My forty three years of law enforcement experience compels me to at least offer my take on the apparent police militarization problem now being fanned into flames in the public media by the grievance mongers, anarchists, rioters, looters, the Black Panthers and now even, the Nation of Islam, in Ferguson, Mo.
First, I became a uniformed officer of the CHP a year before the Watts riots in LA. That experience was a game changer for many of us. We had been trained to approach violators as basically good citizens and tax payers and to always be polite. After Watt’s, we were almost reduced to an infantry crawl when approaching a violators car door. All we had in those day’s were .38 caliber revolvers, the odd shotgun and no protection except our thin uniform shirts, our cars and keeping our heads down. My badge simply wasn’t big enough to hide behind.
I got the heck out of LA and moved to the quiet, peaceful and civilized Bay Area of Northern California. Whoops, then came the “Free Speech” riots at Univ. of California, Berkeley. After that scary experience we were all trained in how to use the riot baton without showing up on TV as brutal cops beating the hell out of some poor student who rightfully deserved it. We had no armor. Only tear gas, riot batons and 38’s. The future, as we are experiencing it now, was absolutely inconceivable to us then but clearly starting to reveal itself if we could have but read the signs. Changes in tactics and protection were slow in coming.
In recent times, since the big bank robbery in North Hollywood, California a few years ago, law enforcement realized it was unprepared and out gunned for meeting heavily armored bank robbers, anarchists, rioters, & etc. Every officer was quickly issued his own shotgun and for awhile, personal rifles were permitted to be carried in patrol cars as well. I left that uniformed environment in 1969 to go Federal. I wore a JC Penny’s suit, but missions changed with overseas assignments where danger could literally come from any direction. Rules utilizing firearms were completely different, the Philippine Islands of the 70’s, where every politician had his own small army to protect him, being a good example.
Jump ahead a few years, in the UK of the 80’s, and New Scotland Yard was arming up special squads of armed officers, called the Blue Berets, highly vetted and trained for the job, to immediately respond to any situation requiring the application of deadly force. They ran into a wall with the London Iranian hostage situation. While they had sub-machine-gun’s as well as revolvers and armored vests, they were incapable of facing off the terrorists who occupied the embassy. The army’s SAS was called and they had only one stipulation: once control was ceded to the SAS, local officials (police) had no say as to tactics or results. A couple hours later all the terrorists were dead. That was, for the British Police and us, am important learning experience. Army’s kill and destroy and police keep the peace. So, here we are today with over armed police kitted out with new equipment happily supplied by a Marxist American government to create the desired National Police Force, alleged President Obama once called for.
Police officers love gadgets and will purchase any new gizmo that becomes available. It’s in the genes. Give them big gizmo’s like armored cars, tanks, machine-guns, flash bangs and hand grenades and they will use them. Its in the genes. Also in the genes of every policeman is a deep, abiding desire to live another day. There is no profit in dying trying to enforce laws ignored by gangsters. Let the gangsters die.
Therefore, free armor is welcomed. Kevlar helmets are welcome. Automatic weapons are welcome and even armored vehicles are welcomed. Those are fun toys that even the odds.
The problems comes when this free stuff is used simply because a department has it, as we learned in the unfortunate attempted night-time, no knock arrest of an alleged drug dealer in a small rural county in North Georgia a few months ago. Sheriff’s, Police Chief’s and field police commanders need to understand the consequences of the inappropriate application of excess force in the costs of such actions, both in financial terms to the community (losing law suits) and reputation to their departments. I have no complaints about armoring up departments for officer safety, just how they use it. There is a greater more destructive force out there than all of the armies in the world: Stupidity!
Remember freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em! (19 August 2014).