Law Enforcement Becoming a Domestic Military System

Editor’s Note – Has the Law Enforcement community found a way around ‘Posse Comitatus‘ for the Department of Defense?

Right under our noses, law enforcement has become a domestic military operation across our homeland and we need to ask some hard questions as to the legality and the determine the real objectives.

The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier.

The Department of Defense provides funding and equipment to countless law enforcement agencies nationally which is a supplement to what the Department of Homeland Security provides. The question is why, and just what is the defined agenda? How many failed missions have there been and who is responsible?

Rise of the Warrior Cop

Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?

By Radley Balko – Wall Street Journal

On Jan. 4 of last year, a local narcotics strike force conducted a raid on the Ogden, Utah, home of Matthew David Stewart at 8:40 p.m. The 12 officers were acting on a tip from Mr. Stewart’s former girlfriend, who said that he was growing marijuana in his basement. Mr. Stewart awoke, naked, to the sound of a battering ram taking down his door. Thinking that he was being invaded by criminals, as he later claimed, he grabbed his 9-millimeter Beretta pistol.

Leah Hogsten  |  The Salt Lake Tribune Wednesday, November 7, 2012.  Matthew David Stewart, was ordered to stand trial for allegedly killing 30-year-old Ogden police Officer Jared Francom. Stewart, 38, is charged in 2nd District Court with aggravated murder for Francom’s death. He also is charged with seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly trying to kill other officers, and one second-degree felony count related to alleged marijuana cultivation. Judge Noel Hyde decided there was enough evidence to order Stewart to stand trial on all nine counts.
Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune
Wednesday, November 7, 2012.
Matthew David Stewart, was ordered to stand trial for allegedly killing 30-year-old Ogden police Officer Jared Francom.
Stewart, 38, is charged in 2nd District Court with aggravated murder for Francom’s death. He also is charged with seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly trying to kill other officers, and one second-degree felony count related to alleged marijuana cultivation. Judge Noel Hyde decided there was enough evidence to order Stewart to stand trial on all nine counts.

The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.

The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart’s basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart’s father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.

Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.

The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier.

Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to “clear” a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.

The country’s first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.

A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education’s SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.

Americans have long been wary of using the military for domestic policing. Concerns about potential abuse date back to the creation of the Constitution, when the founders worried about standing armies and the intimidation of the people at large by an overzealous executive, who might choose to follow the unhappy precedents set by Europe’s emperors and monarchs.

The idea for the first SWAT team in Los Angeles arose during the domestic strife and civil unrest of the mid-1960s. Daryl Gates, then an inspector with the Los Angeles Police Department, had grown frustrated with his department’s inability to respond effectively to incidents like the 1965 Watts riots. So his thoughts turned to the military. He was drawn in particular to Marine Special Forces and began to envision an elite group of police officers who could respond in a similar manner to dangerous domestic disturbances.

Mr. Gates initially had difficulty getting his idea accepted. Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker thought the concept risked a breach in the divide between the military and law enforcement. But with the arrival of a new chief, Thomas Reddin, in 1966, Mr. Gates got the green light to start training a unit. By 1969, his SWAT team was ready for its maiden raid against a holdout cell of the Black Panthers.

At about the same time, President Richard Nixon was declaring war on drugs. Among the new, tough-minded law-enforcement measures included in this campaign was the no-knock raid—a policy that allowed drug cops to break into homes without the traditional knock and announcement. After fierce debate, Congress passed a bill authorizing no-knock raids for federal narcotics agents in 1970.

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Over the next several years, stories emerged of federal agents breaking down the doors of private homes (often without a warrant) and terrorizing innocent citizens and families. Congress repealed the no-knock law in 1974, but the policy would soon make a comeback (without congressional authorization).

During the Reagan administration, SWAT-team methods converged with the drug war. By the end of the 1980s, joint task forces brought together police officers and soldiers for drug interdiction. National Guard helicopters and U-2 spy planes flew the California skies in search of marijuana plants. When suspects were identified, battle-clad troops from the National Guard, the DEA and other federal and local law enforcement agencies would swoop in to eradicate the plants and capture the people growing them.

Advocates of these tactics said that drug dealers were acquiring ever bigger weapons and the police needed to stay a step ahead in the arms race. There were indeed a few high-profile incidents in which police were outgunned, but no data exist suggesting that it was a widespread problem. A study done in 1991 by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute found that less than one-eighth of 1% of homicides in the U.S. were committed with a military-grade weapon. Subsequent studies by the Justice Department in 1995 and the National Institute for Justice in 2004 came to similar conclusions: The overwhelming majority of serious crimes are committed with handguns, and not particularly powerful ones.

The new century brought the war on terror and, with it, new rationales and new resources for militarizing police forces. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants since its creation in 2002, with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers. In 2011 alone, a Pentagon program for bolstering the capabilities of local law enforcement gave away $500 million of equipment, an all-time high.

The past decade also has seen an alarming degree of mission creep for U.S. SWAT teams. When the craze for poker kicked into high gear, a number of police departments responded by deploying SWAT teams to raid games in garages, basements and VFW halls where illegal gambling was suspected. According to news reports and conversations with poker organizations, there have been dozens of these raids, in cities such as Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Dallas.

In 2006, 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, Va., SWAT officer. The investigation began when an undercover detective overheard Mr. Culosi wagering on college football games with some buddies at a bar. The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi’s heart. The police say that the shot was an accident. Mr. Culosi’s family suspects the officer saw Mr. Culosi reaching for his cellphone and thought he had a gun.

Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.

Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.

In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn’t a suspect in the investigation.

What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.

Consider today’s police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.

If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, “Whatever I need to do to get home safe.” It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer’s last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, “I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world.”

The motivation of the average American cop should not focus on just making it to the end of his shift. The LAPD may have given us the first SWAT team, but its motto is still exactly the right ideal for American police officers: To protect and serve.

SWAT teams have their place, of course, but they should be saved for those relatively rare situations when police-initiated violence is the only hope to prevent the loss of life. They certainly have no place as modern-day vice squads.

Many longtime and retired law-enforcement officers have told me of their worry that the trend toward militarization is too far gone. Those who think there is still a chance at reform tend to embrace the idea of community policing, an approach that depends more on civil society than on brute force.

In this very different view of policing, cops walk beats, interact with citizens and consider themselves part of the neighborhoods they patrol—and therefore have a stake in those communities. It’s all about a baton-twirling “Officer Friendly” rather than a Taser-toting RoboCop.

Corrections & Amplifications
The Consumer Products Safety Commission does not have a SWAT team. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that it did.

Mr. Balko is the author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” published this month by PublicAffairs.

Why so much Ammo Uncle Sam? What Me Worry?

Editor’s Note – SUA has been reporting massive government purchases of ammunition, military style vehicles, and the militarization of law enforcement for most of the Obama administration as well as promoting Obama as the number one salesman of civilian gun purchases for the past several years.

Why, because there is no mistaking it now, the Federal, State, and Local authorities are gearing up for civil strife, some say civil war. Why, because the obvious is happening – the country is falling apart at the seams and more, and we can blame the political set for our demise. But, America will not put up with it and they know it.

Record ammunition sales – why?

That is why they are purchasing bullets meant to kill by a mushrooming round deep in your body, in huge volume, and interesting styles; not just war type ammunition, but people killers, and then there are the war time vehicles and FEMA plans as well. These are people killers, that means you and your family, and these bullets are not allowed by Geneva Conventions in war, so why the massive purchases? Why do they fear Americans?

Make no mistake, these purchases are in addition to the one plus billion already ordered and delivered. Ask anyone seeking to purchase ammunition, its as valuable as gold of late. Our friends in the retail and wholesale arms business tell us the story – its never been better for them, both for civilians and the government in sales.

Many manufacturers and sales to states and law enforcement where gun laws have become anti-constitutional have tripled to over 44 companies. (Also see more here, what a list!)

Its about time main stream publications are noticing now. Here are some of our older posts about this ongoing issue:

The sad and alarming thing is that they are up arming everything and arming the most interesting federal agencies like our Park Rangers, USDA agents, EPA agents and every other law enforcement division including all Inspectors General. Then there are the drones – thanks goes to Senator Rand Paul who is helping elevate this discourse. It truly is time to reign in the Federal Government – tyranny abounds if you do not share your voice.

Why so much Ammo Uncle Sam? What, me worry? Yes, it is time to worry!

1.6 Billion Rounds Of Ammo For Homeland Security? It’s Time For A National Conversation

By Ralph Benko, Contributor – Forbes.com

The Denver Post, on February 15th, ran an Associated Press article entitled Homeland Security aims to buy 1.6b rounds of ammo, so far to little notice.  It confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security has issued an open purchase order for 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition.  As reported elsewhere, some of this purchase order is for hollow-point rounds, forbidden by international law for use in war, along with a frightening amount specialized for snipers. Also reported elsewhere, at the height of the Iraq War the Army was expending less than 6 million rounds a month.  Therefore 1.6 billion rounds would be enough to sustain a hot war for 20+ years.  In America.

Add to this perplexing outré purchase of ammo, DHS now is showing off its acquisition of heavily armored personnel carriers, repatriated from the Iraqi and Afghani theaters of operation.  As observed by “paramilblogger” Ken Jorgustin last September:

[T]he Department of Homeland Security is apparently taking delivery (apparently through the  Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico VA, via the manufacturer – Navistar Defense LLC) of an undetermined number of the recently retrofitted 2,717 ‘Mine Resistant Protected’ MaxxPro MRAP vehicles for service on the streets of the United States.”

These MRAP’s ARE BEING SEEN ON U.S. STREETS all across America by verified observers with photos, videos, and descriptions.”

Regardless of the exact number of MRAP’s being delivered to DHS (and evidently some to POLICE via DHS, as has been observed), why would they need such over-the-top vehicles on U.S. streets to withstand IEDs, mine blasts, and 50 caliber hits to bullet-proof glass? In a war zone… yes, definitely. Let’s protect our men and women. On the streets of America… ?”

“They all have gun ports… Gun Ports? In the theater of war, yes. On the streets of America…?

Seriously, why would DHS need such a vehicle on our streets?”

Why indeed?  It is utterly inconceivable that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is planning a coup d’etat against President Obama, and the Congress, to install herself as Supreme Ruler of the United States of America.  There, however, are real signs that the Department bureaucrats are running amok.  About 20 years ago this columnist worked, for two years, in the U.S. Department of Energy’s general counsel’s office in its procurement and finance division.  And is wise to the ways.   The answer to “why would DHS need such a vehicle?” almost certainly is this:  it’s a cool toy and these (reportedly) million dollar toys are being recycled, without much of a impact on the DHS budget.  So… why not?

Why, indeed, should the federal government not be deploying armored personnel carriers and stockpiling enough ammo for a 20-year war in the homeland?  Because it’s wrong in every way.  President Obama has an opportunity, now, to live up to some of his rhetoric by helping the federal government set a noble example in a matter very close to his heart (and that of his Progressive base), one not inimical to the Bill of Rights: gun control.  The federal government can (for a nice change) begin practicing what it preaches by controlling itself.

Remember the Sequester?  The president is claiming its budget cuts will inconvenience travelers by squeezing essential services provided by the (opulently armed and stylishly uniformed) DHS.  Quality ammunition is not cheap.  (Of course, news reports that DHS is about to spend $50 million on new uniforms suggests a certain cavalier attitude toward government frugality.)

Spending money this way is beyond absurd well into perverse.  According to the AP story a DHS spokesperson justifies this acquisition to “help the government get a low price for a big purchase.” Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center:  “The training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.”

At 15 million rounds (which, in itself, is pretty extraordinary and sounds more like fun target-shooting-at-taxpayer-expense than a sensible training exercise) … that’s a stockpile that would last DHS over a century.  To claim that it’s to “get a low price” for a ridiculously wasteful amount is an argument that could only fool a career civil servant.

Meanwhile, Senator Diane Feinstein, with the support of President Obama, is attempting to ban 100 capacity magazine clips.  Doing a little apples-to-oranges comparison, here, 1.6 billion rounds is … 16 million times more objectionable.

Mr. Obama has a long history of disdain toward gun ownership.  According to Prof. John Lott, in Debacle, a book he co-authored with iconic conservative strategist Grover Norquist,

“When I was first introduced to Obama (when both worked at the University of ChicagoLaw School, where Lott was famous for his analysis of firearms possession), he said, ‘Oh, you’re the gun guy.’

I responded: ‘Yes, I guess so.’

’I don’t believe that people should own guns,’ Obama replied.

I then replied that it might be fun to have lunch and talk about that statement some time.

He simply grimaced and turned away. …

Unlike other liberal academics who usually enjoyed discussing opposing ideas, Obama showed disdain.”

Mr. Obama?  Where’s the disdain now?  Cancelling, or at minimum, drastically scaling back — by 90% or even 99%, the DHS order for ammo, and its receipt and deployment of armored personnel carriers, would be a “fourfer.”

  • The federal government would set an example of restraint in the matter of weaponry.
  • It would reduce the deficit without squeezing essential services.
  • It would do both in a way that was palatable to liberals and conservatives, slightly depolarizing America.
  • It would somewhat defuse, by the government making itself less armed-to-the-teeth, the anxiety of those who mistrust the benevolence of the federales.

If Obama doesn’t show any leadership on this matter it’s an opportunity for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to summon Secretary Napolitano over for a little national conversation. Madame Secretary?  Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what “homeland security” really means.  Discuss.

Growing government control, a shift to militarization at home

Editorial Note – In recent weeks and months, SUA has reported on the militarization of our police, the gross expansion of federal powers, the anti-constitutional power grab by the Executive branch, and the complete disregard for performing the duties our Legislative branch is tasked to do.

That is not necessarily a broad brush inclusion of all legislators, just the ones who will not do their job, like passing a budget in the Senate for over 1,000 days, and blaming others in political rhetoric as they rammed through legislation and spending we did not need or want.

The following article by Matt Holzmann gives the reader a very well-crafted and complete look at the numbers and the subjects mentioned. We highly recommend reading it in its entirety. Its a font of fact that true conservatives can use to rebut leftist talking points and political spin.

Our Growing Police State

By Matt Holzmann

American Thinker

Last week, the FBI released its preliminary crime statistics for the first half of 2011, and across the nation violent crimes dropped 6.7% while property crimes dropped 3.7%. This continues a downward trend that dates back to the 1970’s.

Many of the violent crimes reported this year have been sensational. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Federal Judge John Roll were targeted by a lone, crazed gunman and there were a number of other gruesome crimes. The Giffords/Roll shooting was brought to an end by a bystander. The Ft. Hood massacre on November 5, 2009, which killed 13 American soldiers and wounded 29 others was brought to an end by two base police officers using conventional sidearms and procedures. The warning signs for this terrorist attack, the first on American soil since 9/11, were ignored and yet it was the local cops on the beat who faced and dealt with a terrible crime.

Every case one can think of was resolved by conventional methods. And yet the police powers of government on a local and national level have been growing at an alarming rate. And despite a dissonant data base there is a growing trend towards militarization of police forces and of an invasive state security apparatus.

The concept of militarization of police forces in this country began with the Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT) teams in Los Angeles in 1967 -68. Its formation was a response to events including the Watts riots of 1965, and the emergence of snipers such as Charles Whitman, who killed 13 people on the campus of the University of Texas in 1966; the rise of armed revolutionary groups such as the Weathermen and, later, the Symbionese Liberation Army. Eventually SWAT returned to a more traditional police role of hostage/barricade incidents and suicide intervention.

Prior to and concurrent with this, the FBI in its battle with communism regularly investigated American citizens and the Hoover Files became famous. Today they are known primarily for salacious tidbits in the files on celebrities such as John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe. It was a time with different mores and the democratic principles of the country were in a cold war with a real and formidable enemy. Such was Hoover’s justification.

With the fall of the Soviet Empire, instead of the “end of history”, the world was fragmented into dysfunctional states and many of the same pawns used during the Cold War turned their hands towards criminal operations. The drug wars became the new front for law enforcement. Sometimes the gangs were as well or better equipped than the police.

Today, Afghanistan provides 90+% of the world’s heroin while the largest military action in the 21st Century takes place in that country; the opium poppies in many cases grow right up to the razor wire of American bases. A de facto civil war is taking place between the government and the narcotraficantes in Mexico that has cost 36,000 lives. Today the street prices of cocaine and heroin are at historic lows. It would seem that the War on Drugs is truly lost and that our government simply doesn’t care. And yet over $20 Billion/year is spent on the War on Drugs; most of it on law enforcement. This seems to be a very poor return on the investment.

On September 11, 2001 the jihad being waged against the West since the mid 90’s struck at the heart of the infidel empire and 3,000 civilians were murdered. Everything changed that day. The West invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq with the goal of defeating the jihadists. Over 10 years later there has not been a single successful attack on the United States. Attacks in the UK, Spain, and Indonesia were successful, but there has been a steady decline caused by greater global cooperation and information sharing as the primary differentiators.

Along the way a massive security infrastructure and bureaucracy was created. The Patriot Act authorized the broad use of enhanced surveillance techniques and intelligence gathering while including domestic terrorism under the scope of the intelligence services. To date the only truly domestic terror prosecution seems to have been a few retired white supremacists in Georgia. The Ft. Hood massacre was officially classified by the White House recently as a workplace related shooting.

A key provision of the Patriot Act was the expansion of the authority of the Department of the Treasury to investigate money laundering, and yet the narcotics trade has risen from $321 Billion in 2003 according to the United Nations to an estimate of $500 Billion this year by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. In Afghanistan, hundreds of millions of dollars in cash are shipped out to banks in Dubai openly and with the government’s approval with no questions asked. The opium/heroin trade alone is estimated at $4 Billion/year which funds both the warlords on our side and the Taliban warlords. So Afghanistan is not only bleeding our military, but also our civilian population.

And we now have a Department of Homeland Security that employs over 216,000. The Transportation Security Agency consists of over 58,000 of those employees. The Border Patrol is of equivalent size, while ICE employs approximately 20,500. In an address delivered by retired General Barry McCaffrey, he emphasized the real dangers of the War on Drugs and an out of control border. The criminal networks have become ever more sophisticated and now act as paramilitaries, destabilizing one of our most important allies. And yet the inward directed nature of much of our security establishment does nothing to address real and present dangers.

The Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “Federal Offenses: law enforcement teams grow at government agencies” wrote on Saturday of the proliferation of heretofore nonexistent police forces in federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, Labor Department, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Agency, and many others who have the power to conduct investigations, seek indictments, or simply raid violators of even regulatory violations. Cases where armed agents have raided homes and workplaces have included the infamous Gibson Guitar raid for illegal wood; documentation errors on otherwise legal imports, and even the recent batch of a 881 lb. Bluefin Tuna by a New Bedford trawler. “Put the tuna on the ground and raise your hands”.

The Internal Revenue Service has been strong arming countries around the world to open their bank records not to trace narcotics cash or Russian mobsters, but income tax evaders. The “Stop On Line Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the recent NDAA Act, which is now law, have broadened the policing authority of the Federal government to a never before greater degree at a time when ordinary crime is decreasing. The SOPA Act, in the words of one IT manager, would make our internet similar to China’s. The NDAA allows for the President to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects, including American citizens. The law then becomes a matter of semantics to the unprincipled.

In the meantime, corruption and cronyism have risen to a level not seen since the 1870’s.

Nat Hentoff has written extensively on the assault on civil liberties and on due process starting with many of the measures of the Bush Administration. This accelerated, according to Mr. Hentoff, under President Obama, who has concentrated power in the White House to an extraordinary degree. By avoiding Congressional approval and his own Executive Branch through the appointment of “czars” ranging from the auto industry to regulation to ethics to climate to consumer affairs, the president has subverted the separation of powers repeatedly in an imperial presidency that is unparalleled.

Crime rates have been dropping for 20 years and yet today there is more danger to civil liberties posed by government than ever before. Our government continues to expand the definition of crime while approving special powers usually found in police states.

When Members of Congress urged the President to ignore their own branch of government during the recent Congressional debt ceiling debate and act by fiat or the insistence of some of those same Members of Congress on the recusal of Justice Thomas in the health care case before the Supreme Court, one can easily understand the danger of even a well intentioned government to its own people.

As the terrorism threat used to rationalize many of these powers has receded, government power has never been greater or more at odds with the Constitution. In the meantime the narcoterrorism network which funds many those terrorist organizations, is on the sidelines. The law is at odds with itself.

Our government has built an anti-Constitutional framework that can and will eventually be turned against our citizens. On one side we have our civil/criminal system, and the other the growing power of Orwellian dysfunction. Think about it.

Police – A new form of the military in our streets?

Editorial Note – In 1878, the Posse Comitatus Act gained the force of law and by subsequent acts of Congress prohibits the armed forces of the United States to be directed to enforce civilian law within the United States and its territories. This came in response to the Compromise of 1877 over the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes (Who actually had less Electoral votes) to end the Reconstruction Period in the southern states after the Civil War. However, despite the prohibition to use military assets and personnel in law enforcement, our civilian law enforcement are increasingly employing military tactics and technology.

Different times call for different tactics, but a lot of Americans are becoming increasingly alarmed over the transformation of many large and small police and sheriff’s departments in the use of new tactics and resources. In the wake of the infamous North Hollywood bank robbery shootout of 1997, where the police were out gunned by two men wearing extensive body armor, the constant threat of terror, Mexican drug cartels cross-border incursions, and the rise of Gangs acquiring similar weapons, it is understandable that police must ‘armor up.’

You be the judge, is law enforcement now a military unit? Have they crossed that imaginary line, or are many folks just afraid that government in general is getting way too strong, way too invasive, and way too militant?

How the War on Terror Has Militarized the Police

The Atlantic

By ARTHUR RIZER & JOSEPH HARTMAN – Arthur Rizer, a former Washington state peace officer who earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq, currently works at the U.S. Department of Justice. (The views expressed by Mr. Rizer are entirely his own, and he does not speak for the Department of Justice.) Joseph Hartman, a Ph.D. candidate in government at Georgetown University, practices law in Arlington, Virginia.

Over the past 10 years, law enforcement officials have begun to look and act more and more like soldiers. Here’s why we should be alarmed. 

At around 9:00 a.m. on May 5, 2011, officers with the Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff’s Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) team surrounded the home of 26-year-old José Guerena, a former U.S. Marine and veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, to serve a search warrant for narcotics. As the officers approached, Guerena lay sleeping in his bedroom after working the graveyard shift at a local mine. When his wife Vanessa woke him up, screaming that she had seen a man outside the window pointing a gun at her, Guerena grabbed his AR-15 rifle, instructed Vanessa to hide in the closet with their four-year old son, and left the bedroom to investigate.

Los Angeles Airport Police officers stand in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles May 2, 2011.

Within moments, and without Guerena firing a shot–or even switching his rifle off of “safety”–he lay dying, his body riddled with 60 bullets. A subsequent investigation revealed that the initial shot that prompted the S.W.A.T. team barrage came from a S.W.A.T. team gun, not Guerena’s. Guerena, reports later revealed, had no criminal record, and no narcotics were found at his home.

Sadly, the Guerenas are not alone; in recent years we have witnessed a proliferation in incidents of excessive, military-style force by police S.W.A.T. teams, which often make national headlines due to their sheer brutality. Why has it become routine for police departments to deploy black-garbed, body-armored S.W.A.T. teams for routine domestic police work? The answer to this question requires a closer examination of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy and the War on Terror.

Ever since September 14, 2001, when President Bush declared war on terrorism, there has been a crucial, yet often unrecognized, shift in United States policy. Before 9/11, law enforcement possessed the primary responsibility for combating terrorism in the United States. Today, the military is at the tip of the anti-terrorism spear. This shift appears to be permanent: in 2006, the White House’s National Strategy for Combating Terrorism confidently announced that the United States had “broken old orthodoxies that once confined our counterterrorism efforts primarily to the criminal justice domain.”

In an effort to remedy their relative inadequacy in dealing with terrorism on U.S. soil, police forces throughout the country have purchased military equipment, adopted military training, and sought to inculcate a “soldier’s mentality” among their ranks. Though the reasons for this increasing militarization of American police forces seem obvious, the dangerous side effects are somewhat less apparent.

Undoubtedly, American police departments have substantially increased their use of military-grade equipment and weaponry to perform their counterterrorism duties, adopting everything from body armor to, in some cases, attack helicopters. The logic behind this is understandable. If superior, military-grade equipment helps the police catch more criminals and avert, or at least reduce, the threat of a domestic terror attack, then we ought deem it an instance of positive sharing of technology — right? Not necessarily. Indeed, experts in the legal community have raised serious concerns that allowing civilian law enforcement to use military technology runs the risk of blurring the distinction between soldiers and peace officers.

This is especially true in cases where, much to the chagrin of civil liberty advocates, police departments have employed their newly acquired military weaponry not only to combat terrorism but also for everyday patrolling. Before 9/11, the usual heavy weaponry available to a small-town police officer consisted of a standard pump-action shot gun, perhaps a high power rifle, and possibly a surplus M-16, which would usually have been kept in the trunk of the supervising officer’s vehicle. Now, police officers routinely walk the beat armed with assault rifles and garbed in black full-battle uniforms. When one of us, Arthur Rizer, returned from active duty in Iraq, he saw a police officer at the Minneapolis airport armed with a M4 carbine assault rifle — the very same rifle Arthur carried during his combat tour in Fallujah.

The extent of this weapon “inflation” does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles (mini-tanks) for use in domestic police work.

To assist them in deploying this new weaponry, police departments have also sought and received extensive military training and tactical instruction. Originally, only the largest of America’s big-city police departments maintained S.W.A.T. teams, and they were called upon only when no other peaceful option was available and a truly military-level response was necessary. Today, virtually every police department in the nation has one or more S.W.A.T. teams, the members of whom are often trained by and with United States special operations commandos. Furthermore, with the safety of their officers in mind, these departments now habitually deploy their S.W.A.T. teams for minor operations such as serving warrants. In short, “special” has quietly become “routine.”

The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the “men in blue” from “peace officer” to soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to “keep the peace.” Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that – suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the “bad guys.” For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is an absolute last resort.

Soldiers, by contrast, are trained to identify people they encounter as belonging to one of two groups — the enemy and the non-enemy — and they often reach this decision while surrounded by a population that considers the soldier an occupying force. Once this identification is made, a soldier’s mission is stark and simple: kill the enemy, “try” not to kill the non-enemy. Indeed, the Soldier’s Creed declares, “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.” This is a far cry from the peace officer’s creed that expects its adherents “to protect and serve.”

The point here is not to suggest that police officers in the field should not take advantage of every tactic or piece of equipment that makes them safer as they carry out their often challenging and strenuous duties. Nor do I mean to suggest that a police officer, once trained in military tactics, will now seek to kill civilians. It is far too easy for Monday-morning quarterbacks to unfairly second-guess the way police officers perform their jobs while they are out on the streets waging what must, at times, feel like a war.

Notwithstanding this concern, however, Americans should remain mindful bringing military-style training to domestic law enforcement has real consequences. When police officers are dressed like soldiers, armed like soldiers, and trained like soldiers, it’s not surprising that they are beginning to act like soldiers. And remember: a soldier’s main objective is to kill the enemy.