Police State Gears Up

BearCat in Boston lockdown

BearCat in Boston lockdown

If you’re a small town or perhaps a university security department, the US Department of Defense has got a deal for you!

Thanks to the ending of the Iraq War, and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has 11,000 heavily armored vehicles that it has no use for.  Called MRAPs—Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected—they are designed to protect against AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs. And as pitchman Paul Richards used to say of the ’69 Pontiac Firebird, “They’re practically giving them away!”

Correction, they are giving them away.

Nashville, TN, Police BearCat

Nashville, TN, Police BearCat

All a local police department has to do to get itself an 18-ton MRAP—which originally cost taxpayers between $400,000-$700,000 complete with gun turret and bullet-proof windows—is send a few cops to pick it up and pay for the gas.

There are a few downsides: the things get only five miles to the gallon, can’t go over most bridges, or under them, and have a nasty habit of tipping over on rough terrain.

For departments that find them too unwieldy, the Homeland Security Department is also offering grants to communities so they can buy smaller Lenco BearCats, lighter armored military-style vehicles that run about $280,000.

Since last summer, police departments across the country have taken possession of 165 DOD surplus MRAPs, and there are another 731 requests for the 14-foot-high vehicles. Even Ohio State University police got their hands on one, saying it would provide a “police presence” at football games.  Most of the rest of the vehicles to date have gone to smaller community police forces—everywhere from Farmington, NM (pop. 45,000) to Hamburg Village, NY (pop. 9,500).

The number of BearCats purchased with Homeland Security grants isn’t readily available, but they were on conspicuous display in and around Boston last year during the metro-area-wide martial law lockdown while police and National Guard searched for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the wounded and unarmed 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Police BearCat and automatic weapons, Boston lockdown

Police BearCat and automatic weapons, Boston lockdown

For the most part, Americans don’t seem to question the use of military vehicles by their local police, but some communities are starting to object. In Concord, New Hampshire, for instance, 1500 residents last fall signed a petition opposing their town’s use of a $258,000 federal Homeland Security grant to purchase a BearCat for the local police department.

The Concord Monitor reported that most of those opposing the purchase said they feared further militarization of their local police. Despite the opposition, the town government went ahead with the acquisition anyway.

Beating the MRAP

Enter State Representative J.R. Hoell, a libertarian Republican who represents Dunbarton, NH, just outside of Concord. Hoell recently introduced a bill, the Police Equipment and Community Engagement (PEACE) Act, in the state legislature.

The proposed legislation is now in committee. If it’s passed and signed into law by the governor, state and municipal agencies in New Hampshire will be barred from buying or even accepting free offers of “military style equipment” for police use, except with the approval of the assembled citizenry at a public town meeting.

That prohibition would include not just MRAPS and BearCats, but also things like fully automatic weapons or anything that is not “available in an open commercial market.” These restrictions would not apply to the National Guard.

Rep. Hoell spoke to us about his bill.


WhoWhatWhy:  Why did you introduce this bill?

Rep. Hoell:  I introduced the bill because the citizens of Concord were overwhelmingly opposed to their police department having MRAP vehicles and it was ordered anyway. I don’t see any reason for police to have armored vehicles, or even fully automatic weapons.

WhoWhatWhy: Why are you opposed to police having military equipment?

Rep. Hoell:  The role of the state is to make sure the citizens have the best law enforcement and not one that’s overly militarized. Whatever happened to police wearing blue? Now they are dressed in black, head to toe, and when they go to serve warrants at people’s homes, they break the door down, and they wear masks.

WhoWhatWhy:  Why the masks?

Rep. Hoell: I don’t know, maybe it’s a military thing. But it is not community policing.

WhoWhatWhy: What kind of support are you getting for this bill?

Hoell: I’m getting support from citizens of the state across the political spectrum.

WhoWhatWhy:  Why do you think police in this country are becoming increasingly militarized?

Rep. Hoell:  I can’t speculate about why this is happening, but I know that the citizens don’t want it. It needs to stop.

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  • http://erichs-blog.blogspot.com/ erichwwk


    • JdL

      Cops are creating self-fulfilling prophecies. When they act like hostile overlords rather than public servants, it becomes necessary for ordinary citizens to take defensive measures against them. In particular, when they storm into the homes of peaceful citizens, they deserve to be shot.

      • http://erichs-blog.blogspot.com/ erichwwk

        No one “deserves” to get shot. Peace is not only the end, it is the way. This storming (ok, assassination) of peaceful citizens is not new [ http://bit.ly/1j841LM ] just getting worse. Before John Swomley convinced MLK towards non-violence, your suggestion was MLK’s take as well. Opposing evil with evil, as the DOD “giveaway” (and Jack Jones in NM) envisions will just make the situation worse. Difficult as it is, only non-violent opposition will make a lasting difference, IMHO.

        “If we harm other people, we harm ourselves” – Thich Nhat Hanh http://bit.ly/1j841LM

        • JdL

          Even Gandhi advocated arming the populace. I do not call for unprovoked violence, but until people practice standing up to cops, nothing is going to change.

          • http://erichs-blog.blogspot.com/ erichwwk

            Agree standing up to illegitimate acts of “governments”. Agree also that Gandhi did not oppose the use of violence as a tactic on moral grounds, preferring that to “non-action”.

            some Gandhi quotes:

            “I believe that no government can exist for a single moment without the
            cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw
            their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.” kindle

            His opposition to violence was based on its ineffectiveness as a LR strategy.

            “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only
            temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

          • http://archive.org/details/antifederalist_0707_librivox The Federal Farmer

            “I believe that no government can exist for a single moment without the
            cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw
            their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.”

            And yet so-called “patriots” continually tell us we have to “wake up” and “vote the bastards out!” Really? Voting IS cooperating with the existence of a government. They pretend there are two different factions and you voters pretend the same.

          • http://erichs-blog.blogspot.com/ erichwwk

            It is my understanding that Gandhi was referring to civil disobedience, rather than “voting the bastards out” when he made that statement. There are certainly many “patriots” [Chris Hedges] that also do not see ‘voting” as a viable option, for the reason you suggest.

        • anarchyst

          “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst; the cursed machine would have ground to a halt . . .”
          – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

      • Jeff Grotke

        they deserve to get fired, not shot, and to have their evidence thrown out of court. Unfortunately the Courts are finding all kinds of excuses to uphold these illegal searches.

  • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples

    What Good Can a Handgun Do Against An Army?

    • anarchyst

      You would be surprised. Research the “Liberator”, a single-shot .45 caliber weapon that was used against the enemy to procure HIS weapon . . . a much better rifle.

      • Jimmy T LaBaume

        Right on anarchist. The reason anybody wants a zip gun is to get himself a real gun. When SHTF, it won’t be long before our guys have field artillery.

        • hp b

          And the great equalizer – RPG

      • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples

        That article I linked to is basically about the Liberator. Take a look.

    • Dawg_em

      And what good would it do for police and military to turn on their own fellow citizens? They gotta eat and sleep some time.

    • darrenlobo

      Junior, actually not much. The guy at Free Republic is wrong. The way to stay safe & free is to disarm the govt while arming & organizing the people. That’s why the anti-federalist Founders were so strong on defending the militia & not having a standing army. I gave this presentation on the subject:

      The Standing Armies of Yesterday and the Police State Today


      • Jeff Grotke

        that makes no sense. i don’t want any part of a government where “the people” is some mob of Tea Party nutcases. In my view the government is there to protect me against people like you.

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  • Bob Smith

    I wonder if they would give one to citizens who have formed their own neighborhood watch (police department).

  • hp b

    Mr. Molotov ain’t famous for no reason.
    And I’m sure there are plenty of enterprising people who will supply all the RPG’s anyone might want and need.
    (RPG-29, made in Mexico)

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  • http://www.911Blogger.com/ Orangutan.

    And yet this guy is being harassed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6roDPt1WYYY WTF is going on in this society.

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  • Kris

    Thank you for bringing this bill, Representative Hoell. I hope it passes and serves as an example for other communities.

  • 57343598876687

    We live in a Police State that makes the cold war KGB look like amateurs.

  • Fullblad

    As a youth I remember the local constabulary wanting to form a riot squadron often denied to them…so the next thing you knew the police threw a riot at a rock concert by pulling the plug on a band and making sure those in attendance knew who had done it…instant “riot” according to the cops and the riot squad was formed. In this case the cops need not even provide the necessary excuse like…I can’t think of any excuse other than full spectrum dominance over the next PTA meeting.

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  • KyKPH

    Many of these things will be sent to a scrap yard when they sit for 10 years out side the police station and the tires dry rot. When the City Council finds out the tires cost sever thousand dollars each and there is no federal grant to take care of that, off they will go.

  • Jim B

    Thank you for covering this story!!

  • Jeff Grotke

    it is not the equipment that I fear. A policeman who is well-protected is less likely to think it necessary to shoot randomly (though they exhibited none of that kind of courage in California when they knew Christopher Dorner was hunting them). The thing to really fear is the fact the Court keeps giving them free rein to do whatever they want. There is very little left, at this point, of the right to privacy and the right to be safe and secure in your home.

  • darrenlobo

    Talk about paranoid. What ever makes you think that you need protection from me? I live by the nonaggresion principle http://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Principle_of_non-aggression If someone wanted to violate your rights I’d protect even you, Jeff.

    BTW, the Tea Party isn’t my cup of tea. You must not know much about them if you think they agree with me.

  • http://uzzas.blogspot.com/2010/06/introduction.html uzza

    Where did the author get the idea that
    “For the most part, Americans don’t seem to question the use of military vehicles by their local police” ?
    Everyone I’ve ever talked to is appalled by it.

    • Desiree Booco

      When did american become nazi germany.what dose the stsue of Liberty stand for

  • DavidTN

    This militarized P.D.’s have got to go. We are not at war. It is almost if the P.D’s are at war with there fellow Americans. This image sends a very bad message to all.

  • wildeyedliberal

    The reason the police need weapons of mass destruction is so they can be safe from all the criminals around them. They wear masks so their mothers won’t recognize them on the news.

    They smash down doors to “search” or serve a parking ticket because they have time constraints on them, because, as above, they are surrounded by criminals and knocking is inefficient.

  • http://www.booksbyoliver.com/ PennState93

    Citizens need to be just as armed as government law enforcement so that we can guard against tyranny.

  • Roman Law

    The militarization of police forces in the United States exist because of the normalization and prevalence of violence in our culture. This is the reason why most residents in towns and cities have not overwhelmingly opposed it. Our desensitization towards violence is part of our accepted everyday life.

    Only when the majority of people in the U.S. become fully aware that violence is a clinically dysfunctional and conditioned deviant behavior, will society be receptive to non-violent alternatives.

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