It looks like New Hampshire police will get their BEARCAT (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck – sounds like a mid-eighties GI Joe toy.) armored vehicles. You know – for “the terrorists.” Wondering who the terrorists du jour are today? Well, on a grant application to Uncle Sugar, Concord Police Chief John Duval identified C.O.B.R.A., the New Hampshire Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire. Don’t worry – he’s really sorry, though, and promised he didn’t mean it.
Duval’s backpedaling didn’t convince city residents, though. Protesters gathered outside Concord town hall to demand his resignation.
Duval’s application also attracted the attention of New Hampshire Republican legislator J.R. Hoell, who sponsored a bill to prevent police departments from purchasing more BEARCATS. There are already 11 departments that already have them.
“Where do you draw the line to say, ‘This is too much,’ in terms of military equipment in the hands of the police?” Hoell asked.
Unfortunately, Hoell’s bill failed to pass the House today.
Duval and his buddies in blue aren’t the only ones aching to get their hands on urban assault vehicles and surplus military gear. According to the Department of Defense, there’s been “vigorous interest” in MRAP trucks, too – armored vehicles built to be resistant to roadside bombs and land mines. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security handed out a billion dollars to law enforcement organizations around the country under the auspice of anti-terrorist defense.
The increased militarization continues despite statistics showing that crime rates are actually going down. So why are police trying to arm themselves more like Navy SEALS and less like law enforcement officers? It’s because the police credit dropping crime rates to their military tactics.
Another obvious reason (besides the “tacticool” factor), for so many police are arming themselves with weapons and equipment more suitable for war zones instead of suburbs is that it’s all free for the taking. All it takes is a properly worded grant and suddenly Barney Fife has a tank. Take that and the complacency of a public all too willing to hand over their freedom in the name of “security” and you have a recipe for disaster.