NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 6, 2013

Increased militarization of police alarming

To the editor:

“Would you support spending local tax dollars to buy your police department a $250K armored vehicle?” asks an online poll at unionleader.com. Of 851 respondents, 90 percent say “no.” The feds seem to disagree. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard have been giving millions of dollars in high-maintenance cost, used military hardware in recent years, all “for free,” to police departments. Seabrook PD, for example, was given a “rescue boat” by the Coast Guard, though it has a 4-foot freeboard from the waterline, making it impossible to pull someone out of the water. After $80,000 in repairs, the boat is missing and has only been used once in a rescue. Worse, it was from a $145,000 Hampton boat that the swimmer was found and pulled from the water. Humvees getting 8 miles per gallon sit alongside armored personnel carriers getting 4 mpg. What type of natural disaster requires inch-thick armor plating?

Free Talk Live carries a story entitled, “‘Fake Cops Robbing Citizens at Gunpoint Turn Out to be Real Cops Robbing Citizens at Gunpoint.” One might say the same about these vocal police chiefs who are cavalier about accepting high-maintenance “free” military vehicles. In one department’s grant application the police chief states, “Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges” and cites “several homegrown clusters that are anti-government and pose problems for law enforcement agencies.” The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union calls this language “alarming,” warning the public about the increased militarization of police in order to target peaceful activist groups.

Reason magazine goes further in its July 29 story, “Concord Cops Want Armored SWAT Vehicle to Combat Free-States (And Others).” Citing a story in the Union Leader, Reason editor Brian Doherty presents the question of local police getting out of hand with little real provocation. What ever happened to Officer Friendly? Why must the powerful law enforcement lobby now become the standing army that the Founding Fathers feared most?

Max Abramson

Seabrook

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