In a positive sign that the backlash against the militarizing of the nation’s police forces may be working, a California police department is returning a 15 ton armored vehicle. The piece of heavy, war zone ready equipment was just received from the federal government this year. The heavy-handed response to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri has finally triggered a long overdue debate as to the proper role of the police in our society. While there is not much hope that the dysfunctional gaggle in Washington will be able to get the problem under control it is always encouraging when action is taken by those at a local level.
According to a story from the website of the San Jose Mercury News entitled “San Jose police jettison hulking armored transport” from which I excerpt:
Amid a national furor over police militarization, the San Jose Police Department has decided to get rid of a 15-ton armored vehicle it received earlier this year from a federal military surplus program.
San Jose’s move comes right on the heels of similar plans by the city of Davis to jettison its mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop transport, or MRAP. Among the handful of other Bay Area agencies that own the hulking transports, Redwood City, South San Francisco and Antioch are standing by them.
In San Jose, the MRAP, designed to withstand improvised explosive devices used against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been in an undisclosed storage garage in the city. It was being outfitted for street use when police brass — already facing criticism for their recent purchase of a drone — decided it wasn’t worth the potential damage to the department’s image and community relationships.
Bravo to San Jose! The story also mentions a move by the City of Davis to also divest themselves of war zone military equipment and transform their police back into public servants instead of soldiers. The San Jose police vehicle is an MRAP, which stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected and belongs in Iraq or Afghanistan and not on the streets among the civilians here in The Homeland.
While the return of the vehicle scores the San Jose Police Department public relations points, there is the inevitable grumbling among more fascistic members of the force. The Mercury News piece cites Sgt. Jim Unland, who is identified as the president of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association:
“This was politically expedient. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want the best equipment for your officers,” he said. “You can’t predict the hazards and dangers that will come in 10 or 20 years.”
He noted the integration of military equipment in police work is long-standing.
“Helicopters were primarily a military vehicle. So are AR’s (rifles), and so are the tactical vests and helmets we wear,” Unland said. “Those come from military usage, have been incorporated in law enforcement, and save lives. If there are issues of trust with the community, explain the use, and create a firm policy of when we can use it and when we can’t.”
Sgt. Unland can spin it however he likes but if he and other cops really want to zoom around in military vehicles the Army and Marines are always looking for help. There won’t be any worries about what may be “politically expedient” overseas because all that matters is racking up the body count. Let the pretend soldiers in domestic civilian law enforcement trade in their badges for a set of desert cammies and man-up to be real soldiers. That is unless they have an aversion to chasing down people who actually shoot back.