Last year’s clashes between police and protesters following the death of Michael Brown brought the issue of police militarization to the forefront. Specifically, many began to question the wisdom of the Pentagon’s 1033 Program which had already provided local police departments with $5.6 billion in surplus military equipment.
Publicly, events such as mass shootings and terrorist attacks were often used to justify the need for heavy weapons and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs). But recent documents obtained by Mother Jones show that law enforcement officials cited very different justifications when officially applying for the equipment, the most common being the war on drugs.
Fully a quarter of the 465 requests projected using the vehicles for drug enforcement. Almost half of all departments indicated that they sit within a region designated by the federal government as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. (Nationwide, only 17 percent of counties are HIDTAs.) One out of six departments were prepared to use the vehicles to serve search or arrest warrants on individuals who had yet to be convicted of a crime. And more than half of the departments indicated they were willing to deploy armored vehicles in a broad range of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) raids.
By contrast, out of the total 465 requests, only 8 percent mention the possibility of a barricaded gunman. For hostage situations, the number is 7 percent, for active shooters, 6 percent. Only a handful mentioned downed officers or the possibility of terrorism.
While some of the departments seemed to have a legitimate need for the heavily armored vehicles, other requests seemed downright bizarre.
One police chief pleaded for a Lenco BearCat—an armored personnel carrier with blast resistant floors and an optional gun turret—to guard a 200-acre beach town in Delaware. In Chesterfield County, South Carolina—population 46,000—the sheriff requested a vehicle that could withstand both roadside bombs and a type of machine gun round that can shatter concrete. And the Ohio State University Police Department asked for an armored vehicle to assist with “football missions.” (The Pentagon gave Ohio State an MRAP in September 2013, and school police deployed it to football games, the department told a student newspaper, so as to have a “presence.”)
Football missions? In all fairness I could see why they might need an MRAP if they were dealing with the Florida Gators, but it seems a bit excessive for Ohio State.
To see all of the documents, visit MotherJones.com.
(Source: Mother Jones)
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