It is time for Americans at large to watch what is going on not just in Ferguson, MO, but all across the country with local police forces. In the waning years of the Iraqi and Afghan wars, surplus military vehicles and supplies have made their way onto the market for small town police forces to grab up and take to the streets of Everywhere, USA.
This is a problem that many Americans do not understand, and often do not want to understand because of what it entails. A police force that owns tanks, grenade launchers, .50 caliber machine guns, armored personnel carriers, etc. seem to have a culture of force. As stated by Bill Maher, when you get a new toy, you want to use it. A child wants to use his new Red Rider BB gun when he gets it, and police forces just naturally want to use their tanks and grenade launchers when they get theirs. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp.
For the purposes of this article, the evidence involving the shooting of Michael Brown will not be discussed. While there is a case to be made for both sides of that particular issue, no matter what side is correct, the overwhelming power of domestic police forces, nonetheless, must be addressed and fought out in town, county, state, and national legislatures.
While rioting is never a justified method of protest under the United States Constitution, blurring the lines between military and police forces creates a constitutional crisis in and of itself. One of the major concerns during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was about police and military powers. Brutus’ Essay X dealt specifically with the dangers of a standing army, referring to the instances of Rome and England.
In the first [Rome], the liberties of the commonwealth was destroyed, and the constitution overturned, by an army, lead by Julius Cesar, who was appointed to the command, by the constitutional authority of that commonwealth. He changed it from a free republic, whose fame had sounded, and is still celebrated by all the world, into that of the most absolute despotism…
The same army, that in Britain, vindicated the liberties of that people from the encroachments and despotism of a tyrant king, assisted Cromwell, their General, in wresting from the people, that liberty they had so dearly earned.
You may be told, these instances will not apply to our case: — But those who would persuade you to believe this, either mean to deceive you, or have not themselves considered the subject.
Brutus’ emphasis was on standing armies, like the one that fights the wars overseas. However, he only briefly skims the issue of a local rebellion (Ferguson is not a rebellion, not yet at least). The rebellion referred to by Brutus was led by Daniel Shays in 1786-1787 in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts raised a body of troops for six months, at the expiration of which they were to disband of course; this looks very little like a standing army. But beside, was that commonwealth in a state of peace at that time? So far from it that they were in the most violent commotions and contents, and their legislature had formally declared that an unnatural rebellion existed within the state.
Shays’ Rebellion was a much more localized case, and did not involve the entire nation. The body of troops was raised temporarily to address the issue at hand, and was then disbanded so as to prevent future abuses of such a body of troops.
However, today we do not find that to be the case. Police forces in America has grown to be quasi-war units that could be mistaken for a foreign invading army. Tell me, does this look like something that belongs on our streets?
The above pictures were taken in Ferguson, MO. This is not a police force. It is a standing army on American soil.
The overwhelming power of police forces has become so great that even conservatives can no longer (or should no longer) be able to avoid the issue. Conservatives traditionally believe in having ample police power to combat crime, but there is a point at which such a body garners too much potential for evil men to resist.
Criticism of police power has traditionally been a talking point of the political left and of libertarians. The Huffington Post has a massive archives list of articles on this particular subject. The typical argument used is that people should not be oppressed by their own police forces, as such bodies are for the protection of a citizenry.
But now, we no longer have a Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife investigating the crime in our townships. We have paramilitary units with fully automatic weapons, heavily armed personnel carriers, tanks, grenade launchers, SWAT teams, etc. ready at a moment’s notice to tyrannize the American people.
So, what is to be done? Well first of all, the spoils of war must come to an end. The Department of Homeland Security’s grant program must be stopped by Congress immediately. Nothing good comes out of a militarized police force. Power attracts the corruptible, and a nationally paramilitary police force is a power that almost no corruptible man/woman could resist. The police forces are not responsible to the civil power as other branches of government are. That disconnect will enable a corrupt individual(s) to take advantage, and use this power for evil purposes.
And simply out of actual numbers, crime rates are severely down. In 2005, Fox News noted that crime was at a 40 year low. John Stossel also noted this as well in a July 23, 2014 article on the same outlet.
To a hammer, everything resembles a nail. -John Stossel
As so aptly implied by Stossel, America’s police forces are a collective giant hammer, and we the people are becoming the nail that is beaten. The energy and passion currently consuming the protestors in Ferguson should be harnessed, but in a way that does not warrant overwhelming force from the state.
It’s time to harness the awareness, and roll back unchecked police power. This standing army will potentially, and probably, be used by an evil individual(s) to eradicate the liberties of American society.
Liberty once lost is lost forever. -John AdamsFollow Seth on Twitter: @sconnell1776