This article makes a point about how militarized many police forces have become. It also questions the necessity for it to be happening. From my perspective I can see both sides of this discussion. It basically comes down to the same argument that many use in the gun debate which is it is better to have it and not need it than to not have it and need it.
There have been many instances when local police forces have been outmanned and out gunned while trying to do their jobs. Even back during prohibition the criminals were using thirty caliber Browning Automatic rifles, Thompson Submachine guns, and combat tactical shot guns. In some cases they even used tanks, mortars, and aircraft against a police force than had only the most basic kind of weaponry.
A few years ago there was a highly organized and well armed bank robbery attempt in California that was finally stopped but only by the intervention of a highly trained and militarily equipped SWAT team. Many officers and bystanders were wounded and some as I recall even died from the firefight. The perpetrators had illegal full auto rifles, full body armor, and were clearly combat trained and capable.
Thanks to our stupid drug war the cartels have begun arming their foot soldiers with the latest and best armament that money can buy and in most cases they have more money than many of todays police departments do with which to do so. Today even kids on the street in gangs can get their hands on some very lethal and sophisticated firearms and they are getting bolder. I have even heard of some police stations suffering drive by shootings that have damaged their facilities which is really kind of reminiscent of how the cartels finally took over in many communities in Mexico.
So now lets take a look at the sociological landscape in America as it is today. First of all we have an economy that is in turmoil and hundreds of thousands of Americans who are either unemployed or grossly underemployed. It is fair to say that an awful lot of those people are pretty unhappy about that turn of events. We have a lot of former highly trained military killing machines getting out of the service and coming home to terrible VA medical services, banks that are not giving them loans, homes that have been foreclosed on, and no jobs that would help them to get back on their feet. Many of them also suffer from PTSD and are not the most mentally stable people. We have schools churning out semi-literate kids with very few skills and training and no job opportunities to speak of. Finally add to that the incursion of terrorist groups who have begun blending into our very society and recruiting from our own population. Anyone with a bone to pick with the state, local, or federal government can hook up with them and do major damage in our society.
Now lets not forget the extremist nut cases that love to form their little hate groups and build up a huge cash of arms in preparation for their imaginary Armageddon. In a way they are actually living in such a manner so as to turn a fantasy into a reality. They are wishing so hard for the end of humanity that they could very well provoke total self destruction with their antics and rhetoric.
So as I said earlier I can see why many police forces across our nation are becoming very militaristic. They are having to just to be prepared for the worst case scenarios that are brewing all across our nation. However that being said it would be a gross mistake to totally eliminate the passing of surplus military equipment to those police forces. It would also be a mistake to cease the cross training of the police forces in military tactics because if a terrorist cell explodes and attacks they will have rocket launchers, RPGs, full automatic weapons, and possibly even chemical or biological weapons at their disposal.
Similarly if the drug cartels decide to push back against police authority there is nothing to stop them from acquiring weapons from Russia or China to use against our police forces on the ground. They certainly have American dollars aplenty and Russia and China are more than happy to make a profit from their military equipment. The cartels already use submarines and surplus aircraft of all kinds in their smuggling operations so weaponry is no problem for them. We could ban guns until we are blue in the face but that will in no way stop those who use them for criminal or terroristic purposes from acquiring the most sophisticated weapons on the planet.
So the solution here is to create some very strict guidelines for the use of such equipment and tactics. That way the local authorities are trained and equipped to deal with major issues quickly rather than waiting until there is much death and destruction and then finally bringing in the military. That lesson was learned with the riots in Watts, Ca. many years ago when the people nearly burned down their entire area and looted and pillaged for days before the uproar was finally quelled.
Even our present day military struggles with just how much lethal force is necessary to bring to bear in a given circumstance. They are criticized regardless of what they do. Some will argue it is not enough while others argue it is too excessive. In short they cannot win. Similarly the local police authorities face the same kind of catch 22 where there really is no right answer. So I say keep the military hardware and training but incorporate some restraint and guidelines for its use.