View Point: Issuing the police extreme military gear unnecessary

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is finally standing down on its handouts of battle swag to local police departments. That’s good for taxpayers and even better for communities that don’t need to be military zones.

Which New Mexico has arguably become.

In April 2014, Journal Washington Bureau reporter Michael Coleman found that DHS and the Pentagon funneled millions of dollars in grants and war-fighting equipment to New Mexico law enforcement agencies — more than $25 million in surplus military equipment that included mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), rifles, sniper scopes and night-vision equipment.

Even Clovis received an MRAP.

In fact, a subsequent New York Times analysis revealed that New Mexico police departments had been given more MRAPs — at least 42 — than any other state, despite our relatively small population of 2 million.

The Obama administration rightly reversed course last week when the president banned the transfer of the most extreme battle gear (things like grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, and weaponized aircraft and vehicles) to local police and placed limits on access to others (including MRAPS.)

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”

Now, if you want an MRAP handout, you have to get permission from your city council, mayor or other local governing body, explain why it’s needed and provide more training and data collection on its use.

That’s as it should be, especially considering two things:

Homeland Security was created after terrorists slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, with the clear objective “to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States.”

It has grown from 180,000 full-time workers to 240,000 employees, and from a budget of $29 billion to $61 billion.

One could, and should, ask what an MRAP purchased with federal tax dollars to fight terrorism is doing responding to a SWAT call-out in a New Mexico community.

The proliferation of excessive police force cases across the country, ranging from the military equipment used in Ferguson, Missouri, to the many cases leading to the Department of Justice report on the Albuquerque Police Department.

Asking police departments to defuse situations whenever possible while arming them like a SEAL team is a mixed message if there ever was one.

— Albuquerque Journal

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