With newly purchased assault rifles, body armor and armored vehicles, “many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” finds the Center for Investigative Reporting, which has arguably done a better job than Washington of tracking what precincts around the country have bought with $34 billion in federal grants.
The money was allocated with the intention of fighting terrorism in the homeland, but CIR says the spending isn’t scrutinized very much and the situation is so out of control that the police of Fargo, N.D.—that hotbed of terrorist activity—now sport a “$256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret.” —PZS
Center for Investigative Reporting:
No one can say exactly what has been purchased in total across the country or how it’s being used, because the federal government doesn’t keep close track. State and local governments don’t maintain uniform records. But a review of records from 41 states obtained through open-government requests, and interviews with more than two-dozen current and former police officials and terrorism experts, shows police departments around the U.S. have transformed into small army-like forces.
Since Occupy Wall Street and similar protests broke out this fall, confusion about how to respond has landed some police departments in national headlines for electing to use intimidating riot gear, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. Observers have decried these aggressive tactics as more evidence that police are overly militarized. Among them is former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, who today regrets his “militaristic” answer in 1999 to the infamous “Battle in Seattle” protests.
Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of equipment bought with the federal grants reads like a defense contractor catalog. High-tech gear fills the garages, locker rooms and patrol cars in departments across the country.