If you have been watching the news at all you have been hearing about Ferguson, Missouri, and probably hearing about the militarization of police. While I have seen some reporting that seems premature in linking militarization to the shooting of Michael Brown, it is still a real problem.
This is not about simply the gear that police use; it is about accountability. Local police should get paid by the local taxpayers they serve. When the central government starts giving local police departments rewards that the police enjoy having, then they begin to stop being local.
I had never understood the full extent of this problem until I saw this post in the Washington Blog, which led me to this story at the International Business Times. It discusses the 1033 Program under which the Pentagon gives military supplies to local police departments as well as a bill to stop the 1033 Program:
According to data compiled by Maplight, the lawmakers “voting to continue funding the 1033 Program have received, on average, 73 percent more money from the defense industry than representatives voting to defund it.” In all, the average lawmaker voting against the [Grayson] bill [to end the funding] received more than $50,000 in campaign donations from the defense industry in the last two years. The report also found that of the 59 lawmakers who received more than $100,000 from defense contractors in the last two years, only four voted for Grayson’s legislation.
Though thought of as a political force primarily in federal policymaking, the defense industry also spends on state politics, which influences law enforcement procurement decisions. According to data compiled by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, more than $8 million of campaign contributions has been dumped into state elections in the last decade by military contractors and their employees.
Much of this is simple crony capitalism. By getting police departments dependent on heavy weaponry from the Federal Government, the Defense industry gains a secondary market.
So representatives who should be supporting and representing their local communities instead support their occupation by an armed force.