Towns Don't Need Tanks, But They Have Them

Keene, New Hampshire has a population of 23,409, except during the months of July and August when campers flock in for the summer. Keene's violent crime index? 134.4, compared to a national average of 213.6. Most common crime? Theft. Good thing the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) gave Keene money to buy a BearCat, an armored counter-attack vehicle. What is Keene using its BearCat for? Good question.

Here's what we do know: a Keene City Councilmember has admitted that the city lied to DHS about its need for terrorism-prevention tools. To explain why the police included the word "terrorism" on their application for federal funding for the Bear Cat purchase, a city councilmember said, "Our application talked about the danger of domestic terrorism, but that's just something you put in the grant application to get the money.” He continued, “What red-blooded American cop isn't going to be excited about getting a toy like this? That's what it comes down to."

And then there's Richland County, South Carolina, population 389,116. Richland's violent crime rate is down 3.7%; its overall crime rate is down 3.8% compared to last year. Many of the crimes that take place there relate to drug use or gambling. Nonetheless, Richland's Sheriff's Department has an armored personnel carrier they dubbed "The Peacemaker." The carrier can shoot weapons that the U.S. military specifically refrains from using on people— this type of firepower is generally reserved for use against armored vehicles. Sheriff Leon Lott insists that the "Peacemaker" will save lives. Really? Is this type of firepower truly necessary for routine law enforcement?

Disturbingly, Keene and Richland do not seem to be anomalies among state and local police departments. Law enforcement agencies throughout the country have sweeping access to military equipment and to billions of dollars in federal grant money to purchase heavy weaponry designed for overseas combat missions, as well as access to anti-terrorism tactical training.

Here's another thing we do know: the war on drugs has been waged most aggressively on poor people and people of color. If, as anecdotes suggest, police are using these military weapons and tactics to make drug arrests, we're concerned about the effect of militarization on these communities.

We all need to know more about how and why our local police departments are arming themselves with weapons of war.

Do tools like BearCats – that were traditionally reserved for wartime enemies – actually increase the safety of our communities? Or are we unnecessarily risking massive damage to innocent people and bystanders that these combat tools can inflict? Do you want your town to have a tank?

On March 6th, ACLU affiliates in 23 states filed over 255 public records requests with law enforcement agencies and National Guard offices to determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments.

Here are some of the questions we want answered: what technologies and training are local law enforcement agencies obtaining from the federal government to use in their everyday policing? What legal protections are in place before these tools and tactics are obtained and used? And what oversight mechanisms, if any, exist? It's time for some answers, because the militarization of law enforcement in America encourages unnecessarily aggressive policing that too often results in tragedy.

Stay tuned as this project develops.

Click here more information about the ACLU's project on the Militarization of Policing in America.

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Felius

Well, the why is actually kinda easy to guess. They want to play with the shiny toy. And due to using the right keywords, such as terrorism, they actually get allowed to.

Don't take me wrong, there are a few places that can actually use such things in the police, including my own city (Rio de Janeiro), but those are the ones that already have a seriously violence problem with an entrenched organized crime problem.

The only reason a small town with very little violent crime problem could have is that, well, tanks are an appealing and shiny toy to play with.

Nualaan

Keene? Keene, New Hampshire? Seriously? I used to live near Keene and worked in the heart of the city for a while. Are they worried about holding out against some irate lunch folks at the sidewalk tables outside the bistros? Perhaps an angry jay-walker? A tiff over a parking space for the college?

Anonymous

Honestly... Keene is about as tame as it gets. I worked there in the heart of the "city" for a small IT firm. It is malls, bistro's a college on the main street, a choclatier, a couple 4 star restaurants... some high tech companies... the white steeple church, a pumpkin festival...

Anonymous

THANK YOU for taking this issue on, It is what i consider to be the biggest threat to civil liberties facing the country right now, our own police forces being turned into violent militarized brown shirts. I know, I work with them often. The culture of violent machismo is out of control. Police are VERY different than they were 10 years ago. It is scary what they say.

I will be renewing my membership this year based on this alone.

keep at em.

NOT!!

NEW WORLD ORDER/ILLUMINATI/FREEMASON AGENDA, HERE WE COME!!! IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHINY NEW TOY. THAT IS THE BS PROPAGANDA THEY ARE FEEDING US.

"FOR WHEN THEY SHALL SAY PEACE AND SAFETY, THEN SUDDEN DESTRUCTION COMES UPON THEM; AS TRAVAIL A WOMAN WITH CHILD; AND THEY SHALL NOT ESCAPE!!" 1 THESSALONIANS 5:3

Name...

I see alot of people taking issue with the police in small town's having the equipment, but what about Chicago?

Anonymous

Why did Homeland Security buy 2717 armored personal tanks for use in the US (over $500,000 each), over 2 billion rounds of hollow point ammo (not used in training or allowed for use in war and 20 times more than amount used in last 2 wars) over 7000 new Full auto M16 (not AR -15s) 24 drones (that detect armed persons, tracks cell phones and downloads ID to a data bank) do they have some plan we should know about or are about to be the safest people in history.

Anonymous

Its worse than that... 15 minutes away from Keene is Peterborough NH pop 5,900 and even less crime. Guess what? THEY have one now! It's a former cash transport type like a Brinks truck, but still...they only have 11 officers who exactly are they planning on getting in a firefight with?

Anonymous

I am glad I moved out the USA eons ago. It seems the proverbial $h*t has really hit the fan these days..

Why does the DHS need 2 billion rounds of hollow point bullets anyway?

Anonymous

Why does Keene, NH, now need plainclothes snipers on the rooftops? How are people supposed to tell plainclothes police snipers from terrorists? See photos and videos on FreeKeene website.

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