In Ferguson, Mo., police have sought to quell the protests and looting which have come in the aftermath of the death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown with assault rifles, riot gear, tear gas and other military equipment.
People around the country and the world have taken notice of the police reaction, raising their eyebrows at photos and footage of police-citizen clashes involving rubber bullets, short-barreled assault rifles and flash bangs.
And while the images look like something often associated with a foreign country — a war-torn area in the Eastern Bloc or, recently, the Gaza Strip — one local expert warns that such a scene could very well occur in Arizona or, for that matter, anywhere in the U.S., thanks to government programs which seek to place such equipment in the hands of local police departments.
On Friday, ACLU Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler informed Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes of why and how, exactly, this is all happening.
“The Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense all have been, for decades, providing these military-style equipment to these local police departments,” she explained.
Soler then mentioned the 1033 Program, once known as the 1208 Program from 1990-96.
Originally sought as a mutual solution for an oversupplied military and a heating War on Drugs, the government began to transfer the property of the Department of Defense to other federal and state agencies in 1990 through the National Defense Autorization Act.
“Tanks, sharp-shooting — it’s military grade equipment that they’re using in communities,” Soler said.
In 2014, the effects of the program can be seen in Ferguson, where Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) roamed the roads earlier this week or in Bloomington, Ga. (population 2,713) where the local police department acquired four grenade launchers.
“It transfers sort of military surplus and it gives it to these departments with absolutely no training,” she went on.
“Not only no training,” she said, “there are no restrictions.”
Simply because it’s available, Soler suggested, police have begun to use the equipment in standard, daily operations.
“Our research looked at it — there’s something like 50,000 paramilitary raids every year,” she said.
And the 1033 provisions spiked after 9/11, as Washington aimed to equip local communities with the ability to counteract mass violence.
“They were given equipment to fight terrorism but it’s now being used to fight against the local communities,” Soler explained. “The equipment far outpaces the threat and that’s what the situation is (in Ferguson).”
Throughout the interview, Soler decried the “militarization of police,” sharply criticizing it as excessive force, which happens to be the catalyst for the Ferguson pandemonium in the first place.
“They’ve been amassing it since 9/11 when we were spending all of these resources trying to defend the country,” she said. “And now, where is this supposed to go?”
Soler also advocated for documentation of police activity through personal video surveillance.
- 7 common ways to get sued by your employees
- Why it might be time to upgrade your toilet
- Arizona teachers are building a better future by using technology in the classroom
- How to make summer reading fun for the whole family
- How to find relief for chronic joint pain
- Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?
- Skip Urgent Care: 5 ailments you can treat with telemedicine
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments