Can Someone Explain Why the Utah Police Need Grenade Launchers?

Not only are they getting the grenade launchers and the military vehicles and other toys, but the military is giving them to the police for free. From the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently gave a surplus MRAP to the highway patrol. The law enforcement agency plans to use it to carry troopers to dangerous crime scenes and to keep those troopers safe while protecting civilians.

“Obviously, it is intimidating,” Lepley said of the dump truck-sized armored vehicle designed to withstand bomb blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan, “but that isn’t its primary purpose. It’s saving lives. I can drive this right through the middle of a gunfight.”

The MRAP is not the only gift Utah law enforcement agencies have received from the military. In the two-year period beginning in October 2011, Utah police received 1,230 rifles, according to records the Defense Department provided to The Tribune.

Utah police also received four grenade launchers, 17 .45-caliber pistols and a handful of magazines and weapon accessories.

The Defense Department has provided the weaponry and equipment through what it calls the 1033 Program. As of an April 2013 audit, Utah police possessed $2.8 million of weapons and other military gear received through the program.

While there’s no available documentation that anyone in Utah has been shot or killed with weapons from the 1033 Program, civil libertarians have taken note and are voicing concern over what they call the “militarization” of local police.

The police, seeming to realize the inappropriateness of the MRAP, used their imaginations to develop a scenario where the armored vehicle could be used to rescue people under hostile fire. But what can law enforcement personnel do with a grenade launcher? I can’t think of any scenario where it would be right for them to just blast everyone in a house or car.

What kind of conflict are people expecting to play out in the great state of Utah?

Kara Dansky, senior counsel at national office of the ACLU, said the organization has received thousands of records, is analyzing the data and hopes to issue a report in the first half of 2014.

Dansky said she’s not yet in a position to offer formal findings or recommendations, but said there are anecdotes indicating the use of military weapons encourages police to use more violent tactics in circumstances that don’t require it.

“When police use military-style tactics and weapons to serve warrants on people’s homes, what we’ve seen is violence ensue,” Dansky said.

You think?

Despite those concerns and statistics showing criminal violence is in a decreasing trend, Utah sheriffs and police chiefs see benefits to the program.

“Your bad guy, he’s always out there training, looking for the biggest baddest thing,” Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner said.

Training? Do they work out and target practice in a secret underground lair run by the Evil League of Evil?

That is a delusional rationalization for why they need military weapons.

But the program is brilliant. Any department that refuses to apply for the weaponry will soon find that they look wimpy next to their neighboring jurisdictions. There is a “keeping up with the SWAT Joneses” dynamic that ensures they will all try to ramp up as much as possible.

It also takes advantage of cash strapped residents who feel too burdened by the wrecked economy and Federal taxation to want to increase the budget of police departments and sheriffs offices.

“What the majority of the citizens have expressed to me is: What are you doing to save money and not raise taxes?’ ” Heber City Police Chief Dave Booth said. “This is it.”

This is how Federalism dies. Or rather, it is dead. This is how the corpse of Federalism starts to rot.