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Monday, July 6, 2015

As Long As the Police Don't Use Their Force On Me, I Have No Problem With the Police Using Their Force On You. Until Of Course, They Use It On Me.

First of all, let me say this so we're all clear here: I do not begrudge a police officer being able to protect him or herself in the line of duty. I generally have a great deal of respect for police officers, except for when they over-assert their authority. But most important, if the police in my little New Jersey town read this, please do not arrest me or pull me over every time you see me tooling around our little town at a questionable rate of speed.

Now that we've got that business out of the way...

I went to our little town's Memorial Day parade this year, like I go every year. It's a nice parade. People wave flags. They applaud our veterans as they march the colors down the street. Little brats in Girl Scout and Boy Scout uniforms throw candy at me which annoys me to no end - listen kids its a Memorial Day parade not Mardi Gras, stop throwing candy at me.

The marching bands from our two high schools march by and sound great. There's fire trucks and old cars, and for the past two years a new twist...

Armored assault vehicles dressed up as police cars.

This leaves me chilled to the core.

I asked around and got some reasons why the coppers in my town need three (that's right...three) armored assault vehicles in a town of 56,000 people spread out over 100 square miles.

Five Reasons Given Me Why Cops Need Armored Assault Vehicles
  • There might be a hostage situation
  • There might be a terrorist situation
  • Someone might get lost in the woods
  • There are a lot of crazy people out there
  • We got them for free so why turn them down?
I found these answers unsatisfying, but, what if they were all valid reasons? Why the need to parade them down the street unless the police were interested in showing the citizenry what kind of force could be used against them if necessary?

One Reason Given Me Why Cops Need To Parade Their Assault Vehicles Before the Citizenry
  • Well, you know, the guys are really proud of them and want to show them off

There are lots of things guys are proud off, but generally people are less than happy to be showed off to, and in some cases showing off things you are proud of can in fact get you arrested. Presumably not by a cop in an armored assault vehicle.

I like cops. I think they are necessary. I also think they should not be overly powerful, just like I think the government shouldn't be overly powerful. Of course, our police need to be protected as they do their jobs, and of course I (and everyone else) want them to have the proper tools to do their job.

However, three armored assault vehicles for a police force with 82 officers seems hard to justify.

Here's some crime statistics for all of you out there who firmly believe the police should be militarized and armed to the teeth. Because I am very parochial, I took the statistics for my town (the one with the three armored vehicles); feel free to look up the stats for your own town, but I'm not going to do it for you.

  • 35 violent crimes per year average
  • Crime Index is 69, meaning it is safer than 69% of all other US communities
  • .63 violent crimes per 1000 residents
  • NJ average is 2.88 violent crimes per 1000 residents
  • US median is 3.8 violent crimes per 1000 resident
This means, in Jackson, NJ, you have a 1 in 1601 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, while in the rest of New Jersey you have a 1 in 347 chance. Stats from Neighborhood Scout.

Yet, we have three armored vehicles we show off in a parade honoring the veterans who sacrificed to allow those statistics to happen.

I don't know about you, but regardless of race, I see an awful lot heavy-handed show of force by police in this country, and in spite of the jobs they do to make our communities livable, I am not prepared to give them a free pass to militarize as deeply as they want to without voicing an opposite opinion. There is no need for the police in my town to be a para-military organization, and even though I am a little scared of getting an excessive amount of speeding tickets from the locals, I have no desire to avoid pointing that out.

I don't have any pictures of the Humvee's proudly paraded before the citizenry in my little town, but here's a few examples of militarized police vehicles that may cruise around waiting to be able to go into action in a town near you:

Name me five instances where a vehicle like this would be appropriate in your town.
If the words "Prepare For Combat" don't leave you feeling uneasy, you need
to get out of the house more.
Ooops. How did this picture of a North Korean military parade get in here?
North Korea is singular in its oppression of people throughout history, no?
Ooops. How did this Soviet-era picture of military force on parade get here?
Damned intern.
Last but not least, you can always trust your government.
Until you can't.

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