Friday, June 27, 2014



Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a story with the unsettling headline: “War Gear Flows to Police Departments.”

With a dateline from the small Wisconsin town of Neenah, the story explained how local police departments are acquiring former combat equipment like M-16s, grenade launchers, silencers, and mine-resistant armored vehicles – often with little public notice. These tools are bolstering forces that already look a lot like military units as their SWAT teams see more and more action for increasingly tame situations.

It makes you wonder - why in the world do police in small, quiet towns of just a few thousand people need the same weapons used to fight the Taliban?

That’s a question we’ve been asking for some time now. Indeed, before mainstream outlets became widely aware of this trend, was on the ground telling the story as the shift began to occur.

Months earlier, in April, New Mexico Watchdog journalist Rob Nikolewski reported on a commercial by the Hobbs Police Department that played up law enforcement’s military tactics, featuring cops shooting guns, helmeted officers bursting into rooms, and armored vehicles. The story was picked up by the Drudge Report, and civil-liberty advocates raised concerns over whether this was the sort of message police should be sending to new recruits.
Nikolewski suspected that other small-town police departments were acting the same way (Hobbs has a population of only 35,000), and he was right. The next week, he reported in a follow-up story that the small, relatively peaceful cities of Newport BeachCalifornia and Springdale, Arkansas had produced similar commercials. reporter Dustin Hurst similarly found the police state pressing forward in Preston, Idaho, of all places. The police force for this city of only 5,000 people had recently acquired an MRAP, a military-grade vehicle previously used on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs.

“The city’s crime checks in far below the U.S. average,” Hurst noted, “and there hasn’t been a murder there since 2006. The city’s not exactly a crime-ridden hell hole where police might need an ambush-resistant and bomb-proof troop carrier.”

Subsequent stories only confirmed this trend. In Minnesota, reporter Tom Seward found that as America scales down military action abroad, all sorts of military equipment is essentially there for the taking by local law enforcement. He cited a Department of Public Safety video that ticks off the list: armored vehicles, helicopters, handcuffs, riot shields, cranes, fuel tankers, rifles, pickups, holsters, bayonets and grenade launchers.
Militarization, Seward noted, is already well underway in Minnesota. Nearly 2,000 M-16 rifles and more than 600 M-14 rifles have been acquired by local law enforcement over the past two decades, along with 24 armored trucks, seven mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles and seven Humvee utility trucks, which will be used by SWAT teams and for rescues and other emergency operations.

Meanwhile, back in New Mexico, filed a public records request and learned that nearly 20 law enforcement agencies across the state — from the biggest city to some of the smallest — have received MRAPs. Perhaps most absurd of all, that list of agencies included the campus police department at New Mexico State University!
It isn’t just with military-grade equipment that local police are ramping up their capabilities. technology reporter Josh Peterson has found that they are also adopting the latest surveillance technologies. Police in Florida, for instance, can track the location of a suspect’s cell phone without a warrant.

We have no intention of letting this story fall by the wayside. When civil liberties are threatened by government pushing the limits of its powers, will be there to give citizens the facts about what is happening – before it’s too late.

Northwoods Patriots - Standing up for Faith, Family, Country

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