Anyone who has watched the news lately, or has driven past some police stations in America, knows that law enforcement in America is very militarized. I think that Ferguson was a real eye opener for Americans who saw cops on TV that looked more like they were going to war rather than trying to keep the peace. For obvious reasons that hasn’t been sitting well with a growing number of Americans who don’t want to see cops looking more like military members than they do local police.
Law enforcement agencies can put in requests to the Pentagon to receive surplus military gear, and agencies have been doing it more and more lately. Documents were recently obtained by members of the media that found that an alarming number of requests for armored vehicles specifically cited marijuana and the war on drugs as the reason for needing war grade armored vehicles. Per the Huffington Post:
The Mother Jones investigation focuses on requests for armored combat vehicles, arguably the most iconic piece of police military equipment in the post-Ferguson era. Among the requests Mother Jones obtained, the most frequently cited rationale for needing an armored vehicle was drugs: “Fully a quarter of the 465 requests projected using the vehicles for drug enforcement,” the investigation found. By contrast, police departments rarely cited hostage situations, terrorist attacks or armed gunmen as rationale for obtaining the trucks.
At least seven departments explicitly cited marijuana in their vehicle requests, tying pot with methamphetamines for the drug that shows up most often in the documents. In 2012, Sheriff Tom Bosenko of Shasta County, Calif., requested two armored tactical vehicles to be “used during apprehension of suspects in both Marijuana eradications and during high risk search warrant service for drug offenders.”
In 2013, the Sheriff of Sumter County, Fla., requested one armored vehicle partly because his office had located “several marijuana grows both indoors and outdoors” in Sumter County.
Again, police departments applying for these military surplus vehicles rarely say it’s for hostage situations, terrorist attacks, or to combat armed gunmen. Often times they say it’s to go after people that are growing marijuana, a substance that is 114 times safer than alcohol. The proliferation of militarized police agencies has to stop. I’m all for law enforcement having what they need to perform their duties, but showing up with equipment that is designed for war instead of being designed to keep the peace is something that I find unacceptable, and it’s something that should alarm all Americans.