Militarized State and Local Police

The recent raid of the fundamentalist Mormon home in Texas illustrates the incredible degree to which even local and state police forces have become militarized. In search of a sixteen-year-old female who had reportedly been abused by her 50-year-old husband, police agencies from six counties, the Texas Rangers and the wildlife authorities appeared ready for an all-out military confrontation. “Images released Tuesday show police entering the Yearning for Zion ranch on April 3 wearing body armor and carrying automatic weapons, backed by an armored personnel carrier.” Thankfully, the Mormon family did not resist, and instead responded with non-violent prayer, for it might have descended into a violent conflagration as in Waco, where about 80 civilians, including two dozen children, died from being shot, burned and gassed in an ATF publicity stunt gone awry. The lesson seems to be that if your home is being called a “compound” under siege, the choice is resistance, which would put your kids at risk of being killed by the government—or simply surrendering, and handing over your kids to the state. Texas officials defend the action of forcibly seizing 416 kids from their mothers. What supposedly justifies this? One alleged abuse victim? What about due process for every one else?

This whole sad episode demonstrates something very disturbing about modern American life: The police, even on the state level, have been thoroughly militarized, to the point where the recently gutted Posse Comitatus Act is even more irrelevant than some of us might have suspected: What relief is it, after all, to have the military isolated from domestic policing, if the domestic police have virtually become a military force? Local and state police have become a standing army, in fact, as formidable, ubiquitous, and potentially tyrannical as the redcoats who terrorized the American colonies and motivated the American revolutionaries to denounce, in no uncertain terms, such an omnipresent force of dangerously armed and legally privileged class of armed government officers, and declare that America should never again be home to such a force. What, indeed, is the difference between the state police and the armies of history? Liberals argue the Second Amendment was never meant to protect private ownership of modern weapons. Yet I’d point out that King George’s men didn’t sport such body armor and flaunt military tanks in their execution of civilian law enforcement. If anything, the disparity in weaponry has only moved inexorably in favor of our oppressors.

Updates:  It turns out that Posse Comitatus, which I wrote above was “recently gutted,” was (somewhat) restored without any fanfare and practically no media attention at the end of January. This doesn’t change the fact that the militarized police still use military tactics in domestic law enforcement, which is the point of this entry.

As for the case, the government now insists that it doesn’t need to produce the alleged teenage victim who reportedly complained—the reason that supposedly spurred the police response. She is beside the point, sort of like those weapons of mass destruction.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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