Do local police departments need military gear? | The Tylt
Do local police departments need military gear?
The Department of Defense's 1033 program, which facilitates the transfer of surplus military equipment to police departments, makes it too easy for police to get their hands on equipment they don't need. President Trump is lifting the restrictions former President Obama placed on the program and reinstituting it in full. This means police departments will no longer have to give a plan and explanation about why they might need something like grenade launchers or a mine resistant vehicle.
Critics say the rise in paramilitary tactics, like no-knock raids and SWAT teams, in small towns is thanks to the transfer of military gear to police departments. Suddenly, police have armored vehicles, tactical armor, rifles and battering rams without a real need to use them. Many departments end up finding reasons to put their new equipment to work.
Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern University's School of Justice Studies, estimated that SWAT teams were deployed around 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times aa year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Conneticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers. That same year heavily-armed police raided barbershops around Orlando, Florda; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for "barbering without a licence." Maricopa County, Arizona sent a SWAT team into the living room of Jesus Llovera who was suspected of organising cockfights. Police rolled a tank into Mr Llovera's yard and killed more than 100 of his birds as well as his dog. According to Mr Kaska, most SWAT deployments are not in response to violent, threatening crime, but to serve drug-related warrants in private homes.
Police unions say officers need the military equipment to keep them safe on the job. Police are increasingly facing deadlier and more hostile threats. They need equipment like armored vehicles and grenade launchers to deal with the nation's worst nightmares. Incidents like Sandy Hook, Orlando, and San Bernardino do not happen often but when they do, police must be in a position to protect civilians.
The U.S. has the unique problem of having an armed citizenry. Police officers need things like armored vehicles and rifles in order to protect the public. The threat goes beyond terror. Criminal gangs, like bikers and other groups, are often heavily armed and organized. Active shooter situations can happen at any time. Having the right equipment means police officers get to go home to their families safe and sound.
“The police absolutely need armored vehicles, primarily to protect officers during standoffs and periods of intense violence,” Roberts said. He also stressed the need for proper training procedures and department budgets that can afford to keep individual officers on the street. “For example, I think the ban on camouflage uniforms is silly,” he said. “If a department can save money by obtaining camouflage uniforms, then so what?”