Citizens urge return of armored vehicles to Pentagon
Residents of an Idaho town are asking their city council to return an armored vehicle to the federal government and just say no to militarization.
John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said he was contacted by a group of residents from Nampa, Idaho, and asked to urge their elected leaders to send the town’s military-grade equipment back where it belongs — to the Pentagon. Of particular concern is a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, acquired with grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The discussion of whether local police need machine guns, night-vision scopes or an armored vehicle needs to engage the entire community, and should not be unilaterally decided by the federal government, the military, or law enforcement, Whitehead said.
“Whenever this kind of armament is brought into a community, it should only be done with the knowledge and consent of the citizenry,” Whitehead, a constitutional attorney based in Charlottesville, Virginia, said in a statement released to WND.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have quietly returned more than 6,000 unwanted or unusable items to the Pentagon in the last 10 years, according to a report by Mother Jones.
And the trend seems to be gaining steam since the August unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s when many Americans got their first glimpse of camouflage-clad cops roving the streets in tanks and armored vehicles, blurring the lines between police and soldiers.
Recently, in response to a local outcry over aggressive policing tactics, San Jose, California’s police department announced plans to return its MRAP, and the Los Angeles school system police department has agreed to return its three grenade launchers.
Whitehead said military recycling programs carry hidden costs and result in heightened risk for the community by transforming local police into extensions of the military.
The Rutherford Institute’s letter to Nampa Mayor Bob Henry can be read here:
While local police departments often argue that MRAPs and other military hardware are essential “tools” in the fight against drug crimes, the reality is that violent crime nationwide is at a 40-year low, Whitehead says in the letter.
“Most of this equipment is not only largely unnecessary but is completely incongruous with the security needs of smaller communities,” the letter states.
Nampa, in Canyon County, Idaho, has a population of just over 97,000.
Whitehead says 17,000 local police departments are equipped with military equipment ranging from Blackhawk helicopters and machine guns to grenade launchers, battering rams, explosives, chemical sprays, body armor, night vision, rappelling gear and armored vehicles. Some have tanks and others have drones.
Whether or not the use of such sophisticated military equipment is justified, many local police feel compelled to use it once they have it.
The misuse of military gear by police is a growing problem that has been documented in books such as Cheryl Chumley’s “Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality:” and Radley Balko’s “Rise of The Warrior Cop.”
Heavily armed SWAT units were introduced in the 1980s for the purpose of handling highly volatile hostage situations and confrontations with active shooters. But now they are rolled out for the most routine police procedures such as serving warrants.