While the debate around the militarization of police has pretty much gone away, it’s still a point of consternation for those concerned about the state of our civil liberties. As the Washington Times reported, since 2006, 44 agencies spent $71 million on tactical gear. Overall, this pattern of militarization within our law enforcement agencies, both federal and local, has ended with some horror stories in how this equipment was utilized. Moreover, it brings up serious constitutional issues, along with those dealing with government waste. Why does a small town need bayonets? What terrorist threat is so great that local law enforcement from towns that no one has ever heard of need tanks?:
Since FY 2006, 44 traditionally administrative agencies have spent over $71 million on items like body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition, according to federal spending data from watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com.This comes in addition to the $330 million spent on such equipment in that period by traditional law enforcement agencies like the FBI, Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Some examples of the purchases include:
• Nearly $2 million spent by the Department of Veterans Affairs on riot helmets, defender shields, body armor, a “milo return fire cannon system,” armored mobile shields, Kevlar blankets, tactical gear and equipment for crowd control.
• Over $300,000 spent by the Food and Drug Administration on “ballistic vests and carriers” in fiscal 2014.
• Over $200,000 on body armor spent by the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration years, versus just $30,000 in the three previous fiscal years.
• More than $28,000 by the Smithsonian Institution on body armor for its “zoo police and security officers” in fiscal 2012.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with police having the best gear to do their job, but one could argue that it’s resources being wasted, given that crime levels have reached record lows. Yes, some parts of the country have seen an increase in their homicide rates, like Washington D.C. and Baltimore, but the nation hasn’t returned to the insane homicide levels of the early 1990s. The EPA is stocking up on body armor? Seriously?