The militarization of the American police force has never appeared as prevalent as it has over the past year. Battle fatigue cloaked thugs have now made it their business to kick down the doors of the average citizen to unleash violence that has led to brutal assaults, senseless killings and the bludgeoning of freedom.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union released a detailed report on the communal scourge of SWAT teams that revealed the majority of their jackboot missions — 62 percent — were organized for the sole purpose of serving residential search warrants in hopes of busting someone for drug possession. Unfortunately, these raids have resulted in the death of young mothers, innocent bystanders, as well as seriously injured children.
Ever since the federal government implemented the Pentagon’s 1033 program, state and county law enforcement agencies have been transformed into a wild-eyed legion of stormtroopers, armed with military-grade weapons, armored assault vehicles and a subliminal license to kill — all in the name of fighting the War on Drugs. Because of this, the streets of Anywhere, USA, as we recently witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri, have the capacity to escalate into a scene straight out of Apocalypse Now.
Fortunately, federal lawmakers are not ignoring this atrocity. In a series of congressional hearings last week, Democratic Representative Hank Johnson and Republican Raul Labrador announced the introduction of the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014,” which could put an to the days of local and state police agencies being issued military surplus.
“Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent,” Johnson said in a statement. “Before another small town’s police force gets a $750,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can’t maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on Pentagon’s 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America.”
The bill would prevent the Department of Defense from transferring weapons, such as firearms over .50 caliber, mine-resistant vehicles, drones, combat aircraft, explosives, silencers, and long range acoustic devices. It would also end federal incentive programs and prevent state and local law enforcement from using SWAT teams to go after people suspected of minor drug-related offenses.
“Our nation was founded on the principle of a clear line between the military and civilian policing,” said Labrador. “The Pentagon’s current surplus property program blurs that line by introducing a military model of overwhelming force in our cities and towns. Our bill would restore the focus of local law enforcement on protecting citizens and providing due process for the accused.”
Supporters of the bill agree that militarized police forces have become more of a problem for America than a solution to any of its indiscretions. “Very occasionally and with proper oversight and training, the use of some military equipment is appropriate—school shootings, terrorist situations and the like,” said Major Neill Franklin with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “But when it’s routinely used against nonviolent drug offenders, it only serves to further strain police-community relations so vital to preventing and solving violent crime. This bill will correct some of the worst excesses of a potentially useful program hijacked by the war on drugs.”
Drug policy experts believe the bill is an excellent first step to putting an end to the “heavy hand” approach to dealing with drug offenders.
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