War has come to America. This is the belief central to a growing trend of militarization of law enforcement agencies spanning the U.S. From large metropolises to small rural towns, police forces around the country are increasingly equipping themselves with surplus military-grade hardware and vehicles. Training programs are enabling tactical police teams to learn the same urban warfare and occupation tactics employed by the nation’s military branches in what can undeniably be described as true war-zones.
In Franklin, Indiana, population 139,000, Sheriff Doug Cox, in an interview The Indianapolis Star, indicated the traditional practices of policing are no longer sufficient. Cox led the interviewer to a barn where he displayed a 55 thousand pound 6-wheeled vehicle called an MRAP – Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected. He assured the interviewer that there were no mines in Indiana and added that his only concern was to promise his employees a safe return for to their homes.
Cox is not the law enforcement official to believe these cautionary measures are necessary. Since 2010, seven other Indiana law agencies have acquired MRAP vehicles from military supply surplus.
In 2012, the DoJ reported a 72% decline in violent crime, at 22.5 for every 1,000 people, aged 12+, compared to 79.8 in 1993. This leaves some to wonder “just where is this war again?”
Perhaps it is less war and more business that is driving this push to arm law enforcement personnel. The 1033 project, a law enacted in 1997 which provided for transferring military equipment to nearby police departments, has facilitated much of this acquisition. Homeland Security has provided grants for these agencies to equip themselves with the most advanced available weaponry, to the tune of $35 billion.
It is easy to see where tremendous amounts of money exchanging hands for military hardware can lead to industry and special interest, which in turn leads to lobbying in the halls of legislation, which leads to an expansion of said industry. So perhaps war has come to America. The real question is: “Who is bringing it here?”