The facts around the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson are almost beside the point by now. The news that has trickled out has yet to tell the whole story, but that incident is just the catalyst for the illustration of another problem that we’ve known has been growing for years, but maybe Ferguson, MO, is the tipping point that will reverse the trend of the militarization of police.
The military protects against enemies, like terrorists. But since you are as likely to be killed by your furniture as a terrorist, perhaps we don’t need all those sleepy suburban police department to be stocked with MRAPs and surveillance drones. Why do towns as small as Redwood City, CA, need a SWAT vehicle? Answer: They don’t. Emphasis on the word “need.”
The Pentagon has been pulled into the debate, and President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have both said they’d be revisiting the issue. Said Obama on Monday: “I think it’s probably useful for to us review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars to make sure that what they are purchasing is stuff that they actually need. Because there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred, that would be contrary to our traditions and I think that there will be some bipartisan interest in reexamining some of those programs.”
Said Sen. Rand Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill has announced she’ll leads a senate hearing on this topic. Let’s see if anything actually happens.