Military Equipment Rolls Into America's Cities

America's War Comes To A Town Near You

As America's war in Afghanistan winds down, the tools used to fight the battle are popping up in towns and cities across the country.

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

The Times cites the example of Neenah, Wisconsin, "a quiet city of about 25,000 people," with a low violent crime rate that "has not had a homicide in more than five years."

Nevertheless, the town just acquired a 9-foot-tall, 30-ton armored vehicle built to withstand land mines.

The militarization of police is not new and neither, critics say, are its results.

Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, previously told The Huffington Post that military weaponry and tactics have spread throughout the United States and now, SWAT teams are being called in for low-level drug arrests.

Just last month, a stun grenade blew up in a toddler's crib, badly injuring the child during a SWAT raid to capture a suspected meth seller. The suspect was not at the residence.

"SWAT teams were created in the 1960s for a very specific set of scenarios like hostage taking, active shooter scenes and true emergencies," Dansky said. "We're seeing increasingly that police are using SWAT teams to do raids of people's homes often in low-level drug cases. This sometimes causes an escalated risk of violence."

Neenah's police chief, Kevin E. Wilkinson, told the Times that law enforcement needs military equipment to handle their new, more active role in crisis like school shootings.

"I don’t like it. I wish it were the way it was when I was a kid,” Wilkinson said. “We’re not going to go out there as Officer Friendly with no body armor and just a handgun and say ‘Good enough.’ ”

But other members of law enforcement, like retired NYPD Det. John Baeza, disagree:

A profession that I was once proud to serve in has become a militarized police state. Officers are quicker to draw their guns and use their tanks than to communicate with people to diffuse a situation. They love to use their toys and when they do, people die.

The days of the peace officer are long gone, replaced by the militarized police warrior wearing uniforms making them indistinguishable from military personnel.

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