Beware Of The Police's Increasing Militarization
The Dallas County sheriff will be using a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle to execute warrants. ASSOCIATED PRESS View Enlarged Image
Policing: The Dallas County Sheriff's Office gets an MRAP tactical military vehicle, used for counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq, as law enforcement becomes a collection of SWAT teams pursuing not-always-guilty Americans.
In early August, a SWAT team broke through the gates of a 3.5-acre farm in Arlington, Texas, that promotes a sustainable lifestyle and did a 10-hour search of the property. Residents were handcuffed and held at gunpoint as police looked for nonexistent marijuana plants and various city code violations.
As the owners watched, 10 tons of their private property was hauled off in trucks — dangerous items such as blackberry bushes, okra, tomatillo plants, native grasses and sunflowers that provided food and bedding for animals, everything from furniture to compost.
The city said the code citations were issued to the farm after complaints by neighbors "concerned that the conditions" at the farm "interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance."
The SWAT raid came after "the Arlington Police Department received a number of complaints that the same property owner was cultivating marijuana plants on the premises," the city's statement said. So why not just knock on the door with a search warrant?
An Arlington spokeswoman said the raid was perfectly legal and appropriate. "The purpose was to improve the quality of life, to resolve safety issues within neighborhoods and to hold the property owner responsible for creating blight conditions on their property," she stated, not really explaining how this or even marijuana cultivation requires a SWAT team.
This is just one example of SWAT teams and SWAT-style tactics becoming the rule rather than the exception as police forces arm themselves with military gear. As such gear is used more frequently to carry out routine law-enforcement activities, Americans find themselves in increasingly dangerous and absurd situations.
In July, a no-kill animal shelter in Kenosha, Wis., was raided by nine Department of Natural Resources agents and four deputy sheriffs. The raid was prompted by tips that the shelter was home to a baby deer that had been separated from its mother.
In this context, we view with some concern the acquisition by the Dallas County sheriff's office of a military tactical vehicle known as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, courtesy of a Department of Defense surplus program.
The 19-ton, diesel-operated behemoth with bullet-proof doors and tires was built to survive improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, but will be used in the execution of warrants.
As John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute points out, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the U.S. in 1980. By 2001, that number had grown to 45,000 and has since swelled to more than 80,000 a year. On an average day in America, more than 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams.
We are law-and-order advocates but note with increasing concern that in recent years the Fourth Amendment regarding unreasonable search and seizure and even the Third Amendment about the forced quartering of government soldiers (including government police) have increasingly been cast aside.
Some might argue Dallas' MRAP was a wise and non-threatening purchase. After all, as the Dallas Observer wryly notes, "there's no telling when North Texas might descend into sectarian warfare and start planting IEDs along Riverfront Boulevard."