The University of the Incarnate Word is a highly-rated Catholic college in San Antonio, Texas. It is hardly a hot bed of campus violence. When senior Robert Cameron Redus was pulled-over last Friday by campus police for “erratically speeding,” it is unlikely he had any clue of how tragically the stop would end. The campus police department contends Redus, an honors student set to graduate in May, grabbed the officer’s steel baton during a struggle. Not in dispute, however, is that Redus was shot five times by the officer, at close range, leaving him dead and the University scrambling to explain why lethal force was needed to subdue a single college student.
Police-involved shootings are on the rise from New York City to Anaheim, California and crime data suggests incidents involving questionable use of police force -- once a problem primarily limited to large, inner-city areas -- are occurring with greater frequency in smaller towns across the country. For civil liberties watchdogs, this disturbing trend should come as no surprise; much like their federal counterparts, local police and prosecutors are demanding greater power to “pursue criminals,” even if such power may overstep constitutional limitation; and regardless of whether such an approach makes practical sense in low-crime communities or in many non-violent situations in which police officers are involved.
A major factor accounting for this trend is the massive infusion of federal “anti-terrorism” money being funneled from the Department of Homeland Security to local police departments. These billions are turning many neighborhood cops into paramilitary personnel -- equipped with vehicles and weapons intended for use in the world’s most violent warzones. The over- militarization of small-town America is turning Mayberry into the Middle East; with Andy Griffith monitoring a license plate camera while Don Knotts patrols the streets carrying an MP5. Officers now have military-style armored vehicles parked in their lots along side their Crown Victoria patrol cars. This has created such unusual scenarios as Ohio State University’s 40,000-pound, armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, and sophisticated license plate readers in a town of 333 people.