Ferguson shows need to demilitarize
has provided local police with $4.3 billion worth of military hardware
Mark Thompson, TIME. August 14, 2014
The photographs and videos of police trying to calm the rioting in
Ferguson, Mo., look like a war zone. There’s the black-clad special-ops
cops, backed by armored tactical vehicles that wouldn’t look out of
place on a battlefield. The police are doing their best to restore order
following Saturday’s police killing of unarmed Michael Brown, 18. But
their tools and tactics have grabbed the attention of some of the nation’s real soldiers dispatched to fight its post-9/11 wars.
Brandon Friedman, who served as an Army officer with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan and Iraq, tweeted a pair of photographs contrasting a policeman in Ferguson with one of
him on the eve of the 2003 Iraq invasion. “The gentleman on the left,”
he said of the Missouri cop Wednesday, “has more personal body armor and
weaponry than I did while invading Iraq.”...
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The scenes from Ferguson have reached a point where Mashable has posted photos from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ferguson—and asked readers to try to
figure out where they’re from. The Department of Defense told USA Today last year that Ferguson acquired two Humvees, a 10-kilowatt generator
and an empty flatbed trailer. St. Louis County, whose police have been
out in force in Ferguson, acquired much more equipment, according to the
Missouri Department of Public Safety, including night vision goggles,
Humvees and more.
With the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles, Kevlar-vested and
helmeted personnel, outfitted with serious-looking firepower, in some
snapshots it’s tough to tell Ferguson from Firdos Square in Baghdad or
In 2011 and 2012, the ACLU estimated that an 63 police departments
received 500 Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, armored 20-ton
behemoths (3-5 mpg) that were designed to defeat enemy roadside bombs in
Afghanistan and Iraq. The New York Times reported in June that
the Pentagon has given local police forces 435 other armored vehicles,
533 aircraft and nearly 94,000 machine guns.
This has at least a few cops wondering what’s going on. “We’re not
the military,” Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank has said. “Nor
should we look like an invading force coming in.”
An ex-Boston police lieutenant—from a force not known for its
gentler, kinder demeanor—agrees. “Have no doubt, police in the United
States are militarizing, and in many communities, particularly those of
color, the message is being received loud and clear: ‘You are the
enemy,’” Tom Nolan, who spent 27 years on the Beantown beat, wrote for Defense One in June. “Police officers are increasingly arming themselves with
military-grade equipment such as assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles and dressing up in
commando gear before using battering rams to burst into the homes of
people who have not been charged with a crime.”
Photo above-right: Former Marine, Iraq War veteran Tyson Manker holds up a sign, "No police tanks on U.S. streets!"
in Ferguson, Mo. August 14, 2014.
Read full article at TIME.com