting. I know, counterintuitive, why would the police need to be quiet. Well, they’re not actually quiet. They’re just – less - mind shatteringly loud and visually dazzling. If you have to shoot in a house – and if you’re a cop with a carbine or AR variant rifle with 5.56 (or some other) subsonic rounds, it’s still going to be loud and make a bright flash. Odds are you have some sort of radio in your ear and in a dangerous environment you don’t want to completely cancel out all noise with really heavy ear protection anyway. And often it’s dark. So you make the weapon more quiet, less muzzle flash, etc.

“Suppressor” is a more accurate term. And a lot of them reduce recoil and barrel rise so your shots don’t go awry. Important in a populated area.
But again, yeah, so is training.
The more equipment focused the budget, the less mentally flexible your cadre winds up. No matter how intelligent - or not – anyone is, everyone is at risk for dogmatic thinking.

And naturally money is involved, so politics is involved, so dogma is encouraged over actually doing the job.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:21 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


In Canada, the opposite debate is underway given recent events in Moncton. In a similar case with a heavily armed shooter in Alberta in 2005, RCMP officers had to go door to door asking neighbors to borrow long-guns and rifles capable of confronting a shooter with a rifle.
posted by cacofonie at 6:48 PM on June 9 [1 favorite +] [!]


in 1997 in California local authorities had to borrow from a gun shop because the pea shooters they were equipped with just bounced bullets off the body armor the bank robbers were wearing.
posted by Gungho at 11:24 AM on June 10


...officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”

Several years ago, a patron at the library I was working at went ballistic after I told him we didn't have any job openings. He started throwing chairs around the library and attacked the computer at the children's librarian's desk.

We called the police, and they sent out the SWAT team. Within minutes, there were four cops in bulletproof vests with their guns drawn in the library. By this point, a library assistant had talked the patron down to a point where he wasn't a threat to anybody. All the SWAT team needed to do was handcuff the patron and take him to the police station.

It didn't hit me until some time later, but if it weren't for the library assistant's intervention, we could have had the SWAT team shoot and kill an unarmed patron in a public library.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 11:24 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


oozy: them shooting would be really unlikely. Although I am surprised that it wasn't just patrol cops responding to a call of a single disorderly person.
posted by kavasa at 12:18 PM on June 10


> them shooting would be really unlikely.

SWAT teams all over the US have killed numerous unarmed individuals. It's highly likely that they'll shoot someone.
posted by planetesimal at 12:21 PM on June 10


Not in the situation as described. It's possible to have a productive discussion of policing in America without positing that cops are highly likely to just murder people.
posted by kavasa at 12:26 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Although I am surprised that it wasn't just patrol cops responding to a call of a single disorderly person.

Why? If you've got a high-profile and expensive hammer, you're going to want to see more nails. Doing a search for "swat teams shoots unarmed" turns up a predictably horrifying number of responses.
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the problem is the SWAT team doesn't know the perp is unarmed, and if he doesn't respect their authoritah the SWAT team is more likely to feel escalating the situation is within their pay grade because of their ability to apply overwhelming force.
posted by localroger at 1:28 PM on June 10


Also: We called the police, and they sent out the SWAT team.

If I worked in that library there would be a statement to the paper to the effect that I would be highly reluctant to ever call the police again for anything short of a hot shooting situation until I was assured that the SWAT response would never, ever happen again unless there was a good reason for it.
posted by localroger at 1:31 PM on June 10


rtha, I respect you a great deal! I think you're smarter than being horrified by "number of google responses". The search "swat team rescues innocent" returns 3,710,000 results, the first of which seems to be something about a swat team killing a fawn. That a search string got a huge number of google hits doesn't mean a whole lot in and of itself.

Have cops shot unarmed people? Sure. There's a whole variety of reasons that can happen. Some of those are bad shoots, some aren't. The reality is that police work is an almost entirely gray-area profession, and the cops on the street have to do their best with the information they have. That's why use of force is judged by a "reasonable officer" standard, where courts try to determine what any "objectively reasonable" officer would have done in the same situation.

Anyway.

My city has a high-profile and expensive hammer, and I can guarantee that the call as described does not get a SWAT response. I would guess that it gets between 2-4 cops initially, more if that first team struggles to control the guy. "Disorderly dude yelling at store clerk and throwing stuff" is like... one of the very most basic training scenarios you get in academy. You'd be paired up with probably one other cadet, and depending on the focus of the training at that point they'd evaluate your approach, your communication with your partner, your safety, remembering to get on the air so dispatch and other cops in your area know what's going on, and techniques you use if you need to go hands on. But that is definitely the sort of call patrol cops would be handling where I live. Again, that's as described. Who knows what the recording of the 911 call sounds like, and if, for example, the caller sounded terrified or if a library patron called at the same time and sounded scared, that kind of stuff.
posted by kavasa at 3:07 PM on June 10


And just to be clear, I don't necessarily think these MRAPs are the best idea for departments (as people have said, maintenance isn't free), but I also don't think they're necessarily great cause for free-floating animosity about basically everything related to police work in the US.
posted by kavasa at 3:11 PM on June 10


The militarization of our police forces have increased a lot over the last forty years (hello, war on drugs!). Crime rates have been dropping for the last 10-15 years. Why do we need SWAT teams? Why do they need to respond to disorderly person calls? Why, when crime rates are dropping, do we need military equipment in the hands of civilian police forces? I think the burden should be on the cops and advocates of militarized police forces to provide evidence as to why these things are necessary, and who will pay for them, and how much and how often training will happen.
posted by rtha at 3:39 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The main purpose is so that those gov't contracts to produce the hardware transfer wealth from the national store to the kleptocrats. Like how we basically have wars solely to justify the war budget. Legalized kleptocracy.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:57 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Have cops shot unarmed people? Sure. There's a whole variety of reasons that can happen.

Sure. Here's one: When SWAT enters a scene, their weapons are in their hands. This makes it much more likely that a weapon will discharge. When regular cops arrive at a scene, unless they have reason to believe there's an armed person, they leave their weapons in their holsters.

Here's another one: Gun-mounted flashlights are leading to a spate of accidental discharges, not all of them harmless. It seems that cops go to turn on the flashlight and also or instead, hit the trigger.
Steve Ijames, a retired police chief who conducts training programs abroad, advises police to shine a gun-mounted flashlight to one side of the suspect.

"You can't just point guns at people because you have a flashlight," he said. "I've seen officers use a flashlight-mounted gun to help a person search their wallet for a driver's license. I've literally seen that on a traffic stop."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:24 PM on June 10


Anyway. My city has a high-profile and expensive hammer, and I can guarantee that the call as described does not get a SWAT response.

I actually get the impression that this is a bigger problem with smaller towns that get this hardware and training than actual cities, which tend to be big enough to absorb these "gifts" without feeling an overwhelming need to justify them.
posted by localroger at 5:52 PM on June 10


‘Crime rates have been dropping for the last 10-15 years. Why do we need SWAT teams?’

In terms of threat response, SWAT teams make more sense than having patrol officers more heavily armed. It allows for a methodical approach for patrol officers that doesn’t rely on force escalation. Whereas if you need the big guns, you can call in the specialists. If you need a bomb disarmed, you can call in specialists of another kind. Divers – same deal. Etc.
Police should be generalists, but social specialists. Where they know their environment (and the people in the neighborhood) well, but can perform a number of tasks from social services to wrestling drunks, etc. More of a facilitator for a spectrum of social responses than a reliance on the hammer. Which, for the most part, in many departments they are.

“Why do they need to respond to disorderly person calls?”

Yeah, that gets weird. Almost an inversion of the above. “I’m a skilled heart surgeon, so naturally I can do anything from auto mechanics to nuclear instrumentation repair to psychological diagnosis and conflict resolution. Should be simple, right?”
The modular approach is so critical. And yet, people get muscles, learn how to bust things up, suddenly they’ve been everywhere, know everything. Same thing happens to people with money or fame or other kinds of success. Hell, happens to me sometimes and I know I can’t balance a checkbook.

“Why, when crime rates are dropping, do we need military equipment in the hands of civilian police forces?”

Sort of answers itself, no? You need the appearance. The theater. Otherwise, why do we need to spend all this money? Kleptocracy (as save alive nothing that breatheth sed) indeed. Support for a given war drops, you need another industry to hang your budget on.

“It seems that cops go to turn on the flashlight and also or instead, hit the trigger.”
Yeah. Not to second guess Ijames, but my flashlight mount is for when I’m going to shoot. Carrying a second flashlight for looking at stuff is no big. Some are quite small and light. And some have little bevels in case you’re in close range and you want to strike someone (to prevent them from doing something) instead of having to draw and fire. Nice to have that option.

And too, some rifles have flashlights. Space and weight are critical in the field. But man, anytime you point a weapon somewhere you should expect to draw fire as a response. Close quarters (in a building, say) different story. But still, flashlights don’t just light up your target, they light you up.
So having a spare you can position away from your center mass is not a bad thing.


Imitation and regimentation are really forced by the system. It's the same thing with the military though. 'Veterans Day' etc. you see on the logos pictures of eagles, battleships, etc.
Even where you have actual troops, mostly they're dead. Coffins. The graves at Arlington. A helmet on a rifle stuck in the ground.
The 'equipment' thing aside - they're all static symbols as opposed to dynamic.
Certainly you need a degree of regimentation. But by the same token adaptability to circumstance is what leads to success.
Any "thing" or static is transient no matter how powerful the thing. Technique lasts ... well, as long as your life really. Stop adapting, you're dead.
Battleships are tougher than hell. How long did they last? 60 years?

So allowing adaptation - given it shows success - allowing for customization of both technique and equipment (within certain mission parameters) makes far more sense than delivering a piece of equipment and anticipating a use for it.

But the system we have really looks to erode that. Hell, we do it with education too. Treat it as a thing rather than a process. Which naturally requires indoctrination to use that thing, which creates institutionalized dogma that erases individual contribution.
(Heh, just thought of the scene in "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" where the Mayor(?) addresses a hero (Sting) who destroyed six enemy cannon and rescued ten prisoners far beyond the call of duty: "Have him executed at once... This sort of behavior is demoralizing for the ordinary soldiers and citizens who are trying to lead normal, simple, unexceptional lives. I think things are difficult enough as it is without these emotional people rocking the boat.")

Any given police officer may know better than the legal or procedural constraints to which they're subject. Or not. But the constraints remain. And those are driven, in the situation(s) in discussion, by the gear. Bought by defense contractors. Who are usually former politicians/procurement staff. Who then go back into business. And then back into politics to write more laws to distribute more gear, to worry the cat to chase the rat to eat the cheese to represent the house that Jack built.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:55 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


“It seems that cops go to turn on the flashlight and also or instead, hit the trigger.

Forgot - muscle memory too, can be a pain. E.g. the M1911 .45 sidearm and the ("official") switch to the Beretta M9. Safety down on the .45 is off. On the 9mm it's up. Hilarity ensues.
Same deal with some rifles and especially submachine guns. Flip one switch your used to using to select fire and the magazine pops out. Good times.

But again, who's fault is that. The guy who spends years training to develop reflexive responses to be efficient in difficult situations? Or the arms manufacturer who changes design because they want to sell new product?

Like if every new series of guitar was restrung. Yeah, they're all left handed now. And the fretboard is different. Just for shits'n'giggles.

Which is where gun enthusiast sort of diverges from gun nut really. Folks like to custom out their 1911's to suit their own purposes.
Gun manufactures like to push loads of crap and encourage fetish behavior.

Very, very different things that look sorta similar.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:08 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I know right? I mean what if there is a menacing toddler sleeping in a porta crib? Gotta use up those government surplus flash bangs the captain got us for cheap.

More on this from Radley Balko: Georgia toddler critically injured by police’s flash grenade
posted by homunculus at 4:20 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Between this militarization and the broad electronic surveillance

Speaking of the surveillance: U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU

Insert ‘most transparent administration in history’ comment here
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


The US government doesn't want you to know how the cops are tracking you: Thought the NSA was bad? Local police and the Obama administration are hoovering cellphone location data from inside your house, and a crackdown could lead to surveillance reform
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on June 14


How Cops Became Soldiers: In her new book, sociologist Lesley J. Wood examines how law enforcement officials increasingly employ military-style tactics and technologies to deal with protests and everyday crime
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on June 14


It's gotten bad enough that the new Battlefield game yt is about police instead of the military.

The Battlefield War Games Series Embraces Police Militarization
posted by homunculus at 12:31 PM on June 14


And you can't just fire grenades into a school full of kids (unless they're in a war zone, of course, and designated enemy combatants).

Why’s This Sheriff Need an MRAP? Because the U.S. ‘Is a War Zone’
posted by homunculus at 12:33 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Actually insurance might provide a way to combat this. We should hold police departments accountable whenever cops use police gear in crimes like traffic violation, domestic disputes, etc. I'd hope the police already pay waaay more insuring these for road usage, but the risk that a divorced cop kidnaps his kids, ex, etc. in one exceeds the chances that it'd actually prove useful too, really all police forces should pay more in insurance based upon that risk.

Ideal scenario : Point Marion Police Department shuts down after being dropped by insurance carrier (wp)
posted by jeffburdges at 3:35 AM on June 16


U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU

More: Judge allows US Marshals’ seizure of stingray records, dimisses lawsuit. What began as request for info on cell tracking records turns into surreal tale.
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on June 18


Can't wait for drones that fire pepper spray bullets to find their way into US police forces -- now you can have technology overapply force without even putting any officers at risk!
posted by weston at 2:02 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The LAPD Just Got a Military-Grade Electric Bike for Stealth Missions
posted by homunculus at 3:36 PM on June 21


I know right? I mean what if there is a menacing toddler sleeping in a porta crib? Gotta use up those government surplus flash bangs the captain got us for cheap.

A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son. That's right: Officers threw a flashbang grenade in my son's crib -- and left a hole in his chest. It gets worse
posted by homunculus at 10:59 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Yes, it does.
Update: As of the afternoon of 6/24/2014, Baby Bou Bou has been taken out of the medically induced coma and transferred to a new hospital to begin rehabilitation. The hole in his chest has yet to heal, and doctors are still not able to fully assess lasting brain damage.
. . .
It’s time to remind the cops that they should be serving and protecting our neighborhoods, not waging war on the people in them.
Really. What are they actually thinking? How can they do something like that and live with themselves after?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:18 AM on June 25


The earlier articles I read (linked upstream in this thread) seemed to imply that the cops blamed the perp for this happening.
posted by infini at 2:51 PM on June 25


The whole lot are textbook psychopaths, Kirth Gerson, including their chief of police. Isn't "antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse, and disinhibited or bold behavior" an accurate description of most cops, especially those on SWAT teams?

All that separates these thugs from the thugs we lock behind bars is that they (subconsciously) recognized the antisocial personality early enough in life to join ranks of the (theoretically milder) psychopaths that society pays to keep both themselves and all the other psychopaths in check.

There is a confluence of various cultural phenomena that make society's paid psychopaths much much worse than the actual criminals right now. We only fix this by massively restricting police activities and harshly punishing police malfeasance.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:48 PM on June 25


the cops blamed the perp for this happening.

Perp? What perp? The guy they were looking for, who wasn't there, and apparently didn't live there? The baby? Sociopaths, psychopaths, whatever. If they're going to be that reckless and irresponsible, they should be treated just like any other home invaders. Lock them up.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:31 AM on June 26


Well, this is...interesting.
Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

As part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.

As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments.

[snip]

Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests. Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.
Do you suppose they have OCP patches on their jackets?
posted by rtha at 10:24 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Holy deep fried batons that's evil.
posted by weston at 10:44 AM on June 26


Also note that MA cops are STILL charging people with wiretap violations for recording them with cellphones. They can't do it for video recordings,* but if the phone-wielder just makes an audio recording with no video, well, they're supposedly wiretapping.


* A federal court ruled that citizens have a right to video-record police performing their duties, so long as they don't get in the way.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:18 PM on June 26


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