Ben Swann takes a look at the root of police militarization and why even if military equipment is removed from police departments across the nation, militarization will not come to an end.
Benswann.com has been working to raise awareness about the militarization of police for over a year, "the rest of the media acted like they had no idea."
The program ignored by the mainstream media is the 1033 program. Also called the Department of Defense Excess Property Program, this platform is used by police departments to obtain military equipment. Swann explains:
"It is a federal program that provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety."
While the 1033 program does provide armored vehicles and flash grenades, it also provides police departments with other emergency supplies that go beyond weaponry.
Larry Kirk, the Police Chief in Old Monroe, Missouri, which is just a few miles from Ferguson, said that he is against banning the 1033 program altogether, due to the fact that it gives smaller departments certain supplies they would not have been able to afford.
However, while Kirk is in favor of keeping the program, he is also one of the few police chiefs in the country who is opposed to departments receiving military weapons. Kirk explained that he is skeptical about the level is militarized weapons that he has seen come through the program recently.
"Being realistic, there is no reason I would ever need an MRAP," said Kirk. "Most departments would never need one."
Swann further described the "MRAP," which is one of two armored vehicles that police departments are given by grant, through the 1033 program. The vehicles, which were originally made to fight in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, were kept by the Department of Defense after the wars cooled down, and are now being granted to local police departments.
According to a report from the New York Times, "about 500 planes, helicopters, and mine-resistant armored vehicles have been obtained, alongside 94,000 machine guns."
Swann said that following the protests in Ferguson, Americans began to realize the size and scale of the military equipment that was available to local police, and they "began calling for police departments to do away with military vehicles."
Swann also pointed out that while the mainstream media has covered the protests, it hasn't worked to provide Americans with the keys to the root of the problem.
"What media has not helped the public understand is that the real problem with militarization is not military equipment," said Swann. "It's the use by police of military tactics."
Swann gave three examples of incidents in which police used military tactics to serve warrants on drugs:
The first example occurred in Detroit, Michigan, when 7-year-old girl Aiyana Jones was awakened in the middle of the night by a stun grenade developed for wartime raids, called a "flash bang," which was thrown by a SWAT team, and immediately set fire to her blanket. Following the release of the grenade, the SWAT team stormed into the house, and mistakenly shot Jones through the neck, killing her.
A second incident occurred in Tucson, Arizona, when a SWAT team attempted to serve a search warrant as part of a multi-house drug crackdown. Jose Guerena, an Iraq war veteran who lived in the house, instructed his family to hide while he got his gun, after his wife became alarmed at the sight of a shadowy figure standing in their front yard, holding a gun. Guerena retrieved his gun - leaving the safety on - and stepped into the living room. The SWAT team then entered the house and shot him 60 times.
Swann noted that the police "have still never said whether they found drugs" in Guerena's home.
A third example occurred in Atlanta, Georgia, when a SWAT team visited a family's home in search of a small amount of drugs they believed were in the possession of the family's nephew. The parents, three daughters, and a 19-month-old baby boy were asleep in a converted garage when police opened the door and threw a stun grenade in. The grenade landed in the 19-month-old baby's crib. It blew a hole in his chest, and resulted in such severe burns that the baby was placed in a medically induced coma.
Swann said that, according to author Radley Balkow, "The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home."
These raids have become increasingly frequent, with as many as 40,000 occurring every year. Swann pointed out that the raids are "needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they're sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers."
"Despite what the media spin-doctors will tell you, militarization has nothing to do with the war on terror, and it has everything to do with perpetuating the war on drugs," Swann said.
Kirk said that he believed the United States has created so many different wars, from the war on crime to the war on drugs, that it has left police officers in the perpetual state of needing to be a "warrior."
"If you continue to tell people they are in a war, you are going to create warriors," said Kirk. "You are going to create soldiers that you are now putting on the street."