While Radley Balko has been keeping a close watch on the militarization of police for a while, his post about the Lenco Bearcat (“Not Your Grandfather’s Stutz”) takes the cake.
Imagine the harm this could do. Radley notes:
How long before the Bearcat replaced the Hummer as the suburban housewife’s car of choice for the supermarket?
Free Staters in Keene, New Hampshire, are pushing back against the town’s proposed plan to buy a Bearcat armored personnel carrier.
Interestingly, LENCO, the company that makes the vehicle, pulled the promotional video below from its website in response to the Keene protests. DHS has given out hundreds of homeland security grants to local police departments across the country to purchase these vehicles.
Whether the vehicle is as badass as the promotional video would make it appear, the question is the use to which it would be put in an American police department. If we’re invaded, it would certainly come in handy. But as invasion isn’t a likelihood at the moment, and a police department that happens to have one lying around might be inclined to use it, if for no other reason than to keep the fuel fresh, how exactly would that work out?
The possession of such things, ranging from drones to rocket launchers to armored vehicles, push police down a path toward proactive violence. Forget “protect and serve.” That’s was the old officer friendly with a tie and cap. Whether it camo, because it does such a great job of hiding people in urban areas), or black garbed marauders with gadgets that only could be previously found on Batman’s belt, we’re creating armies where police officers once stood.
And these brave men and women, together with their gadgets and gear and vehicles, get used. Against criminals. And others. Have you ever tried to explain you’re innocent to gas being introduced into a room by a twenty foot arm with a drill on the end?