Ferguson and the Militarization Myth

John Nantz
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Posted: Aug 23, 2014 12:01 AM
Ferguson and the Militarization Myth

For the knave, perception is reality. Americans are preconditioned to respond to narratives emotionally. The establishment media tells America what to think and the public school system, dominated by progressive hacks, indoctrinates instead of encouraging students to think critically. Therefore, most Americans react instinctively--if it looks aggressive, military, scary then it must be. Our rational faculty is purposefully short circuited by a deluge of amusement. Our ability to analyze is atrophied like a limb withered by a palsy. Television, movies, and music are all passive and are, for most, an exclusive pursuit.

It is no wonder then that when law enforcement utilizes weapons and equipment that appear to be military in nature, the uninformed follow after pied pipers crying, "militarization!" Some of the most vociferous cries of protest come from the right and utilize an argument usually the exclusive tool of soft-skulled liberals. The anti-gun cabal's usual tactic is to demonize a firearm based solely on its appearance. Disturbingly, some pundits on the right decry the use of surplus military equipment and “assault style” firearms based on appearance alone.

How often has it been said of the law enforcement response in Ferguson, Missouri that police have appeared too intimidating and militaristic in their riot gear, riding on surplus MRAP armored vehicles? This, it is said, has inflamed the passions of the mob. As if the irrational, emotional, ignorant mob needed some rational basis to perpetuate its criminality. The mob is not a protest but anarchy, a ravenous monster stampeding to feed its lust. Passion rules until the fuel of hate is consumed or until quelled by the imposition of order. Reason is not for the mob, it is for the citizenry who peaceably assemble. There is no constitutional right to riot, to disturb the peace, to run dark streets bent on mayhem and theft. The rioting in Ferguson was naked opportunism and MRAPs rolling down the streets, far from inciting more violence, were a mechanism of restoring order. Fear should be instilled in the lawless. Legitimate civil authority does not bear the sword in vain. Otherwise, "mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

One complaint of those alleging an Orwellian militarization is the possession of surplus armored military vehicles by law enforcement. The Department of Defense has, for decades, made available to qualified law enforcement agencies surplus equipment. Many local, state, and some federal law enforcement agencies have received surplus MRAP vehicles which were used Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the MRAP's menacing appearance, its purpose is to protect occupants from improvised explosive devices (IED) and from small arms fire. Its utility to law enforcement as protection against IEDs is limited, but its resistance to small arms fire is highly valued.

The MRAP is a defensive vehicle and is employed to provide a measure of safety to law enforcement officers not offered by standard patrol vehicles. In fact, the typical patrol vehicle offers very little protection even from pistol rounds much less from direct rifle fire. After the rampage of two gunmen in Los Angeles, armed with fully automatic AK-47's and festooned in Kevlar body armor, it became painfully apparent that local law enforcement could greatly benefit from the use of armored vehicles. Wounded officers were forced to seek concealment behind cars and trees while other officers commandeered armored bank trucks to rescue their wounded comrades.

Commercial alternatives that, in some cases, appear less menacing are simply cost prohibitive for most agencies. There is no sinister plot to surround our cities in surplus M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, the MRAPs are becoming ubiquitous because they don't cost law enforcement agencies a dime. It’s just tough to beat free.

Another concern for nattering worry-warts is law enforcement's use of M-16/M-4 style long guns. Historically, law enforcement agencies have armed their officers, deputies, and agents with a constellation of guns. During the heyday of the Bonnie and Clyde era, G-men carried revolvers or .45 calibre Colt Government model pistols. They also utilized the Thompson Sub-Machine gun which fired the big .45 calibre cartridge. Additionally, G-men had access to the Browning Automatic Rifle, which was a fully automatic rifle that fired the fearsome 30-06 cartridge. This weapon was the precursor to the M-60 machine gun. By comparison, the modern 5.56 mm cartridge of the M-16/M-4 pattern weapon is a pop-cap. State and local agencies also had access to similar weaponry.

More recently, most patrol officers have been armed with some variety of semi-automatic hand gun, ranging from .9mm to .45 calibre. And, in most patrol cars, some variety of shotgun has been mounted, usually a 12-gauge Remington model 870. The push for a patrol carbine (a carbine fires a sub-rifle cartridge) like the M-16/M-4 pattern guns came after the 1997 Los Angeles shoot-out that left most responding LAPD patrolmen out gunned and crouching for cover or concealment.

The "assault rifles" that most patrolmen are armed with are the identical semi-automatic guns that the average citizen has access to. And, the argument against patrolmen possessing those guns is identical to the argument against citizens possessing the same guns--they look really scary.

However, most SWAT elements do employ the use of fully automatic weapons, enhanced body armor, and equipment to address special threats and circumstances. But, far from "military" these teams are subject to the same rules of deadly force and civil liability as any other law enforcement officer. SWAT doesn't employ the use of hand grenades or bayonets, nor can they call in an air strike from a loitering drone. The bad guys have automatic weapons and so does SWAT, end of story.

John Stossel is a leading proponent of the militarization myth and recently claimed on the August 21, 2014 airing of Fox and Friends that because police use shields as part of their riot gear, they incite the lawless to hurl objects at them. How bizarre. Do police incite gunfights simply because they wear firearms? Do law enforcement officers invite battery merely because they wear a uniform? Does a cop invite a brick to the skull because he or she may be wearing a helmet? Maybe we should send our law enforcement officers out into the streets in non-confrontational pastels, armed with feather-dusters?

There are some legitimate concerns. Some federal agencies seem to be acquiring law enforcement power and arms that bear no rational relationship to their mission. Why is the EPA arming and acquiring surplus military equipment? The rapid expansion of federal involvement in matters of state jurisdiction is extremely disturbing and is a consequence of the Obama administration's truly Orwellian vision.

What is occurring in American law enforcement is not a militarization but an evolution in equipment and tactics in response to the ebb and flow of criminality in our society. Ferguson is an example of the depravity that lies at our doorsteps and of the courage and constraint of the thin blue line that holds barbarity at bay.

With the deployment of riot gear, MRAPs, and "assault" style weapons, how many citizens were killed by law enforcement despite the rioting and use of Molotov cocktails? None. How many claims of civil rights abuses? None. Despite the insanity fomented by the establishment media, law enforcement in Ferguson responded as most cops do with restraint, professionalism, and courage. Cops still live and work by the ethos, "to protect and serve." Those who would deny them the best chance of going home at the end of the shift should feel the sting of shame and indulge in reason and research before proffering a silly opinion.