Cerabino: Under Trump, local cops stock up on the weapons of war


I’m not sure how much military weaponry our local law enforcement agencies need anymore.

One of the byproducts of constant war is that it creates excess weaponry that is no longer employed against our foreign enemies. The solution for the last two decades has been to give these implements of war to local agencies to use against American citizens.

This program transferred more than $6 billion in military weapons, vehicles and hardware to local police departments. Florida was near the top of the list of states wanting military weapons. Naturally.

The Florida Highway Patrol, best known for its radar guns, picked up more than 1,800 M-16 assault rifles and M-14 selective fire automatic rifles.

So far, it hasn’t stopped the diamond-lane violations on I-95.

The University of Central Florida’s campus police department got a grenade launcher, and school district police across Florida loaded up on weapons too.

Law enforcement agencies also stocked up on military sniper scopes, night goggles and bayonets. You never know when your department needs to make a bayonet charge against an unruly tailgate party, I guess.

The police departments of Riviera Beach and Jupiter sought Army vehicles “designed for combat with a mine-resistant V-shaped hull.” Who knew that land mines were a big problem on Alternate A1A?

No department was too small for an arsenal. The tiny police departments in Lantana and Tequesta apparently needed 20 and 25 military assault rifles, respectively. I guess they were expecting a rash of violent zoning-variance requests.

But the need is irrelevant. This is a no-questions-asked program. And everything is free.

You might not even have to be a real police department to get the military weapons, the Government Accountability Office showed.

That office conducted a test recently by creating a fictitious law enforcement agency and asking for military hardware through the program’s Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO).

“Through the testing, GAO gained access to the LESO program and obtained over 100 controlled items with an estimated value of $1.2 million, including night-vision goggles, simulated rifles, and simulated pipe bombs, which could be potentially lethal items if modified with commercially available items,” the government agency reported last month.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama dialed back the program after the street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrated how militarized civilian police departments had become.

As a result of Obama’s executive order, the federal government stopped supplying domestic law enforcement agencies any grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and any firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater.

But President Donald Trump — who never met a tough-guy gesture he didn’t like, or an Obama directive he didn’t want to overturn — reversed Obama’s executive order this week, reinstating local law enforcement’s ability to get all that military hardware, munitions and artillery again.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a Fraternal Order of Police gathering in Tennessee that Trump was doing it “to restore law and order” in America.

“Those restrictions went too far,” Sessions said. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”

Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately chimed in with her approval.

“This executive order will help ensure our brave law enforcement officers have the gear they need to combat terrorism, drug cartels, gangs and other threats to public safety…” Bondi said in a statement. “I want to thank President Trump for standing up for law enforcement and signing this order to give officers access to more lifesaving tools.”

Seriously?

Small-town local police departments with bayonets and grenade launchers? Municipal machine-gun mounted Mine Resistant Ambush Protected police vehicles?

That’s not restoring law and order. That’s taking a giant step toward martial law. That’s giving domestic law enforcers the tools to be a paramilitary occupation force. It’s using military weapons and equipment designed to respond to foreign enemies on our own citizens.

And it’s more than a superficial concern when Officer Friendly turns into Officer Friendly Fire.



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