TODAY – National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, and the Criminalization of a Generation

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

This content is cross-posted from CounterCurrentNews.com.

The National Day of Protest began 19 years ago, but recently it has been taking on a whole new degree of importance. With the shootings of unarmed citizens like Mike Brown, 18, Dillon Taylor, 20 and John Crawford, 22, in the past year, many activists are saying that this “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation” is one that no one should sit out.

Find Assembly Points and Events in Your Area >> http://www.october22.org/#assembly

The Day of Protest was initiated by a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who came together out of concern that the peoples’ resistance to Police Brutality needed to be taken to a higher level nationwide.

According to the organizers, “We continue to see young black men, including John Crawford, killed by law enforcement on virtually a daily basis. Now is an opportunity to step forward and have your voice heard.”

The National Day of Protest is Wednesday, October 22nd and will take place in cities all over the nation. It aims to “bring forward a powerful, visible, national protest against police brutality and the criminalization of a generation.”

Furthermore, it seeks to educate the public about “the state’s repressive program.”

Those most directly under the gun of Police Brutality are to be highlighted by the protest, but the organizers also emphasize that this is an issue which reaches into all parts of the society. They are thus calling on all to stand in the fight against this official brutality.

Find out if there is a local protest in your area, or contact the organizers to get something going at their official website for the Day of Protest! Then help us SPREAD THE WORD to everyone you know who believes something has gone seriously wrong with policing in America. 

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Cop Gets Vacation for Driving Drunk

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The information below was shared by a person concerned about the double standards acted upon by Robert Reiff, who happens to be a police employee.

Date of Incident: 9/21/14
Individual Responsible: Robert Reiff
Contact Information: http://www.butlersheriff.org / @butlersheriff / (513) 785-1000 / https://www.facebook.com/ButlerCountySO

A Butler County, Ohio Sheriff employee was arrested for being under the influence and causing a motor vehicle accident. I’m sure he’s arrested many people for OVI in Butler County in his 19 years in the outfit. So he drives so drunk that he hits a parked car and gets a vacation!

He was arrested by the Hamilton City Police Department, the county seat. It’s also unclear if he was just given a ride home or actually booked into jail like a common criminal.

The Butler County Sheriff believes firmly in unconstitutional (show me your papers) inland checkpoints, among other very unconstitutional activity. Seems like he doesn’t hold his own employees to high enough standards.

Related coverage from Lauren Peck at Journal-News.com notes that one of Reiff’s responsibilities is as a “a street patrol supervisor” – are his actions those that are worthwhile of emulating?

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Winchester, NH Police Do Not Serve Community

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Micah Purinton shared the information below.

Date of Interaction: Oct 15
Outfit: Winchester Police Department (NH)
Website: http://www.winchester-nh.gov/pages/winchesternh_police/index
Phone: 603-239-4814

A Winchester, NH police employee told me that I owed $600. They told me if I didn’t pay it they would be back with bracelets. I do not feel it is my responsibility to pay anything until told to do so by a judge or the courts prove it is my responsibility.

The officer showed up while I was not home and told my wife if I did not have the money by 3pm that Friday he was coming back with bracelets and that the warrant was all but signed by the justice of the peace. So, I came home and spoke with my wife and explained the law and printed it out. She took the law print out and went down to the police department and when she asked why they think they can show up without a warrant and threaten to arrest me in front of my children.

Long story short, I waited all day for Winchester’s finest to show but they never did. I left for work on Sunday and my wife called me and said she noticed the police have been going by a lot more then normal. I told her to take a walk and see if they approach her again so she went to Rite Aide with my daughter and her friend. On the way back her friend notices the same officer, who pulled up to them. He stops her and claims that in her hand is a beer when it’s clearly a Pepsi. Then he questions my wife – asking what’s in the bag in her hand. My wife pulled out the aero chamber she just picked up from the Rite Aide for my son and shows him what it is. He then asks if she had anything in her purse and she handed him the purse and says, “Would you like to look?”

The police in Winchester – aside from a few lone men – are very corrupt and are bullying me and my family very bad to the point now we want to move from New Hampshire. After being in the army for nine years I moved here to build a safe home for my family thinking it would be a nice change coming from Massachusetts.

It was a quiet and country setting which we liked, but now it has come to the point where we don’t even want to leave the house anymore because as soon as we are seen we are followed watched and threatened and questioned.

They picked up my nine-year-old daughter for walking down the street and they questioned her about what me and her mother do for a living, who lives at my home, and asking who drives this car and that car… This is out of control they had no right to talk to her or approach her.

They bullied another man so bad he hung himself. It is out of control – they state they don’t need a reason to pull you over anymore or to arrest you. Please guys you need to approach this matter before another person gets pushed too far. The people of Winchester are scared of their own public safety. Guys, let’s raise up and fight back!

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Protect yourself and your community – film the police.

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Did Virgin Islands Police Employees Murder Shakira Gautier?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

This content was shared by Geormi Gautier.

It is 4 years on July 25 that Shakira Gautier was found dead inside the Virgin Islands Police Department. Discrepancies exist between the police report and the autopsy. The new camera surveillance system inside the police department was claimed to be offline. The police employees did not involve the family in the investigation. There is no signature on the police investigatory report.

So far we have had a police commissioner resign in protest of government corruption, a police chief along with a known alleged corrupt police officer get shot, and now the former commissioner of the Virgin Islands Police Department running for office.

Here is a local news interview that was done on us. Ironically a few months after the story was broadcast, the news program had lost government funding and was canceled.

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Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Robert Ky, II shared this content about his entrepreneurial effort to both share ideas, and to help provide resources to those advancing the fact that badges don’t grant extra rights.

Want One?

Click here: http://clicktrackr.net/dontshoot/copblock-fb

Get this premium t-shirt and make a social and political statement against police brutality and excessive force!

*A donation will be made to CopBlock.org to support their proactive efforts towards police accountability which spotlights the growing problem of police misconduct as well as their efforts to educate citizens about their rights.

Please Like, share, and tag your friends and family on this post to help spread the word about “wearing” a social and political statement against police brutality and excessive force.

 

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Hands Up! Don’t Shoot! is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

How “Protect & Serve” Became “Search & Destroy”

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The information and video below were shared by Mike, who’s involved with Brave New Films.

Ever wonder why police look like soldiers? With the 1033 Programs, “Protect and Serve” Became “Search and Destroy” WATCH MORE: http://youtu.be/utjxA3GQF5A?list=PLQ9…
You can fight back. Join us: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c…
SIGN THE PETITION: http://stoppolicemilitary.org

Quick facts on Police Militarization:

• Pentagon’s Excess Property Program (1033 Program) has supplied police departments across the country with more than $4.3 billion in gear since 1997. This includes $449 million in 2013.

• St. Louis County, where Ferguson is located, received two military vehicles, a trailer, a generator, 12 5.56-millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Pentagon.

• Military style police raids have increased in recent years, with one count putting the number at 80,000 such raids last year.

• In SWAT style raids, people of color are most affected – 37% were Black, 12% Latino, and 19% White. Race was not known for the remainder.

Police militarization grew out of our failed drug war. Does a town of 2,200 need a massive military tank? Why does the police department in Dundee Michigan need a MRAP (Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle)? They don’t. Military grade gear does not improve the safety and security in small towns. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must end the flow of military grade gear from the Pentagon to our local communities. It’s time for the militarizing of police to end.

Last month, protests in Ferguson, MO turned violent after police showed up in full SWAT gear after fellow officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. But Ferguson isn’t the only community receiving military grade weaponry from the Pentagon.

We need to roll back programs 1033, 1122, and the National Defense Authorization Act. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri will chair a subcommittee hearing tomorrow on Capitol Hill looking into police militarization.

You can fight back. Join us: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c…

SIGN THE PETITION: http://stoppolicemilitary.org

Click here to watch more: http://youtu.be/KTF_a1DuIyE?list=PLQ9…

ABOUT BRAVE NEW FILMS
Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films are at the forefront of the fight to create a just America. Using new media and internet video campaigns, Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that informs the public, challenges corporate media with the truth, and motivates people to take action on social issues nationwide. Brave New Films’ investigative films have scrutinized the impact of U.S. drone strikes; the war on whistleblowers; and Wal Mart’s corporate practices. The company’s films have received more than 56 million views online. For more information, visit http://www.bravenewfilms.org/, watch videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/bravenew… , and follow them at https://twitter.com/bravenewfilms and Robert Greenwald at https://twitter.com/robertgreenwald .

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Click to learn more about how to safeguard your rights and create an objective record of police interactions

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Corruption in Kaufman County

Friday, October 10th, 2014

The video below was recently uploaded to Youtube.com/TheCopBlock

Video Description:

Call Kaufman County DA Erleigh N. Wiley (972) 932-4331 ext #4

Tell her to drop the frivolous threats levied at Robert Scott McCollom

Individuals Responsible:

And other individuals within the Kaufman County injustice system who have kept the veiled threats hanging over the head of Robert Scott McCollom due to hubris and the need to perpetuate perceived legitimacy.

Resources Referenced:

Related Content:

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STOP Police Terror, Mass Incarceration, Repression, and the Criminalization of Generations! #O22

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

The information below was shared via CopBlock.org/Submit by an individual who hopes to make more people aware of the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, which happens annually on October 22nd.

The Revolution Club Bay Area, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and Oscar Grant’s uncle (“Uncle Bobby”) call on YOU to be part of a national month of resistance against police terror, mass incarceration, repression, and the criminalization of generations.

National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality: OCTOBER 22 (#O22) in a city near you. Stand up! Walk out! No business as usual! STOP police brutality!

 

Events are being planned in Los Angeles, Oakland, Riverside (CA), New Haven (CT), Jacksonville, Atlanta, Honolulu, Chicago, Ferguson, Montclair (NJ), Trenton (NJ), New York City, Rochester (NY), Cleveland, Dayton (OH), Greenville (SC), Dallas, Houston, and Seattle.
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Editors Note:

On October 22, 2011 this related video was captured in NYC:

On October 22, 2010 this related video was captured in Atlanta:

STOP Police Terror, Mass Incarceration, Repression, and the Criminalization of Generations! #O22 is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights

Another Case of Police Brutality Inside CCDC by the LVMPD

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
LVMPDabuseCCDC 300x225 Another Case of Police Brutality Inside CCDC by the LVMPD

Police Brutality at the CCDC

This is a cross post from CopBlock.org: Bridger Kennedy shared the information below via CopBlock.org/Submit about the unwarranted treatment some employed in the Clark County Detention Center used against him. For incidents related to Nevada, you can also submit directly to Nevada Cop Block’s Submit Page.

Date of Incident: September 25th 2014
Individual Responsible: Seargent Newman and colleagues
Outfit: Clark County Detention Center, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Phone: (702) 671-3900

Hey, my name is Bridger Kennedy. I was just in jail for a DUI (my own prescription medication) that I had taken four-hours prior to driving and while I was in the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada I was beat up pretty bad in there by about six correction officers.

Prior to my intake picture my face was pushed up against the wall and my bare feet were stepped on with their boots, then after the picture was taken – both front and sideways being jerked around like a rag doll – fingernails gripped into the inner part of my biceps leaving bruises.

I was then put in this black restraint chair and my hands were handcuffed til the very last notch on the cuff. I was shoved to sit down, my balls kneed on by one of the officers, my ankles were cuffed as tight as possible too, and then put some type of thigh winch strap thing around both my legs – smashing my knees together.

clarkc county detention center las vegas metropolitan police department copblock Another Case of Police Brutality Inside CCDC by the LVMPDI was very mad at this point and was was left in the chair for two hours. I then was taken out and seated in the big intake room (left side guys, right side girls). I was seated in the last row 2nd or 3rd seat to the left, everything was going fine. About 30-minutes had passed by when I had seen people asking to register on the phone so that they could make calls to people outside of the jail on one of the two phones available to do so.

There was one man on the left phone registering and there wasn’t anyone on the right phone, so I asked this African American female correctional officer (CO) if I can please register? She rudely answered with a snotty ‘No’ and turned away from me, at that point I didn’t say anything. About one-minute later a female inmate asks her if she could register and the CO gladly says ‘Yes’ to her, so at this point I said that is messed up why can’t I register and she can? Then this Hispanic CO says “Stand up motherfucker get over here” so I stood up and by the time I was on my feet he was rushing me and grabbed my wrist then threw me to the side.

By this point two other officers were running up and helped him throw me face down onto the ground and kneeing me in the back of the head.

I just had surgery to get my portacath removed two days prior to being in the jail. I have been in remission from cancer for three years now I was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was 17 (I will be 21 on December 28 of this year). I was face down yelling to them I had cancer and just had surgery.

The CO’s came over and piled their weight on top of my chest head arms legs back and feet while I can barely breathe I was yelling I have asthma as well since I was a little kid and now they are yelling to me to stop resisting when I wasn’t resisting whatsoever.

I couldn’t move and inch of any part of my body, at this point I am in excruciating pain and am being lifted up by my wrists and being taken back the the black restraint chair again. I was then once again strapped into the chair as tight as they possibly could after about 45-minutes in the chair. I just couldn’t bare the lack of circulation to my hands and feet. My upper thighs had lost the feeling in them by now, so I power through another hour and about 25-minutes of the chair each time having a spit mask on when I never spit or attempted to once.

They took me out and went and sat back down once again in the same chair I originally was in the first time I sat.

Editors Note: Bridger was encouraged to reach out to those involved with Nevada Cop Block, who have done an excellent job focusing the disinfecting light of transparency on the criminal LVMPD outfit.

Thanks for reading. Another Case of Police Brutality Inside CCDC by the LVMPD is a post from Nevada Cop Block

To Terrify and Occupy: How the Excessive Militarization of the Police Is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Patti Silliman shared a link via CopBlock.org/Submit to a piece authored by  Matthew Harwood, which opened by outlining the needless killing of Jason Westcott. Harwood’s entire write-up seemed worth sharing with readers of CopBlock.org, thus he was contacted via Twitter and asked if it could be cross-posted. Harwood agreed.

To Terrify and Occupy: How the Excessive Militarization of the Police Is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents

by Matthew Harwood, originally posted to TomDispatch.com on August 14, 2014.On Twitter, follow Matthew Harwood @MHarwood31 and Tom Dispatch

Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 pm on May 27th, the intruders arrived. Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders.  They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic.  He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The intruders, however, weren’t small-time crooks looking to make a small score. Rather they were members of the Tampa Police Department’s SWAT team, which was executing a search warrant on suspicion that Westcott and his partner were marijuana dealers. They had been tipped off by a confidential informant, whom they drove to Westcott’s home four times between February and May to purchase small amounts of marijuana, at $20-$60 a pop. The informer notified police that he saw two handguns in the home, which was why the Tampa police deployed a SWAT team to execute the search warrant.

In the end, the same police department that told Westcott to protect his home with defensive force killed him when he did. After searching his small rental, the cops indeed found weed, two dollars’ worth, and one legal handgun — the one he was clutching when the bullets ripped into him.

Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.

The War on Your Doorstep

The cancer of militarized policing has long been metastasizing in the body politic.  It has been growing ever stronger since the first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were born in the 1960s in response to that decade’s turbulent mix of riots, disturbances, and senseless violence like Charles Whitman’s infamous clock-tower rampage in Austin, Texas.

While SWAT isn’t the only indicator that the militarization of American policing is increasing, it is the most recognizable. The proliferation of SWAT teams across the country and their paramilitary tactics have spread a violent form of policing designed for the extraordinary but in these years made ordinary. When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide.  Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.

Nearly a half-century later, that’s no longer true.

In 1984, according to Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it’s still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.

As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.

Upping the Racial Profiling Ante

In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.

Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime. In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort. In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.

On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.

Think of this as racial profiling on steroids in which the humiliation of stop and frisk is raised to a terrifying new level.

Everyday Militarization

Don’t think, however, that the military mentality and equipment associated with SWAT operations are confined to those elite units. Increasingly, they’re permeating all forms of policing.

As Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst with the Justice Department’s Community Policing Services office, observes, police across America are being trained in a way that emphasizes force and aggression. He notes that recruit training favors a stress-based regimen that’s modeled on military boot camp rather than on the more relaxed academic setting a minority of police departments still employ. The result, he suggests, is young officers who believe policing is about kicking ass rather than working with the community to make neighborhoods safer. Or as comedian Bill Maher reminded officers recently: “The words on your car, ‘protect and serve,’ refer to us, not you.”

This authoritarian streak runs counter to the core philosophy that supposedly dominates twenty-first-century American thinking: community policing.  Its emphasis is on a mission of “keeping the peace” by creating and maintaining partnerships of trust with and in the communities served. Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the U.S. government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them. They don’t command respect, the theory goes: they earn it. Fear isn’t supposed to be their currency. Trust is.

Nevertheless, police recruiting videos, as in those from California’s Newport Beach Police Department and New Mexico’s Hobbs Police Department, actively play up not the community angle but militarization as a way of attracting young men with the promise of Army-style adventure and high-tech toys. Policing, according to recruiting videos like these, isn’t about calmly solving problems; it’s about you and your boys breaking down doors in the middle of the night.

SWAT’s influence reaches well beyond that.  Take the increasing adoption of battle-dress uniforms (BDUs) for patrol officers. These militaristic, often black, jumpsuits, Bickel fears, make them less approachable and possibly also more aggressive in their interactions with the citizens they’re supposed to protect.

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A small project at Johns Hopkins University seemed to bear this out. People were shown pictures of police officers in their traditional uniforms and in BDUs. Respondents, the survey indicated, would much rather have a police officer show up in traditional dress blues. Summarizing its findings, Bickel writes, “The more militaristic look of the BDUs, much like what is seen in news stories of our military in war zones, gives rise to the notion of our police being an occupying force in some inner city neighborhoods, instead of trusted community protectors.”

Where Do They Get Those Wonderful Toys?

“I wonder if I can get in trouble for doing this,” the young man says to his buddy in the passenger seat as they film the Saginaw County Sheriff Office’s new toy: a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. As they film the MRAP from behind, their amateur video has a Red Dawn-esque feel, as if an occupying military were now patrolling this Michigan county’s streets. “This is getting ready for f**king crazy times, dude,” one young man comments. “Why,” his friend replies, “has our city gotten that f**king bad?”

In fact, nothing happening in Saginaw County warranted the deployment of an armored vehicle capable of withstanding bullets and the sort of improvised explosive devices that insurgent forces have regularly planted along roads in America’s recent war zones.  Sheriff William Federspiel, however, fears the worst. “As sheriff of the county, I have to put ourselves in the best position to protect our citizens and protect our property,” he told a reporter. “I have to prepare for something disastrous.”

RELATED Content Tagged “MRAP” at CopBlock.org: http://www.copblock.org/?s=mrap

Lucky for Federspiel, his exercise in paranoid disaster preparedness didn’t cost his office a penny. That $425,000 MRAP came as a gift, courtesy of Uncle Sam, from one of our far-flung counterinsurgency wars. The nasty little secret of policing’s militarization is that taxpayers are subsidizing it through programs overseen by the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Justice Department.

Take the 1033 program. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) may be an obscure agency within the Department of Defense, but through the 1033 program, which it oversees, it’s one of the core enablers of American policing’s excessive militarization. Beginning in 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to transfer its surplus property free of charge to federal, state, and local police departments to wage the war on drugs. In 1997, Congress expanded the purpose of the program to include counterterrorism in section 1033 of the defense authorization bill. In one single page of a 450-page law, Congress helped sow the seeds of today’s warrior cops.

The amount of military hardware transferred through the program has grown astronomically over the years. In 1990, the Pentagon gave $1 million worth of equipment to U.S. law enforcement. That number had jumped to nearly $450 million in 2013. Overall, the program has shipped off more than $4.3 billion worth of materiel to state and local cops, according to the DLA.

In its recent report, the ACLU found a disturbing range of military gear being transferred to civilian police departments nationwide. Police in North Little Rock, Arkansas, for instance, received 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, two robots that can be armed, military helmets, and a Mamba tactical vehicle. Police in Gwinnet County, Georgia, received 57 semi-automatic rifles, mostly M-16s and M-14s. The Utah Highway Patrol, according to a Salt Lake City Tribune investigation, got an MRAP from the 1033 program, and Utah police received 1,230 rifles and four grenade launchers. After South Carolina’s Columbia Police Department received its very own MRAP worth $658,000, its SWAT Commander Captain E.M. Marsh noted that 500 similar vehicles had been distributed to law enforcement organizations across the country.

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Astoundingly, one-third of all war materiel parceled out to state, local, and tribal police agencies is brand new. This raises further disconcerting questions: Is the Pentagon simply wasteful when it purchases military weapons and equipment with taxpayer dollars? Or could this be another downstream, subsidized market for defense contractors? Whatever the answer, the Pentagon is actively distributing weaponry and equipment made for U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns abroad to police who patrol American streets and this is considered sound policy in Washington. The message seems striking enough: what might be necessary for Kabul might also be necessary for DeKalb County.

In other words, the twenty-first-century war on terror has melded thoroughly with the twentieth-century war on drugs, and the result couldn’t be anymore disturbing: police forces that increasingly look and act like occupying armies.

How the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice Are Up-Armoring the Police

When police departments look to muscle up their arms and tactics, the Pentagon isn’t the only game in town. Civilian agencies are in on it, too.

During a 2011 investigation, reporters Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz discovered that, since 9/11, police departments watching over some of the safest places in America have used $34 billion in grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to militarize in the name of counterterrorism.

In Fargo, North Dakota, for example, the city and its surrounding county went on an $8 million spending spree with federal money, according to Becker and Schulz. Although the area averaged less than two murders a year since 2005, every squad car is now armed with an assault rifle. Police also have access to Kevlar helmets that can stop heavy firepower as well as an armored truck worth approximately $250,000. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1,500 beat cops have been trained to use AR-15 assault rifles with homeland security grant funding.

As with the 1033 program, neither DHS nor state and local governments account for how the equipment, including body armor and drones, is used. While the rationale behind stocking up on these military-grade supplies is invariably the possibility of a terrorist attack, school shooting, or some other horrific event, the gear is normally used to conduct paramilitary drug raids, as Balko notes.

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The Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko

Still, the most startling source of police militarization is the Department of Justice, the very agency officially dedicated to spreading the community policing model through its Community Oriented Policing Services office.

In 1988, Congress authorized the Byrne grant programs in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which gave state and local police federal funds to enlist in the government’s drug war. That grant program, according to Balko, led to the creation of regional and multi-jurisdictional narcotics task forces, which gorged themselves on federal money and, with little federal, state, or local oversight, spent it beefing up their weapons and tactics. In 2011, 585 of these task forces operated off of Byrne grant funding.

The grants, Balko reports, also incentivized the type of policing that has made the war on drugs such a destructive force in American society. The Justice Department doled out Byrne grants based on how many arrests officers made, how much property they seized, and how many warrants they served. The very things these narcotics task forces did very well. “As a result,” Balko writes, “we have roving squads of drug cops, loaded with SWAT gear, who get money if they conduct more raids, make more arrests, and seize more property, and they are virtually immune to accountability if they get out of line.”

Regardless of whether this militarization has occurred due to federal incentives or executive decision-making in police departments or both, police across the nation are up-armoring with little or no public debate. In fact, when the ACLU requested SWAT records from 255 law enforcement agencies as part of its investigation, 114 denied them. The justifications for such denials varied, but included arguments that the documents contained “trade secrets” or that the cost of complying with the request would be prohibitive. Communities have a right to know how the police do their jobs, but more often than not, police departments think otherwise.

Being the Police Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Report by report, evidence is mounting that America’s militarized police are a threat to public safety. But in a country where the cops increasingly look upon themselves as soldiers doing battle day in, day out, there’s no need for public accountability or even an apology when things go grievously wrong.

If community policing rests on mutual trust between the police and the people, militarized policing operates on the assumption of “officer safety” at all costs and contempt for anyone who sees things differently. The result is an “us versus them” mentality.

Just ask the parents of Bou Bou Phonesavanh. Around 3:00 a.m. on May 28th, the Habersham County Special Response Team conducted a no-knock raid at a relative’s home near Cornelia, Georgia, where the family was staying. The officers were looking for the homeowner’s son, whom they suspected of selling $50 worth of drugs to a confidential informant.  As it happened, he no longer lived there.

Despite evidence that children were present — a minivan in the driveway, children’s toys littering the yard, and a Pack ‘n Play next to the door — a SWAT officer tossed a “flashbang” grenade into the home. It landed in 19-month-old Bou Bou’s crib and exploded, critically wounding the toddler. When his distraught mother tried to reach him, officers screamed at her to sit down and shut up, telling her that her child was fine and had just lost a tooth. In fact, his nose was hanging off his face, his body had been severely burned, and he had a hole in his chest. Rushed to the hospital, Bou Bou had to be put into a medically induced coma.

The police claimed that it was all a mistake and that there had been no evidence children were present. “There was no malicious act performed,” Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was a terrible accident that was never supposed to happen.” The Phonesavanhs have yet to receive an apology from the sheriff’s office. “Nothing. Nothing for our son. No card. No balloon. Not a phone call. Not anything,” Bou Bou’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told CNN.

Similarly, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor continues to insist that Jay Westcott’s death in the militarized raid on his house was his own fault.  “Mr. Westcott lost his life because he aimed a loaded firearm at police officers. You can take the entire marijuana issue out of the picture,” Castor said. “If there’s an indication that there is armed trafficking going on — someone selling narcotics while they are armed or have the ability to use a firearm — then the tactical response team will do the initial entry.”

In her defense of the SWAT raid, Castor simply dismissed any responsibility for Westcott’s death. “They did everything they could to serve this warrant in a safe manner,” she wrote the Tampa Bay Times – “everything,” that is, but find an alternative to storming the home of a man they knew feared for his life.

Almost half of all American households report having a gun, as the ACLU notes in its report. That means the police always have a ready-made excuse for using SWAT teams to execute warrants when less confrontational and less violent alternatives exist.

In other words, if police believe you’re selling drugs, beware. Suspicion is all they need to turn your world upside down. And if they’re wrong, don’t worry; the intent couldn’t have been better.

Voices in the Wilderness

The militarization of the police shouldn’t be surprising. As Hubert Williams, a former police director of Newark, New Jersey, and Patrick V. Murphy, former commissioner of the New York City Police Department, put it nearly 25 years ago, police are “barometers of the society in which they operate.” In post-9/11 America, that means police forces imbued with the “hooah” mentality of soldiers and acting as if they are fighting an insurgency in their own backyard.

While the pace of police militarization has quickened, there has at least been some pushback from current and former police officials who see the trend for what it is: the destruction of community policing. In Spokane, Washington, Councilman Mike Fagan, a former police detective, is pushing back against police officers wearing BDUs, calling the get-up “intimidating” to citizens. In Utah, the legislature passed a bill requiring probable cause before police could execute a no-knock raid. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank has been a vocal critic of militarization, telling the local paper, “We’re not the military. Nor should we look like an invading force coming in.” Just recently, Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department agreed with the ACLU and the Los Angeles Times editorial board that “the lines between municipal law enforcement and the U.S. military cannot be blurred.”

Retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper has also become an outspoken critic of militarizing police forces, noting “most of what police are called upon to do, day in and day out, requires patience, diplomacy, and interpersonal skills.” In other words, community policing. Stamper is the chief who green-lighted a militarized response to World Trade Organization protests in his city in 1999 (“The Battle in Seattle”). It’s a decision he would like to take back. “My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose,” he wrote in the Nation. “Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict.”

These former policemen and law enforcement officials understand that police officers shouldn’t be breaking down any citizen’s door at 3 a.m. armed with AR-15s and flashbang grenades in search of a small amount of drugs, while an MRAP idles in the driveway. The anti-militarists, however, are in the minority right now. And until that changes, violent paramilitary police raids will continue to break down the doors of nearly 1,000 American households a week.

War, once started, can rarely be contained.

To Terrify and Occupy: How the Excessive Militarization of the Police Is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights