Radley Balko, who has done more than anyone else to draw attention to the astonishing militarization of police departments over the last 30 years in this country, has a couple of brief notes about recent developments on that issue.
Deputies in Richland County, South Carolina will get “Navy SEAL” training.You remember Richland County. It’s the county where Sheriff Leon Lott put out a press release a few years ago to celebratethe new tank from the Pentagon’s 1033 program—one with a turreted, belt-fed, 360-degree rotating machine gun that shoots .50 caliber ammunition, and that he charmingly named “The Peacemaker.” He’s also the one who sent his SWAT team into the homes of University of South Carolina students whose only transgression was to have appeared in the same photo where Michael Phelps was pictured smoking pot…The thumbnail to your right is from a series this photographer took of the Aventura, Florida SWAT team. Aventura is a town of 35,000 people, described on various blogs as a haven for shopping malls and country clubs. The town has recorded one murder in twelve years.
Remember, violent crime has been going down steadily for two decades. But during that same time frame, local police departments have been beefing up with tanks, machine guns and tons of other surplus military equipment. And once they have that stuff, they have to use it to justify it. That’s why you’re seeing SWAT teams, armed to repel an invading army, serving warrants on non-violent offenders.