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Local Police Becoming ‘Militarized’ With Army Weapons?

SWAT Team in Lakeland WA
(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Since 911, a spending spree has occured across the country, with thousands of local police departments receiving weapons worthy of Special Forces in the Middle East.

Fargo North Dakota now has a tank that would perform well in Afghanistan.  Local police departments, armed with 34 billion in grants from Homeland Security, have outfitted thousands of police forces with weapons no different than military units.   Of course, major cities that have incurred serious crime issues defend the buildup, and it could make sense there.  But critics of the purchases point out, is there a need for such weaponry in smaller communities?  From the Center For Investigative Reporting, via The Daily Beast:

In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots, while an Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank.

 Critics also point to the lack of oversight-TSA and Homeland Security do not monitor what is being bought with the grant money, and does not have a comprehensive list of the weaponry held now by local officials.   They also say the buildup is resulting in “overkill” when it comes to responding to situations that seem rather pedestrian. Again, from the Daily Beast:

In one case, dozens of officers in combat-style gear raided a youth rave in Utah as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. An online video shows the battle-ready team wearing masks and brandishing rifles as they holler for the music to be shut off and pin partygoers to the ground.

  Some say they are conspiracy theorists, but critics also fear the local and regional police military buildup is just another example of government over-reaching, and limiting and intruding upon the rights of average citizens.   It is now not unusual for a ‘local’ law enforcement agency to posess it’s own military style unmanned drone aircraft, just like the ones used to track terrorists in the Middle East.  Do you believe this is overreaching? 

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