Militarized Policing: One Nation Under SWAT

Yves here. If we had a bona fide democracy left in America, as opposed to a simulacrum of one, the night-after-night spectacle of constabulary overkill in Ferguson would spark outrage and a concerted effort to restrict militarized policing, particularly against peaceful protestors. Officials knew precisely what was at stake when they kept journalists as far away as possible from the 17 city, coordinated paramilitary crackdown against Occupy Wall Street.

But now that many comparatively small cities have war toys like tanks in their possession, and are also hiring former soldiers, it appears that we’ve passed an event horizon. Unless some of these municipalities are prepared to get rid of this militarized policing gear (and not by giving it to another city, but by destroying it or letting it deteriorate into uselessness), it’s inconceivable that the police won’t continue to abuse their greatly expanded powers.

By Matthew Harwood, a senior writer/editor at the American Civil Liberties Union. You can follow him on Twitter @mharwood31. Originally published at TomDispatch

Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 pm on May 27th, the intruders arrived. Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders.  They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic.  He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The intruders, however, weren’t small-time crooks looking to make a small score. Rather they were members of the Tampa Bay Police Department’s SWAT team, which was executing a search warrant on suspicion that Westcott and his partner were marijuana dealers. They had been tipped off by a confidential informant, whom they drove to Westcott’s home four times between February and May to purchase small amounts of marijuana, at $20-$60 a pop. The informer notified police that he saw two handguns in the home, which was why the Tampa Bay police deployed a SWAT team to execute the search warrant.

In the end, the same police department that told Westcott to protect his home with defensive force killed him when he did. After searching his small rental, the cops indeed found weed, two dollars’ worth, and one legal handgun — the one he was clutching when the bullets ripped into him.

Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.

The War on Your Doorstep

The cancer of militarized policing has long been metastasizing in the body politic.  It has been growing ever stronger since the first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were born in the 1960s in response to that decade’s turbulent mix of riots, disturbances, and senseless violence like Charles Whitman’s infamous clock-tower rampage in Austin, Texas.

While SWAT isn’t the only indicator that the militarization of American policing is increasing, it is the most recognizable. The proliferation of SWAT teams across the country and their paramilitary tactics have spread a violent form of policing designed for the extraordinary but in these years made ordinary. When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide.  Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.

Nearly a half-century later, that’s no longer true.

In 1984, according to Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it’s still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.

As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.

Upping the Racial Profiling Ante

In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.

Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime. In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort. In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.

On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.

Think of this as racial profiling on steroids in which the humiliation of stop and frisk is raised to a terrifying new level.

Everyday Militarization

Don’t think, however, that the military mentality and equipment associated with SWAT operations are confined to those elite units. Increasingly, they’re permeating all forms of policing.

As Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst with the Justice Department’s Community Policing Services office, observes, police across America are being trained in a way that emphasizes force and aggression. He notes that recruit training favors a stress-based regimen that’s modeled on military boot camp rather than on the more relaxed academic setting a minority of police departments still employ. The result, he suggests, is young officers who believe policing is about kicking ass rather than working with the community to make neighborhoods safer. Or as comedian Bill Maher reminded officers recently: “The words on your car, ‘protect and serve,’ refer to us, not you.”

This authoritarian streak runs counter to the core philosophy that supposedly dominates twenty-first-century American thinking: community policing.  Its emphasis is on a mission of “keeping the peace” by creating and maintaining partnerships of trust with and in the communities served. Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the U.S. government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them. They don’t command respect, the theory goes: they earn it. Fear isn’t supposed to be their currency. Trust is.

Nevertheless, police recruiting videos, as in those from California’s Newport Beach Police Department and New Mexico’s Hobbs Police Department, actively play up not the community angle but militarization as a way of attracting young men with the promise of Army-style adventure and high-tech toys. Policing, according to recruiting videos like these, isn’t about calmly solving problems; it’s about you and your boys breaking down doors in the middle of the night.

SWAT’s influence reaches well beyond that.  Take the increasing adoption of battle-dress uniforms (BDUs) for patrol officers. These militaristic, often black, jumpsuits, Bickel fears, make them less approachable and possibly also more aggressive in their interactions with the citizens they’re supposed to protect.

A small project at Johns Hopkins University seemed to bear this out. People were shown pictures of police officers in their traditional uniforms and in BDUs. Respondents, the survey indicated, would much rather have a police officer show up in traditional dress blues. Summarizing its findings, Bickel writes, “The more militaristic look of the BDUs, much like what is seen in news stories of our military in war zones, gives rise to the notion of our police being an occupying force in some inner city neighborhoods, instead of trusted community protectors.”

Where Do They Get Those Wonderful Toys?

“I wonder if I can get in trouble for doing this,” the young man says to his buddy in the passenger seat as they film the Saginaw County Sheriff Office’s new toy: a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. As they film the MRAP from behind, their amateur video has a Red Dawn-esque feel, as if an occupying military were now patrolling this Michigan county’s streets. “This is getting ready for f**king crazy times, dude,” one young man comments. “Why,” his friend replies, “has our city gotten that f**king bad?”

In fact, nothing happening in Saginaw County warranted the deployment of an armored vehicle capable of withstanding bullets and the sort of improvised explosive devices that insurgent forces have regularly planted along roads in America’s recent war zones.  Sheriff William Federspiel, however, fears the worst. “As sheriff of the county, I have to put ourselves in the best position to protect our citizens and protect our property,” he told a reporter. “I have to prepare for something disastrous.”

Lucky for Federspiel, his exercise in paranoid disaster preparedness didn’t cost his office a penny. That $425,000 MRAP came as a gift, courtesy of Uncle Sam, from one of our far-flung counterinsurgency wars. The nasty little secret of policing’s militarization is that taxpayers are subsidizing it through programs overseen by the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Justice Department. 

Take the 1033 program. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) may be an obscure agency within the Department of Defense, but through the 1033 program, which it oversees, it’s one of the core enablers of American policing’s excessive militarization. Beginning in 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to transfer its surplus property free of charge to federal, state, and local police departments to wage the war on drugs. In 1997, Congress expanded the purpose of the program to include counterterrorism in section 1033 of the defense authorization bill. In one single page of a 450-page law, Congress helped sow the seeds of today’s warrior cops.

The amount of military hardware transferred through the program has grown astronomically over the years. In 1990, the Pentagon gave $1 million worth of equipment to U.S. law enforcement. That number had jumped to nearly $450 million in 2013. Overall, the program has shipped off more than $4.3 billion worth of materiel to state and local cops, according to the DLA.

In its recent report, the ACLU found a disturbing range of military gear being transferred to civilian police departments nationwide. Police in North Little Rock, Arkansas, for instance, received 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, two robots that can be armed, military helmets, and a Mamba tactical vehicle. Police in Gwinnet County, Georgia, received 57 semi-automatic rifles, mostly M-16s and M-14s. The Utah Highway Patrol, according to a Salt Lake City Tribune investigation, got an MRAP from the 1033 program, and Utah police received 1,230 rifles and four grenade launchers. After South Carolina’s Columbia Police Department received its very own MRAP worth $658,000, its SWAT Commander Captain E.M. Marsh noted that 500 similar vehicles had been distributed to law enforcement organizations across the country.

Astoundingly, one-third of all war materiel parceled out to state, local, and tribal police agencies is brand new. This raises further disconcerting questions: Is the Pentagon simply wasteful when it purchases military weapons and equipment with taxpayer dollars? Or could this be another downstream, subsidized market for defense contractors? Whatever the answer, the Pentagon is actively distributing weaponry and equipment made for U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns abroad to police who patrol American streets and this is considered sound policy in Washington. The message seems striking enough: what might be necessary for Kabul might also be necessary for DeKalb County.

In other words, the twenty-first-century war on terror has melded thoroughly with the twentieth-century war on drugs, and the result couldn’t be anymore disturbing: police forces that increasingly look and act like occupying armies.

How the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice Are Up-Armoring the Police

When police departments look to muscle up their arms and tactics, the Pentagon isn’t the only game in town. Civilian agencies are in on it, too.

During a 2011 investigation, reporters Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz discovered that, since 9/11, police departments watching over some of the safest places in America have used $34 billion in grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to militarize in the name of counterterrorism.

In Fargo, North Dakota, for example, the city and its surrounding county went on an $8 million spending spree with federal money, according to Becker and Schulz. Although the area averaged less than two murders a year since 2005, every squad car is now armed with an assault rifle. Police also have access to Kevlar helmets that can stop heavy firepower as well as an armored truck worth approximately $250,000. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1,500 beat cops have been trained to use AR-15 assault rifles with homeland security grant funding.

As with the 1033 program, neither DHS nor state and local governments account for how the equipment, including body armor and drones, is used. While the rationale behind stocking up on these military-grade supplies is invariably the possibility of a terrorist attack, school shooting, or some other horrific event, the gear is normally used to conduct paramilitary drug raids, as Balko notes.

Still, the most startling source of police militarization is the Department of Justice, the very agency officially dedicated to spreading the community policing model through its Community Oriented Policing Services office.

In 1988, Congress authorized the Byrne grant programs in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which gave state and local police federal funds to enlist in the government’s drug war. That grant program, according to Balko, led to the creation of regional and multi-jurisdictional narcotics task forces, which gorged themselves on federal money and, with little federal, state, or local oversight, spent it beefing up their weapons and tactics. In 2011, 585 of these task forces operated off of Byrne grant funding.

The grants, Balko reports, also incentivized the type of policing that has made the war on drugs such a destructive force in American society. The Justice Department doled out Byrne grants based on how many arrests officers made, how much property they seized, and how many warrants they served. The very things these narcotics task forces did very well. “As a result,” Balko writes, “we have roving squads of drug cops, loaded with SWAT gear, who get money if they conduct more raids, make more arrests, and seize more property, and they are virtually immune to accountability if they get out of line.”

Regardless of whether this militarization has occurred due to federal incentives or executive decision-making in police departments or both, police across the nation are up-armoring with little or no public debate. In fact, when the ACLU requested SWAT records from 255 law enforcement agencies as part of its investigation, 114 denied them. The justifications for such denials varied, but included arguments that the documents contained “trade secrets” or that the cost of complying with the request would be prohibitive. Communities have a right to know how the police do their jobs, but more often than not, police departments think otherwise.

Being the Police Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Report by report, evidence is mounting that America’s militarized police are a threat to public safety. But in a country where the cops increasingly look upon themselves as soldiers doing battle day in, day out, there’s no need for public accountability or even an apology when things go grievously wrong.

If community policing rests on mutual trust between the police and the people, militarized policing operates on the assumption of “officer safety” at all costs and contempt for anyone who sees things differently. The result is an “us versus them” mentality.

Just ask the parents of Bou Bou Phonesavanh. Around 3:00 a.m. on May 28th, the Habersham County Special Response Team conducted a no-knock raid at a relative’s home near Cornelia, Georgia, where the family was staying. The officers were looking for the homeowner’s son, whom they suspected of selling $50 worth of drugs to a confidential informant.  As it happened, he no longer lived there.

Despite evidence that children were present — a minivan in the driveway, children’s toys littering the yard, and a Pack ‘n Play next to the door — a SWAT officer tossed a “flashbang” grenade into the home. It landed in 19-month-old Bou Bou’s crib and exploded, critically wounding the toddler. When his distraught mother tried to reach him, officers screamed at her to sit down and shut up, telling her that her child was fine and had just lost a tooth. In fact, his nose was hanging off his face, his body had been severely burned, and he had a hole in his chest. Rushed to the hospital, Bou Bou had to be put into a medically induced coma.

The police claimed that it was all a mistake and that there had been no evidence children were present. “There was no malicious act performed,” Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was a terrible accident that was never supposed to happen.” The Phonesavanhs have yet to receive an apology from the sheriff’s office. “Nothing. Nothing for our son. No card. No balloon. Not a phone call. Not anything,” Bou Bou’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told CNN.

Similarly, Tampa Bay Police Chief Jane Castor continues to insist that Jay Westcott’s death in the militarized raid on his house was his own fault.  “Mr. Westcott lost his life because he aimed a loaded firearm at police officers. You can take the entire marijuana issue out of the picture,” Castor said. “If there’s an indication that there is armed trafficking going on — someone selling narcotics while they are armed or have the ability to use a firearm — then the tactical response team will do the initial entry.”

In her defense of the SWAT raid, Castor simply dismissed any responsibility for Westcott’s death. “They did everything they could to serve this warrant in a safe manner,” she wrote the Tampa Bay Times — “everything,” that is, but find an alternative to storming the home of a man they knew feared for his life. 

Almost half of all American households report having a gun, as the ACLU notes in its report. That means the police always have a ready-made excuse for using SWAT teams to execute warrants when less confrontational and less violent alternatives exist.

In other words, if police believe you’re selling drugs, beware. Suspicion is all they need to turn your world upside down. And if they’re wrong, don’t worry; the intent couldn’t have been better.

Voices in the Wilderness

The militarization of the police shouldn’t be surprising. As Hubert Williams, a former police director of Newark, New Jersey, and Patrick V. Murphy, former commissioner of the New York City Police Department, put it nearly 25 years ago, police are “barometers of the society in which they operate.” In post-9/11 America, that means police forces imbued with the “hooah” mentality of soldiers and acting as if they are fighting an insurgency in their own backyard.

While the pace of police militarization has quickened, there has at least been some pushback from current and former police officials who see the trend for what it is: the destruction of community policing. In Spokane, Washington, Councilman Mike Fagan, a former police detective, is pushing back against police officers wearing BDUs, calling the get-up “intimidating” to citizens. In Utah, the legislature passed a bill requiring probable cause before police could execute a no-knock raid. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank has been a vocal critic of militarization, telling the local paper, “We’re not the military. Nor should we look like an invading force coming in.” Just recently, Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department agreed with the ACLU and the Los Angeles Times editorial board that “the lines between municipal law enforcement and the U.S. military cannot be blurred.”

Retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper has also become an outspoken critic of militarizing police forces, noting “most of what police are called upon to do, day in and day out, requires patience, diplomacy, and interpersonal skills.” In other words, community policing. Stamper is the chief who green-lighted a militarized response to World Trade Organization protests in his city in 1999 (“The Battle in Seattle”). It’s a decision he would like to take back. “My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose,” he wrote in the Nation. “Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict.”

These former policemen and law enforcement officials understand that police officers shouldn’t be breaking down any citizen’s door at 3 a.m. armed with AR-15s and flashbang grenades in search of a small amount of drugs, while an MRAP idles in the driveway. The anti-militarists, however, are in the minority right now. And until that changes, violent paramilitary police raids will continue to break down the doors of nearly 1,000 American households a week.

War, once started, can rarely be contained.

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  1. optimader

    “Lucky for Federspiel, his exercise in paranoid disaster preparedness didn’t cost his office a penny. That $425,000 MRAP came as a gift…”

    Of course we know who is going to pick up the the to keep all that crap in running order, right? These vehicles are maintenance pigs, and this may well be an incredibly craven agenda to suck revenue from municipalities to cashflow the MIC second tier vendors
    Oh look! how excellent they have a service and support program for their municipal clients, excellent!

    OH Boy, sign me up for the week long seminar and operational training boondoggle!

  2. psychohistorian

    Isn’t is quaint that the Posse Comitatus Act that limited the military for 130 years from engaging in US law enforcement was repealed in 2011.

    1. LifelongLib

      130 years ago the U.S. Army in the former Confederacy was battling the paramilitary Ku Klux Klan. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibited that and (along with the end of Reconstruction) handed the South over to ex-confederates who reimposed something close to slavery for the next 80 years. Granted, we face nothing similar today, but Posse Comitatus was no triumph of civil rights.

    2. bh2

      Remember the first public “demonstrations” of military-style hardware, tactics, and “rules of engagement” for domestic “policing” went on display at Waco and Ruby Ridge — courtesy of the Federal government. The man in charge: Eric Holder. Thank Mr. Clinton and the incomparable Ms. Reno for that choice. (And Mr. Obama thinks him the best possible choice for USAG.)

      The testimony of the Texas Rangers about the outrageous conduct of the BATF and FBI during its Waco operations was a clear and unmistakable warning which Congress plainly chose to ignore.

      The President can now nationalize the National Guard of any state without permission of its governor. Ultimate power (the barrel of a gun) now resides solely in the hands of a single elected official. Thank Mr. Bush and Congress for that gem.

      Now we learn advanced military goods have been produced in such prodigious abundance that even two wars couldn’t consume them all, so now they’re being handed out — fresh in the wrapper — as free toys to local police forces. This cornucopia gushes these vast supplies of armament goodies even as every Federal agency pleads poverty and promises calamity will befall the nation if its precious budget is cut even a “smidgeon”. They’ll even have to buy their own pencils.

      Not to suggest there’s been any conscious intention to steadily turn the US into a police state. Nothing like that could ever happen here. Cuz we’re ‘exceptional’.

      1. John Glover

        WTF are you talking about?

        Eric Holder was a US District judge when Ruby Ridge happened (during 1992 under Bush the First) and US Attorney for Washington DC when Waco happened. He had nothing to do with either of them.

        Stop making shit up.

  3. YoungExPat

    Factor in the mind-melting fact that U.S. police train with the IDF (the NYPD even have an office in Tel Aviv), and it’s not difficult to see what’s coming……

        1. SenseiMitch

          Just curious, what country did you move to? Despite all the problems and writing on the wall, America still offers many benefits that aren’t found many places in the World.

          1. YoungExPat

            Can you list me some examples of these so-called American benefits? I moved to a country with (almost) free health care and free education. Not to mention vacation time mandated by law. None of which is offered by the United States.

            1. yon

              The only benefit I can think of is that I do not have racially motivated job discrimination. I am legal to work here. Ironic, as it appears every other potential competitor is invited in with visas for my, or anyother job, I try to enter, no matter what the field. So in reality, it’s the lack of visa disbursememt in non-Western countries that is an indirect force keeping us here.

    1. jrs

      Interesting. Balko does seem to have been careless. Of course that’s Mark Ame’s site (it says so), and Mark Ames of course seems to see libertarian demons under every bed.

      He thinks these libertarians are seducing progessives I guess, but I figure it’s just as likely they catch the right and at least push or keep some of them in an anti-authoritarian direction. Which means they are more likely to share progressives horror when police officers in army uniforms in tanks are marching down the streets of American cities. I’m not sure how you’d ever prove either hypothesis really. If we had a true democracy maybe this country would be social democrat like that. But we don’t, and the libertarian right is far preferable to the authoritarian right.

      1. bob

        Careless? The Journal runs stories shorter than his correction.

        The rest is 18th dimensional chess. How does repeating the talking points of TPTB change anything?

        But they smoke weed, dude. Cool man.

        1. Pepsi

          Yeah. It’s less of a correction than an admission about a huge swathe of lies and propaganda.

        2. jrs

          criticizing the cops for excessive force isn’t exactly repeating the talking points of TPTB. But he does it only within limits? Well yea, that’s common.

          What’s so cool about weed btw?

        3. jrs

          Popular opinion may already be left for all it matters (ie popular opinion probably doesn’t matter), certainly many have argued it is. But someone like Balko is as likely to push people left as right is all I’m saying Sorry if not everyone was born some purist. And his consistent beat is police brutality, I don’t think he really focuses on much else though maybe one he does he goes off the rails (I’ve seen twitter fights to suspect so he does go off the rails when he does). But it’s likely unprovable whether he’s pushing people left or right. The Kochs have thier opinon no doubt.

          1. bob

            “The Kochs have thier opinon no doubt.”

            Their opinion is pretty well stated in the fact that they continue to pay him. A lot.


            In other contexts Balko would be said to be getting in front of a mob and calling it a parade. In this context, he’s literally in front of a mob with his support for ‘stand your ground laws’, the real reason® he’s paid. Oh, that and radley, he’s raaaad maaaan…

  4. abynormal

    U.S. law enforcement is greatly expanding its use of domestic drones for surveillance. Routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America. Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government. Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with (nonlethal for now) weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas. Read the ACLU’s full report on domestic drones here.

    by state:
    2014 legislation introduced in 36 states, active in 22 states, and enacted in 4 states.

    Use of drones by Seattle police strikes a nerve

  5. Fiver

    The War on Drugs if nothing else provided a good template for the War on Terror – both are exceptionally lucrative scams featuring US men and women in uniform responding to ‘bad guys’ created by truly stupid Federal policies, in the one case, by refusing to legalize use, production and distribution of safe recreational drugs, in the other by refusing ever to acknowledge as on an equal footing to ourselves the Arab nations and/or Islam.

    Legalizing pot remains one of the easiest smart things a Government can do hit a number of birds with one policy stone – it would be supremely helpful to Mexico, for instance. Treating Arab interests as legitimately as our own or Israel’s goes a very long way to resolving the other.

    One also wonders if the NRA’s real mission is to keep Americans armed in great enough quantity to provide precisely the otherwise precious little political cover Municipal Police Forces needed to get approval for all the firepower and seemingly infinite elasticity when it comes to elective representatives’ failures to challenge the unambiguously bad policy and worse conduct. All 3 levels of Government now have capacity to put down or contain an area any size they want and control all communications in or out.

    An aside – I suspect Yves was a science-fiction buff – the book “Simulacron-3” came straight to mind when I hit ‘simulacrum’ above.

    1. MtnLife

      We need to legalize all drugs, not just pot. They are just far too profitable (and enjoyable) to be kept out. Cocaine has a 17,000% profit margin from production to end user. MDMA (Ecstasy) nears 60,000%. Those are returns people would kill for… and often do. I have very mixed feelings for the NRA – I think they are psychos but no one else stands up for gun rights. Their stance on looser gun ownership is actually somewhat historically recent. They were hugely in favor of gun restrictions when the Panthers were carrying. I also don’t think it is the arming of your average citizen which drove the militarization of the police but the drug wars. Violence didn’t get out of control* until the poor gangs had enough money to buy guns (if you don’t know, guns are expensive and so is ammo) which only came after drugs provided a substantial income. *Violence was rising slightly before but the addition of drug money caused it to skyrocket. Skyrocketing illegal income needs to be forcefully protected since you can’t go to the cops and complain about someone stealing a couple kilos. Once you step into “Tha Game” you have to go full throttle or be eaten by the other sharks. As Mobb Deep said “Ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks”. Removal of illegal drug income would probably be the biggest blow to organized crime and violence. The industries that are left aren’t really that high paying or don’t hold tacit public support the way drugs do ie prostitution (low paying), voluntary and forced (slavery) human trafficking, military grade arms dealing, blackmail/extortion, etc. Without these “dangerous drug dealers” (and the WoT) there would be precious little reasoning for the militarization.

      1. EmilianoZ

        That would also remove a secret source of funding for some agencies. Do you really want to pay even higher taxes?

        1. jrs

          taxes are no limit, money can be created out of air, out of air I tell you!! Why this would ever be used to benefit us (beyond as a debating point) in a system we so clearly don’t run, I’m not sure. But the secret agencies that enforce the system yea sure, money is no object.

        2. hunkerdown

          Dear gods, it’s the “expected future profits” doctrine applied to government agencies.

      2. Banger

        Well put! Drugs were mainly legal before WWI. To anyone interested in the subject I suggest the works of Doug Valentine. Peter Dale Scott believes that illegal drugs are at the heart of the development of the Deep State.

  6. John

    Blacks have been raising the militarization, heavy handed police practices for decades, actually centuries. The rest of America took it for granted justice was meted out. They got what they deserved, well, because being black is an automatic indication of suspicion. Blacks raising the large societal discrepancies to the prison pipeline is often met with riducule and scorn. Few have empathy for a complaining black person. The Fox News within them boils over.

    Notice how Obama and the Missouri governor were not about addressing the black prison pipeline. They will not touch not that one nor will the media for that matter. There will be more Fergusons.

    1. MikeNY

      Indeed — it was left to Rand Paul and Paul Ryan (!!) to signal the problems with the criminal justice system. Kudos to them, especially Paul, for being vocal on this issue.

      There is no doubt that we are heading toward a police state. We need to start correcting our course now. I don’t think that’s possible without addressing the deepening economic injustice in America. Reduce that, and we’ll reduce much (not all) racial injustice as well.

    2. washunate

      Agreed. I think that’s also one of the interesting intergenerational developments. Millennials of all races grew up in the police state and the two-tiered justice system. It’s the silliness of things like Just Say No and DARE and the pharmaceutical drugging of kids combined with the deadly seriousness of the racism and unconstitutionality of policing and incarceration and wealthy people going to ‘rehab’ rather than prison. Most Millennials have a fundamental distrust of laws and law enforcement – across race and political party affiliation – a belief that justice is not being meted out. Nobody, certainly, is turning in their college friends for underage drinking or other illicit drug use. And nobody gets pulled over on the highway or receives a red light ticket in the mail and thinks, thank goodness, it’s the cops!

      Where that leads is unknown, but the difference in Millennial experiences and values certainly is bringing about change one way or another. It’s one of the reasons there is so much dislike for how the financial fraudsters and war criminals have been treated, because any Millennial remotely paying attention has seen law enforcement act ruthlessly against petty criminals their whole lives.

  7. abynormal

    KKK Raising Money for Police Officer Who Shot African-American Teen
    The South Carolina-based New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan says its Missouri chapter is raising money for the still unidentified white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, who was scheduled to begin college classes this week.

    “We are setting up a reward/fund for the police officer who shot this thug,” the Klan group said in an email. “He is a hero! We need more white cops who are anti-Zog and willing to put Jewish controlled black thugs in their place. Most cops are cowards and do nothing while 90% of interracial crime is black (and non-white) on white.”

    “Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of dam*ing those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness”
    Richard Wright, Black Boy

    1. hunkerdown

      The KKK says Jewish-controlled black thugs MUST be put down! (by Israeli Defense Forces techniques and technologies)

      Anyone starting to think the KKK is a Mossad project these days?

  8. cwaltz

    I live in a trailer park and I’m pretty sure SWAT has been using it as a training ground. My husband and I had a little talk with the drug task force after they used a flashbang in the neighbor’s house. Luckily no one was hurt because they weren’t aware but there was a 14 month old in the home when they tossed in the flashbang. That was after having over a week to execute the warrant and gather intelligence to assess the threat. I mentioned to the officer that this the US, not Fallajuh, too. There was absolutely no reason, other than money being justified and training, to do what they did. Oh and no my neighbors weren’t black, just poor white folks who ended up getting evicted(after being told they’d have to cough up the money to pay for the damage the local drug task force and SWAT did) over an ounce of weed and a pink .22.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Thanks for sharing an all-too-common horror story and for speaking up to power. I wonder if your little talk with the drug task force bore fruit. I hope so but sadly expect not.

    2. fresno dan

      How many times has what cwaltz reports happened? Just another example of how the government can put away any one of the 99% any time they want in the most incarcerated population on earth in the “land of the free”

      1. LucyLulu

        We need only return to the Kent State shootings, almost 50 years ago. The event saw almost historically unprecedented media coverage. A Gallup poll taken after the event revealed the majority of Americans believed the student protestors were to blame. A similar protest at a black university a couple weeks later resulted in a similar outcome of two student deaths and several others injured. That protest got little coverage. Few today even know the protest ever took place.

        Police are deemed to be justified in using lethal and non-lethal violence when protestors are white. When the protestors are members of a marginalized demographic, no justification is needed. There is no alternative. Fifty years later, consideration of whether a non-violent response might be more appropriate still doesn’t make it’s way into the discussion of a militarized force……. with one notable exception. When the over-armed law runs up against an over-armed public, such as at the Bundy ranch. If I were a member of law enforcement, and wanted to maximize my chances of living until retirement age, it seems to me that the last lesson I’d want folks to learn is “there is no alternative” to using armed violence themselves.

  9. DakotabornKansan

    The Israelification of American domestic security?

    “Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism.” “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “We’re in a global war.”

    “St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch, along with law enforcement officials from across the United States, will visit Israel to learn how Israel’s police, intelligence and security forces prevent terror attacks. Chief Fitch stated: “Our Department currently houses the St. Louis Terrorism Early Warning (TEW) Group which is the region’s fusion center serving the city of St. Louis and seven counties in Missouri and Illinois. The fusion center combines the efforts of law enforcement, (local, state and federal), public safety and private entities with the primary goal of gathering and sharing information concerning homeland security. National and state-wide level terrorist risk assessment and the dissemination of generated information is an on-going process. We serve the region with a multijurisdictional approach emphasizing the protection of critical infrastructures.”

    What’s wrong with fusion centers? Former FBI agent Mike German says, “If the federal government announced it was creating a new domestic intelligence agency made up of over 800,000 operatives dispersed throughout every American city and town, filing reports on even the most common everyday behaviors, Americans would revolt.”

    The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” and now the “War on the American Public.” Americans are in far greater danger from the police than they are from foreign terrorists.

    “I mean, you call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts. And when you at war, you need a f’ing enemy. And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your f’ing enemy. And soon the neighborhood that you’re supposed to be policing, that’s just occupied territory.” – Howard “Bunny” Colvin, District Commander (Major) Baltimore Police Department in HBO’s The Wire

    As David Simon, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, says, it is now a crude, brutal and shameful war on the underclass:

    “The Corner is no polemic, I hope. But it is a dry, careful argument that the war on drugs is destructive, wasteful, crippling to both urban communities and to the police departments charged with enforcing an untenable prohibition in those communities. What drugs have not destroyed, the war against them has. And the drug war itself is now merely a crude, brutal and shameful war on the underclass. The Wire, though fiction, is, I hope, extremely political. It argues that at the millennium, the American empire is ending, and the rot is from within. Notably, the agents of our decline are our own calcified, self-preserving and increasingly authoritarian institutions, as well as our naïve belief that raw, unencumbered capitalism, absent a framework that protects our weakest and most vulnerable citizens, can somehow stand for social policy. I believe America is going to be a colder, more brutish place, and human beings – be they working cops, or corner boys, or unemployed longshoreman, or school children – are going to be worth less with every passing moment.”

    1. Fiver

      Good comment. Andrew Bracevich made a similar point vis a vis the wholesale ‘Israelification’ of US strategic, geopolitical and military/security thinking, policies and actions not just in areas in very close proximity to Israel, but over the huge arc of conflict from North Africa to Pakistan, i.e., the US has adopted another nation’s ‘national interests’ as its own.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Seek and ye shall create. The military/police are seeking enemies in the US., and what do you know? Lo and behold, supply creates its own demand. The perfect bubble industry, militarism is a breeder reactor. It will eventually collapse of course, as all violent empires do. And Iope Ferguson is the tipping point, but I suspect it’s going to have to spread to a lot more white areas first.

      Of one thing I’m confident, if Obama and place-Holder do anything at all they’ll make it worse, maybe new public-private “simulus” for FEMA camps.

      1. H. Alexander Ivey

        Demand creates its own supply – after 9/11, the US government demanded terrorists, so it created them.

  10. Sam Kanu

    The good work being done on data points needs to be supplemented by an assessment of the picture these dots are painting:

    – Political change mechanisms defeated
    – Work moved abroad
    – Social safety net attacked
    – Pension plans stolen and destroyed
    – Pervasive domestic surveillance program installed
    – Constitutional protections hacked to pieces
    – Local police militarised

    At what point will the mainstream media do their job and start asking demanding answers regarding the obvious conclusion that this all leads to?

    1. cnchal

      Never. If it bleeds it leads. Follow the money and profits these tragedies generate for the MSM

    2. Banger

      The things you listed that were accomplished could not have been accomplished without a mind-control regime, aka the mainstream media–the only way to improve our situation is to deconstruct and oppose the mainstream media in all of its manifestations.

      Propaganda is central to the State’s power–we have to remember that modern propaganda was invented in the U.S. and has now been fully implemented in most parts of the world. In my view and the view of the oligarchs modern capitalism cannot function without a powerful mind-control regime.

          1. EmilianoZ

            Welcome back. I dont think there was much of note during your absence. There were some epic comment battles between the anti-ruskies (Abe, FF, …) and the pro- (OIFVet, CDR and many others). With you around, the anti-ruskies will be completely outgunned. I’m almost tempted to join them just for the sake of balance but that I cant think of anything to say to support them.

      1. Sam Kanu

        You’re quite right on the media.

        In addition to your good point about the money-corrupted media – I should probably add another two points to the list:
        – crackdown on whistleblowers
        – defining citizen journalists out of journalistic protections
        – harassing journalists who dont toe the govt line
        – stripping media of first amendment protections

        When doing your job and reporting govt misconduct gets you imprisoned for “fencing stolen goods”, well what’s left of the non-commercially-corrupted press is no longer a free either.

        But my main point, is that at this point the conversations remain far too fragmented, as the big picture is very clear – someone or some people have decided long ago that the masses were an imminent enemy – and by now more like a present enemy. Meanwhile the masses dont even grasp that someone has decided to wage a comprehensive multi-front war on THEM, while pretending the opponent is some “foreign” entity.

        And no wonder – with all these piecemeal discussions, it’s like everyone in a dark room has after having felt an animal, identified its tail, ears, feet, body, trunk, and all, but no one wants to say “. Folks there is an effing elephant in here! WTF do we need an elephant in this room for? Who brought it in and why?”

      2. Jim

        It is indeed the case that propaganda is central to State power.

        What is increasingly fascinating to me is the emotional themes being developed within this propaganda.

        We seem, more and more, to be participants in an ongoing and accelerating emotional/thematic epidemic of alarm.

        Our primary role as citizens is to increasingly exhibit the proper excitability–whether the theme is Ebola or Russian foreign policy.

        As a culture we are being incrementally pushed into various types of collective madness each with its own rhythm of excitability–which as citizens–now becomes our duty to properly perform.

          1. cnchal

            Gaslighting is also what narcissists do to their victims.

            It is my observation that most politicians are narcissists, and what do narcissists crave more than anything else? An emotional response, and it doesn’t even matter what that emotion is. To a narcissist, other people are objects, like a chair or a lamp, to be moved about at their whim and control.

            The image that narcissists project is one of cool confidence, with a huge deep pool of experience and ability. It is only when you question and challenge them that you realize, that huge deep pool is a shallow puddle. That is also when you become their enemy.

            To rid your life of a narcissist, ignore them and show no emotional response towards them. Once the narcissist realizes he (most narcissist are male) can’t feed of of your emotions, they move on to someone else. They are like sharks that way.

            The problem for the politician is that when they get to the legislature, the other politicians are narcissists too, and a competitive dynamic takes hold where they all want to be the center of attention.

            Unfortunately, we can’t ignore politicians. They do too much stupid stuff that usually hurts the rest of us.

  11. trish

    Israelification. saudification. Espanification. etc. the list can be pretty broad, getting broader. this kind of internal security is a big and growing club. and in many instances, many ways, really it’s Amerification of others …easier to assist them first (in so many ways) because, Democracy and Freedom here, until not.

  12. Katniss Everdeen

    I wonder if Osama bin Laden, wherever he now rests, realizes how successful his relatively small action actually was.

    In one short morning, he, whether he was actually the culprit or just given the credit, brought the entire US edifice crashing down. He accomplished what no other person or country on the planet could ever have hoped to accomplish–get the mighty US to shred its own sacred Constitution and justify turning its tremendous military firepower on itself.

    It really is quite remarkable. No other international tyrant–not Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot–had ever been able to drive this country to commit such complete, and even enthusiastic self-destruction.

    But Osama did it. One guy. One skinny, sickly old man stared down the entire United States of America and WON. One guy, the mere mention of whose name, induced the mighty american government to put a gun to its own country’s head and pull the trigger.

    I’d say again–it REALLY is quite remarkable that one quite ordinary human being could wield that much power.

    1. Banger

      I don’t believe he had much to do with it. All the pieces were in place before his alleged actions and his role, as far as I can see, was rather ambiguous. No one has proven anything about his culpability–only allegations by the State.

      1. LucyLulu

        I couldn’t agree more. Militarization and erosion of civil liberties had little to do with the events of 9/11/01.

    2. tim s

      I can’t tell whether this is tongue-in-cheek or if you are serious about Osama being the key figure behind 9-11.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Does it even matter? His face, his name. One guy that every American was convinced they had to hide from. One guy that every American was sure was coming to get THEM. One guy that Americans were willing to give up everything to be protected from. One guy who was going to “hit us” again.

        One magical guy.

        Whether he did it, or whether he was even still alive, never even mattered.

        1. tim s

          It matters a GREAT deal. If everyone thinks their sole enemy is dead, then they also may think that they have nothing else to fear. If they are wrong, then their enemy may be alive and well and plotting against them, and they suspect nothing. They will continue to be attacked until they identify this enemy and protect themselves accordingly.

            1. tim s

              No, the idea of needing to know who/what is your real enemy is really quite simple. Your obfuscations are complicated.

              At some point in time, it will not matter, but that time is far into the future, when all of the current world tensions have resolved themselves and the dust has settled with the victors licking their wounds and the defeated are no more. That time has not yet come, and the details of knowing WHO is WHAT and to see them for what they are is now of utmost importance.

              If you want complicated, check the following site out. Interesting that Osama is hardly, if ever, even mentioned:


          1. monday1929

            Kidding, right?
            Don’t worry- chicken-shit America will stay afraid as long as there are Shadows.

    3. Sam Kanu

      That dude and his organization were venture capital funded by the CIA. Question is: did he go renegade and attack his mentors – or is the whole thing part of a grand theater, in which his character has played its part before being offed?

      1. Jim Haygood

        Good question. It’s a scenario that repeats often … cf. Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, etc.

        The late Orlin Grabbe claimed that Osama’s handle was ‘Tim Osman’ when the CIA hosted him in San Antonio in 1986.

    4. Doug Terpstra

      Remarkable indeed. But IF Osama did it, he couldn’t have done it so thoroughly without Obama. Still, I’m sure it’s just sheer coincidence, not some grand neocon ‘strategery’ for full-spectrum dominance or anything.

  13. Eureka Springs

    This tragedy, this event is one fine example in a long list of reasons why I always say the system is and has long been completely broken. And that the U.S. has never been a Democracy. You can’t stand in your own public spaces and demonstrate (unless you are a gun-toting teabagger). Petitioning for grievances is as ridiculous as voting. Trying to do these things will get you imprisoned and or wounded or killed. If you live it’s on your permanent record. Because, admit it or nay…. all records are permanent.

    And don’t you just love listening to police/military talk amongst themselves. Why the very use of a term such as “execute a warrant” has long said far more then most are willing to hear. Would seem to me any decent human being setting themselves up to actually protect and serve their community would demand the word execute as a description of a very common part of their duties would be self-policed out of existence. Of course there is no greater stupidity problem than allowing police to self-police.

  14. Bart Fargo

    As a citizen of 21st-century America you have the right to protest, until you actually go out and do it. Then you just have the right to remain silent as you’re gassed, pelted, beaten and tased to a bloody pulp. What this week in Ferguson has reminded us is that Anytown, USA is always only one night of public protest away from showing its true face as a police state.

  15. washunate

    Thanks for posting this. The drug war specifically and the militarization of the police more generally is one of the fundamental operational aspects of the assault on constitutional governance, of how class-based divisions in society are enforced ‘on the front lines’ on a day-to-day basis.

    It also helpfully lays to rest the canard that there isn’t enough money. There is plenty of money; we are overflowing in money. The question is, to what purpose is the money deployed.

  16. Banger

    There were all kinds of forces at work to put is in the situation we find ourselves that is well-articulated by the post and all of the comments here. The chief culprit is the creative class that creates and controls the media both “news” and entertainment–they are, for the most part, propaganda organs who praise law enforcement, the military, violence as the most effective answer to any problem, as well as dividing the world in to “good guys” and “bad guys” such that supposedly well-educated reporters, military officers and public officials use those stunningly childish terms.

    The result is that our cultural narrative is rigidly controlled by the State, not in the way it was in the USSR through a central agency but a much more decentralized and well-integrated system (it started, formally in 1917) that has had a century to grow and develop. We can trace its history as being dominated by always the same concerns: war, race, illegal drugs, and defeating and defanging political opposition from the left. This project had its weaknesses and has met temporary defeats from time to time but eventually has pretty much won the battle and we are now subjects to the State and no longer citizens in the old sense.

    For me the most important take-away from this movement of military occupation (and it varies from locality to locality quite a bit) is to see that we are faced with a radical moment–we must begin to organize ourselves and disconnect from the political and economic system as best we can as individuals and re-emerge as real communities. So we can oppose the creeping fascism and neo-feudalism engulfing us.

    1. Ulysses

      “For me the most important take-away from this movement of military occupation (and it varies from locality to locality quite a bit) is to see that we are faced with a radical moment.”

      I strongly agree, and the sooner more of us recognize this fact, the better. As Chris Hedges has pointed out: “We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.” We should also add that, far too often our militarized police are murderous, lawless thugs whose outrageous violence shatters our communities.

    2. Fiver

      I’d like to add an element of ‘revenge of the South’ to the mix of identifiable currents of power and values that are shaping our maturing One Global Prison.

  17. Denis Drew

    Whatever the impetus for growing militarization of police — or even growing over-enforcement against harmless activities like riding a bicycle on the sidewalk — I ascribe missing opposition as what permits it all to happen; missing opposition in the form of DE-UNIONIZATION. Thus, the middle class, not to mention the poor, has lost its mojo. We are just bugs to step on now; we even step on each other (cops are middle class). I tend to take motivational takes.

    The only resolution — my resolution for everything — is legally mandated, centralized bargaining. Only under centralized bargaining can labor effectively withhold its labor in the market place — no Wal-Mart crushing the supermarket contracts with Bangladesh shoe factory wages. At 7% labor costs — Wal-Mart could be forced to double wages and add half again in benefits which would only raise prices 10%. Does anybody think that if Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters organized retail clerks under a “National Master Clerk Agreement” wouldn’t have taken advantage of that spread (it’s like arbitrage) long ago. Legally mandated centralized bargaining is in practice around the world — the foremost example in a central European economy that exports 7 out of 8 vehicles it manufactures.

    Re-unionization means equal financing and lobbying with ownership and 99% of the votes.

  18. Ulysses

    The violence and terror poor people face under this regime is of course horrific. Yet even without SWAT teams, or direct police violence, poor people can have their lives turned upside down with a parking ticket or other minor encounter with the system.
    “Sadly, the for-profit probation business is booming. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are sentenced to probation, often for misdemeanors including unpaid parking tickets. Instead of being able to just pay those fines and move on with their lives, many get sucked into spiraling debt traps they cannot escape. There are hundreds of thousands of people like Hali out there, for whom small court fines have ballooned into hundreds of dollars of debt.

    The for-profit probation racket isn’t benefiting society; it’s only benefiting these companies’ bottom line. We need to remember two things: 1) If probationers miss a payment and end up behind bars, taxpayers foot the bill for this imprisonment; and 2) Our communities are not better off when we force people in poverty to choose between their liberty and putting food on their table —and needlessly lining the pockets of for-profit probation companies in the process.”

    The whole prison/police industrial complex works to anchor large numbers of people to underclass status. While this is particularly true for communities of color, poor whites also face entrapment in this vicious system. The huge numbers of men, women, and children teetering on the edge of homelessness is a feature, not a bug, of our current system. Outsourcing of good jobs, union-busting, over-priced housing, etc. combine with the long arm of the law to push people into fearful submission.

    The good news is that far more people here in the U.S. are now aware that they are oppressed. The bad news is that the mechanisms of oppression are powerful, pervasive, and redundant. This grim situation will require us to unify, and resist our oppressors with extraordinary courage, if we are to have any chance of survival.

    1. Denis Drew

      See the comment just above yours — on re-unionization. All other discussion is just moving the air until we take the country back that way — both economically and politically. Absent that all else is lost. Wish academic progressives would catch on to that all or nothing notion. Mostly they don’t think about unionization at all.

      1. Ulysses

        Yep. This is why I’m working closely with these good people:
        When I was an academic I was quite dismayed by how little my colleagues (with the exception of some labor historians) knew about unions, even the A.A.U.P!

  19. craazyboy

    Oy Vey mensch. Do something nice for yourself. Buy a new pair of shoes. Have a dill pickle. If you must play army…do it outside the country!

  20. Nat Scientist

    I see ‘gifted’ communities using these MRAPs as anti-war memorials buried nose -first on a 45 degree angle like on Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch in Texas. Earth as tank trap for end of an era; plant’em.

  21. indio007

    Yves , as usual, brilliant choice and timely. There are alot of people up on their soap box but this piece encapsulates the current reign of terror nicely.

    My soapbox…

    There is a few that are being left out.
    How the police are being trained ,internal police culture, and most importantly the average citizens lack of knowledge on how to hold police accountable effectively.

    1. Police are trained militaristicly during the course of the career and “re-educated” at the academies. AFAIK federal funds have poured into police training programs and just like the Dept. of Education, they choose the curriculum.
    Case in point is what NYPD recruits went through….with TV’s all over the place spamming images of death and destruction by jihadis. Police are trained everyone the interact with could potentially be their doom.

    2. I keep hearing police refer to what once was a shift as a tour. Is this Vietnam? Are the People now Charlie?
    We don’t have much time till the next Mai Lai it seems to me.

    3. People wronged by an individual or group of police seem to take one of several actions.
    a. File a complaint with the Police Dept.. (dumb, ineffective and dangerous as this video shows )
    b. Sue the (insert gov’t agency here) for a big payday.

    If you really want to change the behavior of police you sue them as individuals. When a public official commits an that is in breach of duty, they are personally liable and do not enjoy the immunity of the office. They are said to be acting “outside of their office”.

    When a few individuals are held responsible with their own property (not the taxpayer) at jeopardy this stuff will end.

    1. Jerry Seaberg

      The police shot and killed a young man, who was drunk and unarmed in Madison, WI. The police investigation determined the policeman was following policy and procedures. So the neighbors who knew the young man have filled a civil suit against the police officer. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

      1. indio007

        Police don’t get to decided for themselves whether their employees violated a duty. Their are duties that are above and beyond what the police write down in their rules and regulations.

        What is justified to the police is not necessarily what is justified in law.

        Of course , the family is probably suing the State and not the man himself.

    1. hunkerdown

      More likely, getting out in front of the mob and calling it a parade.

      In any case, it didn’t last. They were reportedly back at it tonight for a minute.

  22. Jim Haygood

    ‘Is the Pentagon simply wasteful when it purchases military weapons and equipment with taxpayer dollars?’

    Is the pope Catholic? Do bears sh*t in the woods?

  23. Paul Tioxon

    Philadelphia has a long history of Police corruption and brutality, and political and civilian struggles to make the cops work for the people in the neighborhoods and NOT just work for a paycheck. Now, there is a professional police academy which has included lessons of the misuse of police force for political oppression. It is a long way from Frank Rizzo’s force, spaco il capo- break their heads, when the cops wore black leather jackets, all of them, not just some elite highway patrol squad and they all carried black jacks. A black jack is a piece of lead the size of half a golf ball, covered in leather used to hit someone in the head to knock them out. That was before non-lethal force meant pepper spray or a taser. And Rizzo was good buddies with then president Nixon, even though he was a democratic mayor, and enthusiastically welcomed all of the war on drug and Law Enforcement grants that he could he get his hands on, including the his own tank parked inside of police HQ. But thanks to decades of push back, federal grand jury trials and successive waves of more trials, more reforms, we have arrived at a point where the police commissioner demanded training of the police academy recruits include tours in Washington DC of the Holocaust Museum.

    The abuse of power against the people by the government will begin first with the police. This is lesson that recruits receive and are warned about. The message needs to be part of the socialization of all law enforcement from the small towns and counties to the big cities and all through the dozen or more federal police forces. It’s a good start for the cops. Because when they say they were only doing their job when they attack the unarmed civilian population, they can no longer hide behind ignorance. They have been taught what the police can do directed by institutional racism,targeted political oppression and other abuses on their own initiative without being part of a larger pattern. Once this training is included, there is no wall of ignorance to hide behind, no just following orders, no one told me about the consequences of actions on my community and society at large. They are being told right now. No more excuses for the abuse of police power.
    “Alongside the atrocities were the people who should have stopped them.

    The images of the police who participated in the crimes of Nazi Germany, frozen in time at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, haunted Charles H. Ramsey when he first visited nearly two decades ago as chief of Washington police.

    On Tuesday, Ramsey sent 75 Philadelphia police recruits to see the same images. Now Philadelphia police commissioner, he wanted the trainees to learn about guarding the rights promised by the Constitution, about the sacred relationship with the people they will protect, and about how disastrous the results can be when police lose sight of those priorities.

    “To find a way that you can illustrate what values mean, and what the absence of those values mean, in as concrete a form as the museum, is a very powerful thing,” said David Friedman, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who spoke to the Philadelphia recruits.

    The recruits Tuesday joined more than 90,000 members of police agencies who have been through an ethics training program Ramsey conceived after his first visits to the museum in the 1990s, and that has since spread to all levels of law enforcement, including the FBI and Secret Service.”

  24. Jackrabbit

    “Legalize all drugs” – – MtnLife
    No. There are some drugs that are just too dangerous. Meth and crack come to mind.

    Legalization would help State and local government budgets via: a) increasing revenues (drug taxes), b) fewer police, c) reducing prison populations.

    “Mind control” – – Banger
    This is way too general a description. To me, at the most basic level, this ‘mind control’ is about creating an ‘us vs. them’ atmosphere of hate and suspicion. Neolib glorification of ‘markets’ turns meanness into acceptable behavior. It is a ‘con’ that can’t last. ‘Externalities’ (an economic term for market shortcomings) will eventually overturn the cart as ‘bads’ like inequality, which chokes an economy, and moral hazard/karma build up.

    Most of the reason for our police state is:

    >> a failed drug policy;

    >> extreme inequality; and

    >> the fear of blowback from an aggressive foreign policy that coddles dictatorial regimes and promotes extremism.

    All of these are allowed/tolerated because people have been disenfranchised. Elected officials today are less concerned with ‘will of the people’ commonsense than they are with passing litmus tests that satisfy powerful interests.

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    1. Banger

      The state allows and encourages the use of amphetamines and opiates if they come from an MD, so why shouldn’t people be allowed to take substances they need? People who crave speed are often suffering from various forms of ADD and people who crave opiates are in pain. I definitely do not believe doctors know better and believe that the reason why so many drugs are illegal has little to do with caring about the public welfare. I believe the controls of what goes into my body is my business and no one else’s. Current drug laws are an assault on human dignity which is a “gateway” to the totalitarian impulse of the current State. Again, I can get real specific on the mind control regime it is very real and it works and has worked to make people afraid of drugs and herbs. The problem with most illegal drugs lies with dosages, purity and the very fact they are illegal and the guilt associated with doing something everybody thinks is “bad.”

      1. Man in a Barrel

        Banger – “I believe the controls of what goes into my body is my business and no one else’s.”

        Sorry but I can’t run with that. If what goes into your body impares your perceptual and/or motor abilities, causing you to drive and kill or main others on the highway? If what goes into your body is addictive, causing you to have to divert more and more of your income into ‘feeding the habit’ to the point that I either have to support you, or you decide you have no option but to take money from me anyway?

        I’ve no problem with you destroying yourself but I reserve the right to prevent you destroying me and mine in pursuit of your freedom to pollute yourself.

        1. Banger

          There are traffic laws we ought to observe–that has nothing to do with substances I put in my body. Alcohol is legal–by your reason we ought to make it illegal.

          1. Man in a Barrel

            In my neck of the woods, too, we have traffic laws that make it illegal to drive with alcohol or any other drug in your system that makes you a danger to other road-users and yourself. Aren’t those laws an impingement of your right to put whatever you like into your body? (Please don’t argue those laws only apply if you stupidly decide to drive under while under the influence. I suggest it’s beyond reasonable doubt that the ability to decide you’re too drunk/stoned to drive safely is one of the first casualties of getting drunk/stoned.)

            We also have a comprehensive health service paid for entirely out of public taxation. Included in that health service are the not inconsiderable expenses of dealing with people who voluntarily get themselves drunk/stoned and beat up their wives, children, friends and strangers, and/or get themselves hooked on alcohol/drugs to the point they (and they families) have to be supported by my taxes while they undergo extensive programmes of de-addiction, drying-out – at best – or otherwise spend years in prison at my expense for the commission of crimes carried out ‘while under the influence.’ No doubt you would regard my preference for their being prevented from getting hold of alcohol/drugs in the first place as an infringment of your rights to pickle your own brain.

            Do I think we should make alcohol illegal? I enjoy a wine or beer every now and then, usually to mark a special occasion. I’m also fortunate to live in a country that has strict gun controls, and while I would like to have a gun on my property in order to protect my wife and family from aggressive intruders I accept the argument that it’s better that no-one has a gun as opposed to everyone having one. Hence while I would regret alcohol being made illegal I can’t deny that the wider world would be a better place without it. Of course it’s already too late the close the barn door on that one, but where the still option exists to prevent evils I would support its adoption even at the cost to myself of the occasional ‘trip’.

            1. Fiver

              I’d almost say I detected some reddish something or other in that woods neck of yours the way you come down on the entire class of alcohol or drug users as if all were criminals, losers, violent, abusive, lazy and useless and in all probability, worthless from a taxpayer’s perspective. Yet we know the people who get caught up in these kinds of problems didn’t sit down one day and decide to become a problem, rather, they are people having a rough time making things work with the cards they’ve been dealt. The school system sees them first and I would think, assuming a serious program, could identify the sorts of people who tend to become the problems later, simply by asking the other kids if there’s anyone in the class or school he/she is afraid of or concerned for. All of these people can and ought to be helped as part of a much larger project for re-pointing political and economic power away from corporations and back to people.

              1. Man in a Barrel

                As I’ve admitted to enjoying a drink myself I’m hardly going to come down on the entire class of alcohol users as criminals, losers, etc.

                Would I be willing to give up the pleasures of responsible alcohol/gun/drug user if it kept alcohol/guns/drugs out of the heads of those who, for whatever reason, misuse or can’t handle them? Yes. Wouldn’t you? Or is the drunk sprawled in the gutter in his (or her) own vomit/the innocent dead of a shooting spree/the hopeless heroin addict mere acceptable collateral damage from your right to an occasional glass of wine/gun in a locked draw/LSD high?

                Sure the drunk might just be trying to drown his troubles, the High School shooter just a sad, rejected, mentally-ill loner in need of help, the girl prostituting herself for her next hit probably had no idea what that offered bit of fun with a little white powder would get her into. Sure they all need all the help we can give them and damn the expense – but I suggest it would be a lot better if we placed the ambulance at the top of the cliff rather than at the bottom and if it means denying us all alcohol, guns and drugs – however responsibly we personally might be able to handle them – I’d make that sacrifice. Wouldn’t you?

                1. skippy

                  A study of primitive society’s and mood altering substances would unpack this dilemma quite saliently. Its curious how they can utilize such stuff and still have a coherent social group yet once in market civilization become completely unstuck, abuse the substance for individual pleasure and not as a social bonding tool.

                2. Fiver

                  Actually, I would – and I’d toss in ensuring not a single person on this planet was ‘left behind’ even if it meant I never had another good moment in life – and do so having survived some ill times indeed. Further, I’d say the same with respect to ensuring no other species was threatened by human activities. Would you? Really? Good. It’s decided. We are our brothers’ and our sisters’ and our planet’s Life’s keepers, and our calling and duty from this day forth is as clear and true as the heart of the Lord Himself (for those so inclined). Simplicity itself.

                  Now there is this small matter of the rest of the population’s inclinations. For that purpose we have no shortage of history or data to help guide our decision-making. And what we find is that prohibition/criminalization of mind/mood altering substances yields a constant jail population of roughly a million; enough profit to make it worthwhile to knock over Afghanistan just to get opium production back to pre-Taliban levels or Columbia for cocaine; a gigantic sum for ever-more-violent ‘enforcement’ the chief aim of which is to keep those profits high; all of the violence associated with organized crime/gang rivalries; plus all the ugly stuff that concerns you.

                  Everyone in the US who wants to drink or do drugs is already doing it. Absent a certain penalty of death for production, sale or use of illicit drugs that no Western nation is prepared to contemplate the by light years most effective means to shrink the entire multi-trillion dollar industry is to smash the giga-profit incentives via de-criminalization or outright legalization on the one hand, and, for the first time in the US, a real commitment to build the kind of society that both minimizes all those factors which contribute to drug dependence and takes care of those who need help, not a knock on the door and hello from a shotgun blast.

        2. hunkerdown

          Wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t dependent on attention-consuming operation of expensive, dangerous machines to get from one place to another.

    2. washunate

      “There are some drugs that are just too dangerous.”

      You have the wrong standard. The question is not is something dangerous. Rather, the question is, are laws prohibiting its use less dangerous?

      The evidence is overwhelming that drug laws cause more harm than drugs. Meth and crack are particularly hilarious scare mongering, since we give them to kids (what do you think the ‘meth’ in methylphenidate is for?).

    1. Sam Kanu

      Glen Ford and Black Agenda report are very consistent in pointing out what is going on. Actually their journalism is hugely significant from much more than black perspective alone, although they use that angle.

  25. EmilianoZ

    Militarization of the police could also preparation in view of the great dislocations that are gonna be wrought by global warming. At least we cant fault our leaders with lack of foresightedness.

  26. Oregoncharles

    It’s the culture of police impunity, very obvious just from reading the news, that I think is the fundamental problem. The toys wouldn’t be as much of a problem without it – though there is no excuse for police to have assault rifles, whose sole purpose is to mow down large numbers of people.
    Furthermore, and getting very political, I think the impulse is coming from the top. Of course, police never favor accountability for themselves; nobody does, really, but their sense of entitlement is especially strong. But there is a larger reason for GIVING them that impunity:

    The plutocracy, the handful of people at the top and their political flunkies (you know, the people nc writes about everyday), know perfectly well how badly they’re ripping off the rest of us. Nobody knows that better. Consequently, their consciences, if they have them, are bothering them; they fully expect resistance, at some point, and they’re getting ready. It’s the underlying reason for the systematic trashing of our civil liberties and democracy, something that has accelerated under Obama.

    I just wish that I saw signs of the resistance they obviously expect. In that respect, the riots in Ferguson are a good sign: at least somebody’s resisting. But on a political level, so far it’s just the usual suspects, and we’re feeling more and more exposed and endangered.

    1. LifelongLib

      I agree with your general point, but I don’t believe the wealthy think they’re ripping off the rest of us. They think the money rightfully belongs to them, and that it was the New Deal etc. that was the the ripoff. In their minds they’re finally getting back what should have been theirs all along.

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