Originally posted here.
The recent stories coming from Ferguson, Missouri have stirred the police militarization debate by putting the spotlight on the police’s use of “surplus” war gear to contain a mass of protestors in the suburbs of St. Louis.
The protests followed the killing of Michael Brown, and while most are peaceful, local police — and now the National Guard — have proceeded to use rubber bullets, tear gas and other aggressive methods such ascurfews to fight locals and even journalists covering the events.
Without proper coverage, it’s nearly impossible to know what is truly going on in Ferguson, especially because the Federal Aviation Administration banned helicopters to fly below 3,000 feet over the region as soon as the unrest began. News crews often use helicopters to cover live events, but with the ban, law enforcement agents on the ground have a free pass to act according to their understanding of the situation.
One essential piece of this equation, however, is missing from the public debate; lawmakers who support the government’s program allowing the distribution of leftover war gear and weapons to local police departments are also the same lawmakers who receive a considerable amount of financial support from defense contractors.
The Section 1033 program was first created in 1993. The original program, Section 1208, was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and its intent was to offer local police departments gear that would allegedly help them to fight the drug war. Because of the 1033 program, enforcement agencies in several towns across America have purchased several devices used only by the army such as mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, night-vision rifle scopes, Humvees, camouflage fatigues, and even grenade launchers.
Back in June, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) introduced a bill that would defund the 1033 program. As House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voted against defunding 1033, the bill received the support of Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Mark Sanford (R-SC).
According to Maplight, representatives “voting to continue funding the 1033 Programs have received, on average, 73 percent more money from the defense industry than representatives voting to defund it.”
Local police officers should have the ability to fight real crime by protecting the residents’ property and life, but in Ferguson, protesters have been standing in front of businesses to keep looters from destroying private property while the police aims its rifles at protesters and journalists.
There’s something very wrong with that picture, especially if you consider the proper role of the police. If policy has perverted many officers’ intent to the extend that, to them, anybody is considered an enemy, it’s time to address this issue in full, before the situation in Ferguson transcends into what one may call a civil war.