Tag Archives: Police Militarization

Police Departments Upset with Obama for Seizing MRAPs, Bayonets, Grenade Launchers

An executive order signed by Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama in an effort to de-militarize law enforcement agencies in response to the unrest in Ferguson is frustrating police officials across the country.

According to WMAZ-TV, President Obama’s order mandates that local police departments who have obtained grenade launchers, tracked armored vehicles, and bayonets through the Department of Defense’s 1033 surplus military equipment program must return them by April of 2016.

Walton County, Ga. Sheriff Joe Chapman, whose department had to return an armored personnel carrier, said, “It takes a layer of protection away from my deputies. There are nuts out there with weapons they shouldn’t have and my deputies have to go up against these people every day. It limits us. It puts at a disadvantage.

[RELATED: Billionaire Koch Brothers Fund Campaign Against Police Militarization]

Oakland County, Mich. Sheriff Michael Bouchard told Detroit Free Press, “We’re actually taking away a proven asset from law enforcement all over the country, destroying on many levels our ability to handle a very big situation, any situation like Paris. Those are going to be handled by the local police and this is the type of equipment needed.

According to WFMJ-TV, Mahoning County, Ohio Sheriff Jerry Greene said, “At a time when police are facing war zones on the streets with criminals and terrorists using semi automatic weapons to murder unarmed men, women, and children, or detonating bombs like in the attack at the Boston Marathon, law enforcement should be given every tool in the arsenal to help keep communities safe. In many ways, I feel like law enforcement is being thrown under the bus as you know we are living in a different world with the things happening with ISIS and all of that, first responders do need to be prepared.”

In comments cited by CNN explaining his rationale behind issuing the executive order, President Obama said, “We’ve seen how militarized gear [used by local police] can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them. It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.

In December of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode exposing how local law enforcement agencies were obtaining battlefield-ready military weapons and training from the DOD. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.

https://youtu.be/UsRV3y37qcs

Ferguson Commission Calls For Police To ‘Minimize Use of Militarized Weaponry’

A report released on Monday by the commission appointed to study the racial divide and the unrest following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, advised that police reduce their use of military-style tactics and weapons.

The 198-page report, titled “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity,” was released by the 16-member commission appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and includes 189 policy “calls to action” for police.

The commission was assembled after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Aug. 2014, sparked protests throughout the community. Police responded to those protests with military-style tactics and equipment.

The protests turned into riots, and the response from police, along with a scathing report from the Department of Justice, highlighted the racial divide in the St. Louis suburb, and the discriminatory practices exercised by local police against the black community.

[RELATED: Truth In Media Gets It Right, DoJ Says Policing For Profit Part Of Ferguson Discrimination]

The report suggested that the state be directed “to cease providing, and local departments to cease using, militarized weaponry that does not align with a use of force continuum that authorizes only the minimal amount of force necessary.”

According to the report, departments across the state also need to “revise use of force policies and training to prioritize de-escalation and to clarify the instances when officers should engage in tactical withdrawal.”

“The regular use of force has led many citizens to view the police as an occupying force in their neighborhoods, damaging community trust, and making community safety even more difficult,” the report noted.

In addition to recommendations about police tactics, the report also advised that the state increase the minimum wage from $7.65 per hour, expand eligibility for Medicaid and merge the 60 police forces and 81 municipal courts that cover the St. Louis area.

The Ferguson Commission’s report has been met with skepticism by Missouri residents such as John Parker, who runs a public relations firm in the area. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he sees the commission as a way for Nixon to “save face.”

“The governor put this commission together to save face on race relations in this city,” Parker said.  “If you actually want to effect change, you effect change. Change is not putting commission members together to discuss what everybody already knows. That’s a waste of time.”

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Root Of Police Militarization]

Investigative journalist Ben Swann looked at the root of America’s current problem with the militarization of police in communities including Ferguson in an episode of Truth In Media in Dec. 2014:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=UsRV3y37qcs

Oath Keepers: Americans “Are Being Given A False Choice” In Calming Ferguson Tension

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk9p9PN4UqY

Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook followed up with Oath Keepers president Stewart Rhodes to provide an update on the Oath Keepers’ presence in Ferguson.

Cook asked Rhodes, “what is the media getting wrong about your group?”

“One of the first things they said was that our presence was inflammatory,” answered Rhodes. “And it’s quite the opposite. There were actually no shots fired and interesting enough, no arrests made while our guys were on the streets. And we protected several black owned businesses again like we did last year.”

“The point of us being there is, (a), lead by example and show the people of Ferguson this is how you prevent arson, this is how you protect against looting, etc. And (b), protect your community so that you don’t have this false choice that’s being presented to the American people- that the only way to stop arson and looters is to trample on the First Amendment Rights of the protesters or to have a hyper-militarized police state. The American people are being given a false choice,” said Rhodes.

“The American people are being given a false choice.” – Stewart Rhodes, President of Oath Keepers

Rhodes said that there have been increased instances of business owners more actively protecting their property during the unrest. “There’s a growing number of businesses doing exactly what we did, stand up and do what the police can’t do. The police cannot or will not protect the people’s actual businesses from the looters and arsonists. The best answer is for the folks in Ferguson to do it themselves, it takes away that false choice,” said Rhodes.

Cook asked Rhodes about his thoughts on St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar’s comments about his group’s presence being “unnecessary” and “inflammatory.” Rhodes responded that their presence has actually had a “calming” effect and many of the protesters realized who the Oath Keepers were and that their presence was meant for protection.

“I think Chief Belmar, like all too many police officers, have this idea that only the police should have firearms. It’s a threat to their turf. It’s a turf battle. He’s kind of a small minded man and looks at it like that,” said Rhodes.

“What we are doing is leading by example. And we want to see the people of Ferguson to stand up for themselves and take care of their own security so they won’t need a heavy police presence.” said Rhodes.

“Frankly they need a new police of chief there,” said Rhodes. “I think a lot of the problems go away with better leadership.”

Cook asked about the criticism Oath Keepers have received for offering to protect independent journalists while major media outlets have provided themselves with security teams. “If you’re a mainstream media journalist with a professional security team, that’s okay. But if you’re alternative media like Alex Jones or some other small group who has us along to help protect them, then it’s somehow extreme. So it’s a double standard, it is,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes advised that “the people themselves need to step up and take care of their own neighborhoods and suppress the thugs. The few thugs who are causing the problems, it’s up to the experienced veterans in Ferguson to step up.”

Report: Police Brutality Protests Led To Reform Measures In 24 States

Nearly one year after Michael Brown was shot and killed by former police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a series of protests against police brutality have led to 40 new police reform measures being passed in 24 states, which is just a fraction of all of the measures that have been proposed.

An analysis conducted by the Associated Press found that while “legislators in almost every state have proposed changes to the way police interact with the public,” the measures that have been passed address issues such as the body cameras officers wear, how officers are trained concerning racial bias, independent investigations into police use of force and military equipment used by local police departments.

In addition to protests in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown in Aug. 2014, which were met with a militarized police force, protests have erupted over police brutality in several cities such as New York where Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer, and Baltimore where Freddie Gray died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody.

The Associated Press reported that despite the measures that have passed, “far more proposals have stalled or failed,” and only a few states have changed laws concerning “when police are justified to use deadly force.”

The most popular measures, which surround the use of body cameras worn by police officers, were passed in sixteen states according to the analysis. Body cameras have played a vital part in revealing the accurate set of events in cases such as the recent shooting of Samuel DuBose, in which the body camera former officer Ray Tensing was wearing revealed that he was lying about only shooting DuBose after he was “dragged” down the street by DuBose’s car.

[RELATED: Obama’s New $263 Million Proposal Is Not Just About Body Cameras]

The report noted that Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois were the only three states to pass “comprehensive packages of legislation encouraging body cameras, boosting police training on such things as racial biases and requiring independent investigations when police shoot people,” and that Colorado and Connecticut were among several states that “bolstered citizen rights to take videos of police.”

Investigative journalist Ben Swann addressed the root of police militarization in an episode of Truth in Media in Dec. 2014. Swann noted that while local police departments having access to military equipment was a problem, a larger problem existed surrounding the use of military tactics by police officers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsRV3y37qcs

Montana Legislature Passes Bill to Limit Federal Militarization of Police

Tenth Amendment Center HELENA, Mont. (Apr. 8, 2015) – A bill that would heavily diminish the effect of federal surplus equipment programs that militarize local police was given final approval by the Montana House today.

The vote was 79-20.

Introduced by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), House Bill 330 (HB330) bans state or local law enforcement agencies from receiving drones that are armored, weaponized, or both; aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded; grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers; silencers; and “militarized armored vehicles” from federal military surplus programs.

The bill passed by a 46-1 vote in the Senate last month and will now go to the Governor’s desk.

HB330 also stipulates that a law enforcement agency purchasing allowable military equipment must use state or local funds, prohibiting federal funding of such gear. It also requires agencies give public notice within 14 days of a request for allowable military equipment. Both of these provisions ensure any procurement of military equipment still allowed under law will happen in the public spotlight.

Last month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that, while not as comprehensive as the Montana bill, made his state the first to take a step towards stopping federal militarization of police.

FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY

Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters and other aircraft.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

HB330 goes beyond a prohibition on receipt of surplus equipment under the 1033 program by banning the purchase of such equipment with federal funds. It reads, in part: “If a law enforcement agency purchases property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government, the law enforcement agency may only use state or local funds for the purchase. Funds obtained from the federal government may not be used to purchase property from a military equipment surplus program.”

Local agencies almost never have the funds needed to purchase this kind of equipment, and federal money is the only way they can afford it. By banning purchase with federal funding, HB330 would effectively nullify the effect of such federal “grant” programs.

The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public within 14 days of requesting any allowable military gear from such a surplus program.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the Founders. They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’

In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”

By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear and requiring them to report on their acquisition and use, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.

“Sunshine is the salve of good government,” Schwaderer said.

That is exactly what HB330 will bring to Montana if signed into law by Gov. Bullock.

TAKE ACTION

In Montana: Support this bill by following all the steps at THIS LINK.

For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police at this link.

TN State Senate Considers Bill to Ban Cops from Using Military Equipment

After a 2014 News Channel 5 investigation determined that officials in Tennessee had been abusing the US Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies, Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Senate is considering a bill that would ban cops in the state from owning or using military equipment. The bill, SB0039, was introduced by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and states that “no law enforcement agency shall own or use a military vehicle, military aircraft, or military weaponry for law enforcement purposes.” The Tenth Amendment Center notes that the proposed law would also require all state and local police agencies to sell or destroy their existing inventories of military weapons and equipment before January 1, 2016.

News Channel 5‘s 2014 report noted that small law enforcement agencies, such as the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department, which received 5 military-grade weapons for each of its 31 officers, were stockpiling far more weapons than could conceivably be useful in violation of Department of Defense policy. Weapons like M-16s and M-14s fell into the wrong hands after they were stolen from police, and the son of a rural police chief was caught impersonating a police officer while carrying an M-16 that he stole from the 1033 program.

Mike Maharrey at the Tenth Amendment Center described some of the equipment that the bill would ban from use by police if it were to pass, “Banned military weapons include machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, recoilless rifles, and crew-served weapons. The legislation also prohibits ‘military vehicles,’ defined as ‘a tactical armored vehicle obtained pursuant to Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997.’ The bill specifically exempts some weapons, including magazine-fed, gas-operated, air-cooled rifles or carbines designed for semiautomatic or automatic fire and grenade launchers adapted for non-lethal rounds.”

SB0039 was introduced by Senator Kelsey on January 14 and currently awaits a committee assignment.

The Tennessee Senate’s bill comes at a time when politicos across the nation debate the militarization of law enforcement agencies, as many Americans were recently shocked by news footage of heavily-armored police in places like Ferguson, MO and Berkeley, CA engaging in military-style crackdowns on police brutality protesters who were angry over the officer-involved deaths of unarmed suspects Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Ben Swann recently released a Truth in Media episode looking into the root of police militarization. Watch his expose on the subject in the player, embedded below.

Police Chief Joins Protest Against Police Brutality, Holds Sign Saying “#BlackLivesMatter”

Across the nation, protests have erupted over widespread reports of police brutality and, more specifically, in response to news that that the officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed African-American men, will not face charges. Police departments in various jurisdictions have been handling the protests in a variety of ways, with some turning to militarized crackdowns while others focus their efforts on fostering cooperation with protesters.

According to Fox 2 Now St. Louis, around 100 protesters took to the streets of Richmond, CA on Tuesday in an effort to sound the alarm on police brutality and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. When Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus arrived on the scene, protesters were met with the most surprising police response to a protest yet. Rather than deploying tear gas on protesters, Chief Magnus held a sign saying “#BlackLivesMatter” and joined in the protest.

“I spoke with my command staff, and we agreed it would be nice to convey our commitment to peaceful protest and that black and brown lives do matter… And to help bridge the gap that we understand sometimes exists between police and community around certain issues,” said Chief Magnus in comments to Contra Costa Times. Other officers and police officials also joined in on the demonstration.

“We get the conversation about use of force, we get it… This is an opportunity for all police departments, including ours, to look inward and examine our approaches and get better,” said Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown, who also attended the protest. In addition to moral support, Richmond police provided pizza for protesters.

Contra Costa Times writer Robert Rogers noted the fact that Chief Magnus has drawn significant local praise for his approach to policing, as both crime rates and police use of force incidents have been on the decline in his jurisdiction.

Protest organizer and RYSE Executive Director Kimberly Aceves said of Chief Magnus’ protest response in comments to CBS San Francisco, “I think symbolically, when there’s so much division between communities and police departments, to have the highest ranking members of the department hold signs for 4.5 hours…I felt like it was definitely legitimate.” The protest went on for five hours, a symbolic reference to the length of time that Michael Brown’s body remained in the street after he was killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

Photographs of Chief Magnus holding a “#BlackLivesMatter” sign have gone viral online, symbolizing an Andy Griffith-esque community-based approach to policing as an alternative to the intimidation-based, militarized approaches that have become more common in modern times. According to WDAZ-TV, the Department of Justice has asked the Richmond, CA police chief to participate in a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Report Finds Police Departments Making Their Own Rules, Not Reporting Hundreds of Homicides to The FBI

A recent analysis found that the killings of hundreds of individuals by law enforcement officers have not been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The study, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, stated that after looking at records from 105 of the nation’s largest police forces, there was a gap of 583 homicides that were not included in the FBI’s records from 2007 to 2012.

The analysis found that the departments recorded 1, 825 officer-involved killings over the five-year period, which was 45 percent higher than the tally of 1,242 that had been reported to the FBI.

According to Yahoo News, this massive gap “makes it nearly impossible to figure out how many people cops kill – justifiably or not – every year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that local police departments are not required to provide the FBI with either statistics or detailed records on how many individuals are killed by police officers.

According to CBS News, police departments have “developed their own policies that generally permit officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm,” which ultimately gives officers “the benefit of the doubt by prosecutors,” and makes and grand jurors “reluctant to second-guess their decisions.”

This is evidenced in the case of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson during a confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9. The Grand Jury chose not to indict Wilson on murder charges, sparking riots and protests throughout the country.

Another instance that recently ignited protests from the American public is the case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City, on July 17. The Grand Jury chose not to indict Pantaleo, despite the fact that unlike in Wilson’s case, Pantaleo’s actions were caught on video.

In addition to the freedom local police departments are given regarding their policies for use of force, they are also given a great amount of freedom when deciding how to use the military equipment they obtain with grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

As previously reported, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is in charge of providing grants for military equipment, does not have a system in place to determine the extent to which police departments use the equipment, and as a result the grant program “exists with little oversight.”

In the newest episode of the Truth in Media Project, which will be released on December 10, Investigative Journalist Ben Swann looks at the root of Police militarization, and the effect it is having on society. Watch the trailer below:

Truth in Media Project Exposes The Root of Police Militarization

Cincinnati, OH- Wednesday, December 10, 2014 Ben Swann and the Truth in Media Project will release their latest crowdfunded investigation. This story will expose the root of police militarization and why even if the Department of Defense 1033 program comes to an end, militarization will not.

Sign up below to have the episode sent directly to your inbox on December 10th.

Obama’s New $263 Million Proposal Is Not Just About Body Cameras

On Monday, the White House proposed a $263 million “investment package” in an effort to improve police departments across the country in response to continuous tension between residents and law enforcement in Ferguson, as well as criticism from the public nationwide regarding police militarization and police power.

A White House press release included several strategies to “strengthen community policing and fortify the trust that must exist between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.” The strategies include:

  • $75 million to be spent on a Body Worn Camera Partnership Program, which would offer a 50% match to states and towns for as many as 50,000 body-worn police cameras
  • Expanded training for police departments
  • Increased “resources for police department reform”
  • Multiplying the number of cities where the Department of Justice facilitates community and local LEA engagement

While the mainstream media is focusing largely on the portion of the proposal that provides funding for body cameras, less attention is being paid to other vaguely illustrated initiatives planned by the Obama administration. The White House has yet to explain exactly how the remaining $188 million would be spent, but has provided some generalized propositions.

The proposal includes a planned executive order instructing federal agencies, law enforcement agencies and civil liberties organizations to “work together” in order to provide recommendations that could improve the transfer of military equipment from federal agencies to police departments.

The press release contained suggestions for those recommendations such as mandated training courses for police acquiring military equipment, analysis reports for incidents involving military equipment, and the creation of a “consistent list of controlled property allowable for acquisition by LEAs and ensure that all equipment on the list has a legitimate civilian law enforcement purpose.”

The press release also announced their intention of creating a task force by using an executive order fixated on promoting “21st Century Policing”:

The President similarly instructed his team to draft an executive order creating a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and announced that the Task Force will be chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who also serves as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, and Laurie Robinson, professor at George Mason University and former Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.

Obama’s decision to appoint Ramsey as would-be chief of a task force centered around building trust between civilians and police could be considered perplexing. Philadelphia’s police department, headed by Ramsey, was sued in September by the ACLU over claims that the department used repeated excessive force to prevent citizens from filming its officers. In July, six officers in the Philadelphia police department were exposed as participants in an alleged corruption scandal that involved racketeering, extortion, robbery, drug dealing, and kidnapping.

The White House concluded its press release by stating:

 The initiative as a whole will help the federal government efforts to be a full partner with state and local LEAs in order to build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.

At this time there appears to be no specific efforts being made to scale back the military equipment provided to police. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a briefing that Obama has no plans to repeal programs authorized by Congress regarding police acquisition of military equipment. Earnest used the police response following the Boston Marathon bombings as an example of the significance of such programs. “But it is not clear that there is a consistency with regard to the way that these programs are implemented, structured and audited, and that’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Earnest.

Feds Donate Thousands of Bayonets to Local Police

The recent political crisis in Ferguson, MO put a national spotlight on police militarization. For years, the Department of Defense has been sending military hardware, leftover from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to local police through its 1033 program. Police departments have been accepting the military-grade hardware, despite its uselessness for purposes of civilian police work, under “what if” justifications. However, after obtaining the items, officials in charge of local police forces have often expanded the scenarios in which military tools are being put to use, resulting in militarized approaches to drug raids and peaceful protests.

NPR recently published an in-depth report on the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, cataloging every military item sent to law enforcement agencies from 2006 through April 23, 2014. Vox pointed out the fact that the cache of weapons donated to local cops included 11,959 bayonets. A bayonet is a spear-like weapon affixed to the end of a rifle that soldiers use as a last resort to gut enemies in close range. While this type of weapon could prove useful on a battlefield, it seems highly unlikely that a police officer could find a justified civilian law enforcement purpose for such a brutal offensive weapon.

The report also noted that 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 3,972 combat knives, 50 airplanes, and 422 helicopters had been issued to police by April of this year. It is also worth noting that large shipments of weapons have been issued after April of 2014. Vice reported on the fact that grenade launchers have been given to campus police departments.

The controversy over bayonets recently became a political issue in Woodland, CA, after the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services released a report indicating that the Woodland Police Department received 15 bayonets. However, according to KCRA 3Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio claims that the city did not request the bayonets, has not received them, and could not possibly use them. A recent article on BenSwann.com noted the fact that many local police departments have lost track of some of these donated military weapons, which have since gone missing. Navazio did indicate that local police requested knives through the program, which officers intend to use to cut down marijuana plants during drug busts.

NPR‘s police militarization report does not specify which police department received each item, so it is unclear to which localities the nearly 12,000 bayonets were shipped. In response to widespread outrage over the use of military equipment to police America’s streets, the Obama administration recently ordered an investigation into the Department of Defense’s Excess Property program.

Homeland Security Pours Billions into Militarizing Police with “Little Oversight”

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed under the Bush Administration in 2002, as a response to 9/11. In 2014, the DHS has 240,000 employees, and among other things, it is responsible for giving police departments grants for military equipment.

Grants given to local police departments from the DHS have received a great deal of scrutiny recently, after protests in Ferguson, Missouri were met with militarized local law enforcement.

The Executive Director for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and a columnist for The Guardian, Trevor Timm, referred to the DHS as the “primary arms dealer for out-of-control local cops in Ferguson and beyond,” and criticized the fact that the DHS was “handing out tens of billions of dollars in grants for military equipment in the last decade with little to no oversight and even less training on how use it.”

From an oversight perspective, DHS grant programs are pretty much a mess,” an anonymous congressional aide told The Guardian. “They don’t know what’s been bought with the money, how that equipment has been used, or whether it’s made anyone measurably any safer.”

An audit from 2012 found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is in charge of overseeing the grant program, “exists with little oversight.”

FEMA did not have a system in place to determine the extent that Homeland Security Grant Program funds enhanced the states’ capabilities to prevent, deter, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies before awarding more funds to the states,” the audit said.

Timm pointed out that although the DHS doesn’t have missiles like the ones used in Pakistan and Yemen, it does have its own “fleet of Predator drones roaming the US border and far beyond, which it has loaned out to police over 500 times for myriad unknown reasons.”

Homeland Security is also handing out millions of dollars to local police to ‘accelerate and facilitate the adoption’ of smaller drones that police can fly themselves,” wrote Timm. “Cops claim they want these ‘middleman’ drones for ’emergencies,’ but in places like California’s Alameda county, documents show they’ll end up using them for ‘crowd control’ and ‘intelligence gathering.'”

The criticism of Homeland Security’s actions was so great, that according to the New York Times, the White House announced that they would conduct a review regarding “whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately.”

California City Orders Police To Remove Armored Vehicle


Davis, CA- City officials in Davis, CA have listened to residents worried about excessive police militarization and ordered the police department to get rid of their new armored vehicle.

The equipment, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle, valued at $689,000, was another example of such a vehicle being passed on to police at no cost to the city by the military. The police department acquired the vehicle two weeks ago as part of the Defense Department’s 1033 Program.

Councilman Robb Davis voiced concern at a council meeting last Tuesday. “I am opposed to the investments that are made and then the results of those investments flowed back to our community in ways that may not hurt our community in a physical sense [but] are destructive in terms of not increasing our security but increasing our anxiety,” he said.

Residents protesting the vehicle appeared worried that the vehicle would be used to squelch protests and dissent in the community. Police said the purpose of the vehicle was to protect officers during dangerous situations such as dealing with active shooters.

More attention than ever before has been paid by citizens to police in their acquisition of military equipment, while some law enforcement officials continue to defend their value. “We have a genuine and job-specific need for the types of equipment that most people wish that they wouldn’t have in their communities because of the nature of the job that we have,” said Davis police Chief Landy Black.

“We enjoy a certain quality of life but none the less the real world intrudes upon us from time to time,” Black also said.

The Davis Police Department has 60 days to decide the fate of the vehicle.

 

Police Departments Losing Humvees And Military Weapons

A Fusion investigation of the Pentagon’s “1033 Program” has uncovered a disturbing pattern of misplaced military-issued weaponry within local and state police agencies.

Program 1033 is formerly known as Program 1208; when Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act in 1990, section 1208 authorized the Secretary of Defense to transfer “to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition”. In 1996, Section 1208 was replaced by Section 1033.

A Pentagon spokeswoman told Fusion that “Congress’ intent with the program is to enhance public safety and improve homeland security by leveraging taxpayer investments in defense technology and equipment.”

Fusion’s investigation discovered that 184 state and local police agencies have been suspended from Program 1033 because the agencies have lost track of the weapons they were given. The media outlet found that there is an outstanding pattern of missing M14 and M16 rifles throughout the United States. Missing pistols, shotguns and Humvees were also noted.

States including Mississippi, California, Georgia, Arizona and Arkansas have been found to be missing various weapons allocated by the program.

The Pentagon clarified that no police agencies were suspended from Program 1033 because of their usage of the weapons.

Equipment transferred from the military to state and local police departments is overseen by a state agency- the department of public safety, for example. A state coordinator, appointed by a governor, is responsible for watching over equipment inventory and ensuring cooperation with federal guidelines.

According to Fusion, “The decentralized structure of the program makes it difficult — even for the Pentagon — to keep tabs on the standing of participating police departments, or the weapons they’ve been issued. Officials at the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which runs the equipment-transfer program, were unable to provide specifics about why various police departments were suspended. And many state coordinators refused to speak to Fusion, or claimed they didn’t have the information requested.”

Willingness to speak about the suspensions varied between different police departments and state coordinators. The state coordinator in California claimed he was “not authorized” to speak about the agency. Huntington Beach, CA Police Lieutenant Mitchell O’Brien admitted to Fusion that the department was suspended last year due to a lost M16 rifle. “It was discovered during an internal audit,” he said. “An investigation was inconclusive as to how that occurred.”

According to Arizona state coordinator Matthew Van Camp, several weapons turned up missing in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Van Camp was unsure of the exact number, but he said “I think it was 11 or 12.”

In Georgia, a police department that had been suspended after two warnings regarding separate cases of missing .45-caliber pistols was ultimately terminated from Program 1033. The Georgia Department of Corrections had sold a military Humvee; it was later found and brought to a different department.

Police departments in Mississippi are missing several M14 rifles and a .45-caliber pistol had been sold at a gun exchange.

Fusion conducted an additional investigation of the possibility of police selling and inappropriately transferring the equipment. Two indictments discovered by the outlet allege that weapons such as an M14 rifle were resold or transferred to third parties that were not authorized.

The White House has ordered a review of Program 1033, but Fusion’s own investigation has already shown troubling instances of nearly 200 police agencies failing to account for their military weapons and equipment. Despite officials being put in place to oversee the movement of the weapons and reviews conducted twice a year to ensure compliance, items still have gone missing.

“The case for giving military weaponry to these small police departments was already thin in the beginning,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “Now that we’re finding that there is insufficient accountability for tracking this equipment, then the case is beginning to fall apart.”

 

Davis, CA City Council Votes to Dispose of Its Military-Style MRAP Vehicle

The police crackdown on protesters in Ferguson, MO shocked the nation, and the political consequences are beginning to take hold. Two weeks ago, the Davis, CA Police Department received a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle through the Department of Defense’s surplus military equipment program. However, residents of Davis, a city near Sacramento, responded with widespread protest, circulating a petition demanding that officials get rid of the tank-like armored truck that was built to sustain blasts from improvised explosive devices and mines on faraway battlefields in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. CBS Sacramento is reporting that the Davis City Council passed a resolution last Tuesday ordering police to get rid of the vehicle within 60 days, citing concerns that it could be used against peaceful protesters.

Davis Police Chief Landry Black pushed back, saying that the department might need the MRAP, considering the fact that police have seized high-powered weapons from suspects in the past. Robb Davis parried in a powerful speech that can be seen in the above-embedded video, saying, “This symbolizes the most destructive force on the planet which is the US military. I think we have to acknowledge that.” He also said to Chief Landry Black, “I appreciate the trust that you’ve built in this community… this will hurt it.”

Citizens’ concerns over civil rights won the day, as Tuesday’s council meeting was packed with protesters who demanded that the military vehicle be given away or destroyed as soon as possible. Local residents gathered 299 signatures on their petition expressing opposition to the MRAP being used by police in Davis.

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis acknowledged that the city does need to be prepared for events like mass shootings, but said, “I don’t think there’s going to be a scenario by which this vehicle will be acceptable to me or to this community.” He proposed a motion “that we look at the solutions [to mass shootings] that do not represent repurposing of a military vehicle to face them and we hold public participatory forums to publicly share ideas on the options.”

Councilman Brett Lee was the only member of the body to vote against the resolution, saying, according to Davis Vanguard, “To just return it, without actually having had [a discussion on whether or not the vehicle is necessary]… if we return it, then we don’t have the ability to get it back. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Davis Mayor Dan Wolk expressed concerns that acquiring the MRAP sends the wrong message to the community following an embarrassing 2011 incident, captured in a photo which became a viral internet meme, in which a UC Davis police officer pepper sprayed seated Occupy Wall Street protesters. He referred to the pepper spray fiasco as “an overreaction by the police and law enforcement.”

Local activists are hailing the vote as a victory for civil liberties and a first step in fighting back against police militarization. However, protesters plan to continue to pressure the council to make sure that the MRAP is disposed of within the agreed-upon 60-day period.

Billionaire Koch Brothers Fund Campaign Against Police Militarization

Left-leaning American politicos often complain about the political activities of the “evil” Koch brothers. They argue that Charles and David Koch use their disproportionate wealth to bend the American political system to suit their will. However, mainstream media outlets rarely point out the types of causes that the duo advocate for with their hard-earned wealth.

As Koch-funded Nick Gillespie at Reason pointed out, the billionaires have used their unusually-massive financial power to promote a wide range of liberal-friendly causes like drug decriminalization, marriage equality, cuts to defense spending, and opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act. Deroy Murdock at Newsmax wrote, “…since January 2009, the wicked Koch brothers’ companies have won 792 awards for environmental quality, operational safety, community service, and philanthropy.” The Obama administration, through bureaus like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Agriculture, has issued many awards to well-run, Koch-funded companies.

In the wake of the crisis in Ferguson, progressive politicos might also find common ground with the Koch brothers on police militarization. Tim Mak at The Daily Beasta recipient of a Koch fellowship, points out that Charles and David Koch have bankrolled opposition to police militarization for years. As an example, Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, took Koch-funded paychecks early in his career to write about the dangers of police militarization when he worked for Reason and The Cato Institute. Several organizations funded by the Koch brothers have been active in opposing what many see as an emerging police state.

The brothers Koch also helped fund the political campaign to re-elect Congressman Justin Amash, who recently said on Facebook, “The images and reports out of #Ferguson are frightening. Is this a war zone or a U.S. city? The government escalates tensions with its use of military equipment and tactics.” Amash was forced to fight tooth-and-nail to keep his seat during this year’s primary, mainly because he faced opposition from neoconservative groups. With help from the Koch brothers, Amash prevailed over the Dick Cheney wing of the GOP.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Koch Industries Inc. attorney Mark Holden said, “We need to address issues such as overcriminalization, excessive and disproportionate sentencing, inadequate indigent defense that is inconsistent with the Sixth Amendment, and the militarization of police.” He continued, “We have deep respect for the moral dignity of each and every person and because of this, we’ve worked for decades to support those who defend the full range of individual rights.”

Even today, the news cycle is full of negative articles about the Koch brothers, laced with criticisms of their protected First Amendment activities.

Mike Huckabee Joins Rising Chorus Against Police Militarization

The socially-conservative former Governor Mike Huckabee is hardly known for his libertarian positions on the issues. In fact, he once referred to libertarianism as the “greatest threat to classic Republicanism.” However, a nationwide debate on police militarization has emerged after Americans were shocked to see the Ferguson Police Department, armed to the teeth with military-style gear, cracking down on protesters of the Michael Brown shooting, members of the media, and bystanders in images on the evening news that looked like footage from a war zone overseas. In light of this and a few other recent examples, Huckabee appears to have joined what is a rising chorus of Republicans taking a long-held libertarian position and criticizing the militarization of American police forces.

On the August 16 episode of Huckabee on Fox News, the former governor pointed out a series of injustices carried out at the hands of over-militarized police departments across the US, “In 2011, federal agents, accompanied by SWAT teams, raided the Gibson guitar factory and headquarters in Nashville, threatening and frightening workers and confiscating wood, claiming that it was imported illegally. Criminal charges were threatened, never filed. There are also countless incidences of SWAT teams raiding homes and battering down doors, mistakenly shooting and injuring grandmothers and little kids, even killing pets. Earlier this year, police searching for a drug dealer in Atlanta threw a flash grenade into a home that landed in a toddler’s crib. The boy known locally as Baby Boo Boo had half his chest and face blown off and spent weeks in a hospital in a medically-induced coma. A woman in Evansville, Indiana has sued the city’s police department after its SWAT team smashed through her front door and threw flash grenades at her home, just to serve a search warrant two years ago. The eleven officers, looking for evidence after an anonymous internet post threatened the local police chief, found only the 68-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter in the house and handcuffed them, and they didn’t find any evidence in the search.”

The episode featured an interview with conservative Christian author Cheryl K. Chumley on her book Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our RealityHuckabee posed the following question to Chumley, “Now look, I’m a pro law enforcement guy. I’m a law-and-order kind of guy. I think we ought to support the police. I think, you know, they do dangerous jobs on our behalf, and I’m behind them 100%, but have we crossed a line in some areas with what’s called the militarization of police?”

Chumley replied, “Definitely, and I think all of America is pro-police… but there is a simple solution: when you kill somebody innocent, when you kill and maim a toddler, when you kill a 26-year-old marine in Arizona, and then you just go on the next day, business-as-usual, using the same military type grade equipment on the civilian streets of America, that’s where the line should be drawn and that’s where we should say, ‘enough, no more.'”

Huckabee also asked Chumley whether she thought the surplus military equipment donated to police departments by the DOD was being used “because we have it or because we need it?” Chumley offered, “I would say because we have it. You know, the War on Drugs has brought a lot of this equipment straight off the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq into civilian police forces for free or for grant dollars through the Department of Homeland Security. Once these law enforcement officials have it, they need to train with it. They need to justify its use, and that’s why we’re finding so many law enforcement officials nowadays across communities of America using armored vehicles and flashbang grenades to do things like warrants for drug suspects.”

Chumley concluded the segment by pointing out the fact that officer safety has become a priority over citizens’ rights, which she described as a “military mindset.” Said Cheryl K. Chumley, “…serve and protect the American public, the taxpayers who are paying your salary, that mindset is long gone, and we need to recapture that.”

Historic Battle of Athens Sheriff’s Department Gets Military Makeover

The above video, created by TheBlazeTV, provides some context into a lesser-known Tennessee historical event in which, back in 1946, returning World War II vets, having defeated Hitler’s tyranny, found themselves facing corruption and abuse from local law enforcement in Athens, TN, located in McMinn County. The local political bosses, State Senator Paul Cantrell and Sheriff Pat Mansfield, made piles of money on corrupt dealings, engaged in voter fraud, had innocent citizens arrested for profit, and allowed deputies to abuse vets and local women. A group of World War II veterans, led by Sheriff candidate Knox Henry, created their own political party and ran a slate of candidates against the local political machine.

On election day, an African American voter and unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement, Tom Gillespie, attended the polls to vote for the slate of veterans. Upon his arrival, one of Mansfield’s deputies ordered him to leave without voting. Gillespie refused and was shot. Deputies then shut down the polls and took the ballot boxes to a private location, intending to commit voter fraud once again.

Fed up, the townsfolk took to the local armory, gathered rifles, and took back the ballot boxes by force. When the votes were counted, the World War II veterans had won by a significant margin. History remembers the “Battle of Athens” as an example of the Second Amendment being used to combat tyranny. In the end, the armed uprising was ruled lawful, as the Sheriff’s seizing of the ballot boxes constituted a coup against the government.

Fast forwarding to the present day, Nashville’s News Channel 5 is reporting that police militarization has erupted into a full-blown scandal in Tennessee. Under the Department of Defense’s surplus weapons program, Tennessee police departments have received an unusually huge order of military weapons including grenade launchers, M-16s, and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. As an example, the rural McMinn County Sheriff’s Department, once coincidentally the focus of the historic Battle of Athens, was mistakenly given over five military weapons per person, despite only having 31 officers. Said McMinn County Sheriff Guy of the shipment, “Well, we don’t need this many. There was a little error in the order… They’re here as our department grows. We’ll have additional firearms for future officers.” It’s worth noting that DOD rules require police departments to return unnecessary surplus weapons. Due to this mistake, it is likely that the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department is now one of the most militarized sheriff’s departments in the United States.

However, the scandal goes much deeper than that. Tennessee police departments have received so much surplus military weaponry that they have lost control of their inventories. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, two M-14s went missing last year. An M-16 was stolen from a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer’s car. In the ultra-rural town of Bean Station, the son of the local police chief was arrested for impersonating an officer after stealing an M-16 acquired from the surplus weapons program.

Following News Channel 5‘s report, Tennessee’s Department of General Services responded by placing Elbert Baker, the state’s coordinator of its Law Enforcement Support Office, on paid suspension while it investigates a possible “record-keeping deficiency.”