Monday, May 18, 2015

Talk About Militarization of the Police

Until this issue was raised (on a libertarian site I frequent) I'd never given much thought to excess Pentagon equipment being given to local law enforcement.  I'm reminded of a series of lines from the relatively recently reimagined Battlestar Galactica series in which Commander Adama explains to new-President Roslyn why Galactica's marines cannot serve as a civilian police force throughout the fleet:

That is the problem with militarizing police forces.

Recently I came across this article, from a site I do not know and the validity of which I cannot yet vouch, outlining what types of military equipment have been delivered to local law enforcement all over the country.  On this site, though, I was shocked to find that my own little hamlet in suburban Sacramento has an MRAP.  That's Mine Resistant, Armor Plating.  Why the heck does a local police force need such a vehicle?  And the vehicle truly does exist--I saw it in my neighborhood a few weeks ago!  The local police said it's good for them to have such a "defensive" vehicle, one that protects officers, but unless they're being protected from mines and RPGs, which we don't have many of here in Sacramento about the militarization of the police!

I started this post well over a month ago and just saved it, not knowing when or if I'd ever finish it, but decided today to complete it when I heard about the following:
The Obama administration on Monday moved to prohibit federal agencies from providing local cops with certain kinds of military equipment such as grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and bayonets, in the wake of controversy over a "militarized" police response to unrest last summer in Ferguson, Missouri.

The new prohibitions are part of an executive order President Barack Obama issued for federal agencies to review the types of equipment they provide to local and state police...

"We've seen how militarized gear 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," Obama said in Camden Monday. "It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message."

Agencies including the Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security departments help provide equipment to local police. 

The banned list includes: tank-like armored vehicles that move on tracks, certain types of camouflage uniforms, bayonets, firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, grenade launchers, and weaponized aircraft. 
Why do police officers need bayonets or camouflage uniforms?  Answer:  they don't.  And if they don't need those, they don't need grenade launchers or weaponized aircraft, either--for exactly the reasons Commander Adama gave in the video clip, and for exactly the same reasons President Obama outlined in Camden.

Update, 5/20/15:  Here's the information at the bottom of the first link:

It's set to open on California but you can check whatever state you want.  I notice the Sacramento County Sheriff got 5 bayonets and scabbards.  US DHS CBP FORCE OPTIONS TRNG, which is listed in California, was given machetes. Ventura County was provided with "guns thru 30mm". Maybe they got a Vulcan!


MikeAT said...


I just completed a book call Battlefield America which is highly critical of what the author calls “militarization” of police. While I agree with his mainly libertarian viewpoint, it misses something. The author, John Whitehead, is against giving cops MRAPs. Having been on a SWAT scene with an active shooter in a building (he had already shot two officers) that MRAP is a godsend. Now one point the author continually made was DoD had given police departments tanks. We both know this country, since WWII, has had four main battle tanks (M48 Patton, M60, M1 Abrams and M551 Sheridan’s). I know of no tanks being sent to law enforcement and he could not give a reference.

Now reading your post I found the part about bayonets interesting. The author says 12000 bayonets have been issued to police agencies in the last decade or so. As far as I know mine has none and I would see an immediate problem with them. Any peace office will have at least a pistol, many have shotguns, a growing number have AR-15s ( I have all with me on patrol, as well as a lockback knife in my pocket.) The use of a bayonet is for when you’re out of ammo and attack it to a rifle to use as a lance. Seeing I work in a very large city and use readily available ammunition I don’t see that as a challenge. I don’t see the need for a bayonet.

If we have a riot (see Ferguson, Baltimore or LA) it would be more effective to contain/disperse the rioters with massed formations or use of gas. If I have an active shooter situation (e.g. Columbine) I would rather have my AR-15 and several 30 round mags or my 870 and lots of buckshot.
Now back to my original question, where are these bayonets. I checked a few web sites (see this one,, and none can tell me where they went, but all say it was around 12K. If they were issued, I would say get them the hell away from law enforcement.

As far as the other points B Hussein Obama read off the Teleprompter, I would take them with a chunk of salt. “:… tank-like armored vehicles that move on tracks, certain types of camouflage uniforms, bayonets, firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, grenade launchers, and weaponized aircraft.” Ok, have any departments been given a tank (unless it was a demilitarized display)? Does anyone really think DoD would give NYPD/CPD,/LAPD/etc a M60 with an operational main gun? Or operational gun period. Or 105mm shells. Also think of something, learning to use a tank takes some serious training. An MRAP, being used as a personnel carrier only, takes a lot less training and maintenance support. Also how many cities would want a tracked vehicle tearing up their roads? None that I know of.

Uniforms? Don’t really see the issue with them, even if a cop is wearing BDUs/DCUs etc it will have “POLICE” or something like that on it.

Bayonets, no argument, no business in LE, but again, where have these gone and if so, what is B Hussein and his SECDEF clerk doing to get them back?

Ammo and weapons of .50 or higher? I know we haven’t sent out M2s and I doubt M82 Barretts, so what is being sent out and where?

Grenade launchers, for use in dispersing tear gas I can see them but nothing else. I really doubt DoD gave a sheriff some HE M203 rounds

Armed aircraft? Which ones? I know we’ve sent out some old Huey’s and Blackhawks plus some earlier model drones but no Apaches. Also is someone really thinking the Pentagon will give local police some ammo for them? Again, where did they go and which types.

Given B Hussein’s well earned reputation for worthless words I would think a lot of this is simply bull$%^^, something to say “Look at me, I ‘m handing the issue…” Legit issue for discussion but let’s be honest about what we are talking about.

MikeAT said...

Darren, I bumped this off a friend who is Chief of Police for a department in Louisiana. I specifically asked “…have you heard of any police department getting a tank or a M2 or M82 50 cal? Since WWII this county had produced 4 main battle tanks (M48, M60, M551 and M1) and none have gone to local law enforcement that I know of. MRAPs, yes, but they don’t have a main gun and are not tracked vehicles. We have a couple of full time snipers (and a group of part timers) but they use 308s. A 50 cal is a bit too long range for an urban environment like Houston, New York, LA, eta. I’ve read that DoD has sent 12000 bayonets to police departments, but no site shows which department has them. Have you heard of any PD with bayonets?

His answer was this, “…I’ve been a part of the D-Mil program since 1992 until current and have never heard of DoD giving anything other than MRAP or earlier versions of Armored vehicles. They've given hueys also. Never, ever heard of bayonets - i could only imagine if they were part of the disposal package, like a take all and discard what's not needed, but do not ever recall seeing them on the list.

.50 cals?? again, all ever knew of were m16….”

Darren said...

This site allows you to look up the department and see what they got, but you can't look up "bayonets" and see who got them. Shame.

I added a couple of the goodies I found in an update to the post.