The town of Ferguson, Missouri, has been flooded with heavily armed SWAT officers in the wake of the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a police officer. According to some reports, upwards of 70 officers decked out not just in riot gear, but in equipment suited for foreign battlefields, took to the streets Wednesday night in an attempt to disperse the largely peaceful demonstrations organized to protest Brown's death. If the nation needed a poster child for the militarization of its police forces, it just got one.
At Business Insider, Paul Szoldra, a former U.S. Marine, broke down some of the equipment he's seen law enforcement officials equipped with: short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles with high-powered scopes, six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each, heavy body armor, military camouflage, and all of this riding around in armored trucks resembling mine-resistant vehicles used on the battlefield. Many combat veterans have since pointed out that the SWAT officers are more heavily armed and outfitted than they themselves were while patrolling the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan.
But while this police force may appear to be militarized, these same veterans have noted that the officers are not acting the way members of the military would. Pointing weapons at civilians, arresting people without reason and behaving generally like an occupying force on high alert are not effective tactics for crowd control or dispersing riots, the veterans say. Kelsey D. Atherton, a journalist for Popular Science, gathered a number of tweets on Storify for a project called "Veterans on Ferguson." His tagline says everything you need to know about how veterans view the mess the police force has made of this situation.