The militarization of police departments across the nation has become a hot topic of late. If you haven’t heard about it, you’ve probably been away on holiday — stranded on a raised coral reef somewhere. Thanks to a Pentagon program offering surplus military gear to police forces, community-based policing is giving way to a more armored, confrontational model of law enforcement used by special operations troops in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Iraq and beyond.
While force protection is a major concern for soldiers serving overseas, and for the men and women policing at home, the playing fields are not the same. Perhaps the gear should differ some as well. Here are a five military items your local police department might already have in stock — or could be acquiring in the days to come — just to give you an idea about the hardware you might be facing the next time you get caught with a bit of ganja in your house. Better flush that shit down.
1. Bayonets and Swords
Yep, some of the folks patrolling your streets have asked the Pentagon for bayonets and swords. Why would they need a bayonet or a sword, you might be wondering? Are they going to impale people crossing border fences or challenge diabolical criminals to a duel?
My guess is the lads — after finishing a “Game of Thrones” marathon — were sitting around reading lists of military items they could ask for. When they came across swords and bayonets, well, how could they pass up free Civil War and medieval martial gear? Someone has to help Arya Stark complete her training in the art of swordplay, after all.
2. Grenade Launchers
Admittedly, these are for launching flashbang, smoke and tear-gas grenades (which can still do a lot of harm). The good news here, I suppose, is that old-fashioned explosive grenades aren’t be lobbed at civilians yet. Even so, the overuse of grenade launchers for missions … I mean community policing … can get people unnecessarily hurt.
If you’re a member of a SWAT team going after a shooter who has taken hostages, by all means, launch away. (And thank you for your service, by the way.) If, on the other hand, you’re just serving a warrant to a low-level drug dealer, you might want to dial the violence back a tad in order to avoid escalation.
3. MRAPS (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Armored Vehicles)
Basically, a MRAP is a tank with wheels instead of tracks. A turret built for a .50 caliber machine gun, bulletproof armor and a frame that can withstand blasts from land mines. The next time one of these monsters pulls you over for a routine traffic stop, I suggest you comply, unless you want to get run over and … what rhymes with “comply?” I’ve got nothing.
4. Gun Silencers
When you’re going on a clandestine raid into Pakistan or Syria, a gun silencer is probably a good thing to have. You don’t want to alert hostile forces to your presence prematurely with a lot of bangs. That being said, I’m having a hard time figuring out why police officers need silencers. Aren’t they supposed to announce their presence loudly before they start cracking heads and shooting? Seems kind of pointless to make sure their guns fire quietly after that.
5. M-16s With Extended Clips
Again, apart from legitimist SWAT uses like dealing with armed robbers taking over a bank (a plot you’ve seen in countless Hollywood movies), limits on the amount of firepower an average cop can get his hands on in a manner of minutes should probably be put in place. Even if military guns are kept under lock and key, the potential to use them when not appropriate (or lose them), like we’ve seen in Ferguson and elsewhere, will likely increase as these weapons become more widespread.
While it might be better to have something and not need it rather than the other way around, a domestic firepower ceiling ought to be established . If not, cops could soon be arming themselves with advanced missile systems, hand grenades and Apache attack helicopters. That stuff might look cool in a dystopian cinematic universe — but not so cool outside your front door.