The supposed militarization of police departments around the nation has been a hot topic over the last couple of years as equipment has been handed out to law enforcement entities both small and large. The trend has gotten a lot of traction in the media and has even warranted its own Wikipedia entry. But how much of this is actually accurate and what does “militarization” actually mean? Redditor and military member Lukimcsod explains why he thinks the whole concept is overblown and largely based on the public’s ignorance of what actually constitutes “military equipment.” The below is published in full with his permission.
So here’s the thing as a military member…
“Mine-resistant vehicle” doesn’t scare me, because I know what that is. I know what it’s capable of. I know that were I a soldier on a battlefield and an unarmed MRAP (Or Cougar as my native land has recently deployed) rolled up on my position, I’m sure most of us would be very confused about the situation. Because it’s about as threatening to my life as a family van, just a little harder to shoot through. To me armoured fighting vehicles are a known quantity and there is a shameful amount of scare around here put on the words being obviously used as clickbait.
If you told me police were mounting 50-cals on their MRAPs or leaving in the 75mm cannons on Cougars, then we can have an actual talk about militarization of police. Because that is giving the police a weapon that is not designed to keep peace and order of your own citizens. Those are weapons designed to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time. What essentially amounts to “a truck” is not a weapon. It is a means of transport. It is something to carry people from point A to point B while providing protection against small arms fire. Police being able to do that sounds fairly reasonable to me.
The same thing can be said for “grenade launcher”. As I work around a lot of large calibre weapons designed to fire a wide variety of ammunition, I know the application of such a weapon is all about the selection of ammunition. These grenade launchers as deployed by police are designed to fire a wide variety of ammunition because the 40mm and 37mm cartridge has a lot of space to put whatever you want inside of it. I’d like to point out that tear gas has been used as a police resource since the 1920’s. Every soldier and I assume most police officers get to experience a dose of CS gas sometime in their career (I do it yearly). It sucks. It’s hard to breathe, your eyes sting and you want nothing more than to mask up or leave the room to make it stop. But when the exercise is over you get a few lungfuls of clean air and wash out the gas, you’re fine. You go home at the end of the night none the worse for wear.
If you told me the police has a stock of 40mm high explosive rounds sitting in their armoury then we can have an actual talk about militarization of police. Because that is a munition designed to kill people in a 10-15m radius. That is not something that is designed to keep peace and order of your own citizens. At the moment these are tools whose purpose is to disperse munitions designed to take the fight out of dangerous crowds of people and generally leave them able to be apprehended alive or to leave the area and go home. Which is what we do with citizens. We apprehend them to face lawful justice, or we give them a chemical slap on the wrist and they go home safe to be productive members of society. The “grenade launcher” is just a tube with a spring and a nail at one end. It is its application that matters most.
What we ought to be having is not a talk about what scary sounding things the police have at their disposal, and rather the application of it all. If someone owns a hunting rifle, we don’t say they are a nefarious person until they shoot someone they weren’t supposed to or take that rifle to a place where the rifle itself has no other obvious purpose than to kill someone. Then we question, not why that person owns a rifle, but what they did or are going to do with that rifle. And this is the talk we should be having about police. I don’t particularly care if the police have M4’s, MRAPs and M32’s. What I care about is if they are using such tools appropriately and to such ends that necessitate their use as law enforcement tools. That the police own such things is not a problem. It’s when, where and how they use them that is. That is what they should be answerable for. That is the talk we should be having as a society.