I’m firmly in the camp that says police officers should have all surplus military gear stripped from them. They’ve been handed this gear and proven to be irresponsible with it. But there are a lot of people claiming that the police need that equipment. Sadly most of the people making this claim do so because they want the police to be protected when they’re initiating aggression against nonviolent individuals not for protecting people. Take these two letters sent to the Star Tribune by, presumably, readers:
After reading Ross Douthat’s commentary “When the police dress for war” (Aug. 19), I’m thinking he has very little firsthand experience with enforcing the law. I’m thinking that he might completely reconsider his final comment — “time to take their toys away” — if he were sent to a “drug house” on a no-knock warrant, pushed to the front of the line of cops and told to “go in there with your six-shooter and take those drugs and weapons away from those hooligans.” One or two entries like that, and I believe we would find old Ross standing in front of the line at the “SWAT store” buying the latest, greatest offerings that would put him on par with what the criminals are toting.
Richard Greelis, Bloomington
You see the police need all of those toys so they are better protected when they kick in a person’s door, burn their baby with a flashbang grenade, and shoot the family pet all in the name of stopping them from smoking a plant or using some other unpatentable drug.
Every cop who stops a car knows things can go from routine to life-or-death without warning. This is true night or day, even with Volvos driven by middle-aged white men like the author of the Aug. 17 Short Takes (“Questioning authority: Trooper wanted to be in control”). If the writer chooses to drive with illegally tinted windows, then it is he, not the law officer, who is being rude and disrespectful.
By the way, the weather was bright and sunny when the officer from West St. Paul was recently murdered. I’m sure you get the picture.
Dennis H. Roberts, Maplewood
Police officers also need those toys so they can pull you over for exceeding the arbitrarily selected speed limit, create a dangerous situation by forcing motorists to slam on their brakes or pile into another lane in order to avoid hitting the dumbass getting out of his vehicle on a major highway, and issue you a citation for being a safe driver by driving with the flow of traffic.
This is a trend I’ve noticed with police apologists. They usually use examples where police officers are the aggressors and seldom discuss situations where officers are actually protecting lives. Perhaps this is because modern police spend so much time doing the former that nobody realizes that they’re ideally supposed to be doing the latter. But I haven’t heard an apologist say that the police need surplus military gear to handle hostage situations in a way that saves the hostages’ lives or to respond to calls from wives being viciously attacked by their husbands. Some have mentioned that they need that gear to stop riots like those occurring in Ferguson but I don’t give points to government goons who “solve” problems that they created in the first place (I’m harsh, I know).