If You Thought Obama Was Giving Less Military Gear to Local Police Departments, You Were Wrong :: In These Times

If You Thought Obama Was Giving Less Military Gear to Local Police Departments, You Were Wrong

Despite President Obama’s much-touted 2015 executive order, an In These Timesinvestigation reveals evidence that police departments are still receiving as much military hardware from the Pentagon as ever.


WHEN PROTESTORS TOOK TO THE STREETS OF FERGUSON, MO., IN 2014 in response to the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, they also turned the nation’s attention to a related issue: the growing militarization of local law enforcement. Images of suburban police threatening demonstrators with armored vehicles and assault rifles prompted changes to the controversial 1033 program, through which the Department of Defense (DOD) transfers surplus military equipment to police departments nationwide.

President Obama’s May 2015 announcement that he would freeze giveaways of certain gear drew outrage from law enforcement groups such as the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which later charged that the banned equipment was “essential in protecting communities against violent criminals and terrorists.” After shooters targeted and killed uniformed police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge in July, NAPO and other groups doubled down on criticisms that the administration was putting officers’ lives at risk. On July 21, Reuters reported that, following a meeting with police groups, Obama had agreed to revisit the ban.

But an In These Times investigation provides evidence that, in practice, the president’s much-ballyhooed reforms to the 1033 program have done little to stem the flow of battlefield gear to cops.

In fact, the total value of equipment distributed through the program actually increased in the year following the ban, according to figures provided to In These Times by Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief for the DOD’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which oversees the shipments.

So far in fiscal year 2016, (Oct. 1, 2015 – September 13), the DLA has transferred $494 million worth of gear to local police departments, In These Times learned from McCaskill.

That far exceeds the $418 million of equipment sent to police in FY 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014 – Sept. 30, 2015). According to an analysis published in May by the transparency organization Open the Books, 2015 was already a peak year for such shipments within the past decade, exceeded only by 2014’s $787 million. Since 2006, more than $2.2 billion of hardware has found its way into the hands of police, according to the report.

Many police accountability advocates warned from the outset that last year’s reforms were too limited in scope. Of seven items on the list of prohibited equipment, only one had actually been given to police departments in recent years, noted a May 2015 article in the Guardian. While the Obama administration placed additional requirements on the transfer of certain aircraft, armored vehicles and riot gear considered especially intimidating to civilians, hundreds of pieces of such equipment are still finding their way into the hands of local police. So far this year, for example, cops have acquired more than 80 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs)—15-ton vehicles that were originally designed to withstand roadside bombs in war zones.

A SECOND LIFE FOR LETHAL WEAPONRY

The 1033 program, which refers to a section of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act that created it, is a popular way for cash-strapped local law enforcement agencies to get gear on the cheap. Police departments typically are responsible only for the costs of shipping and maintaining the equipment.

Advocates also say the 1033 program allows underutilized Pentagon inventory to find a second life. “Since the American taxpayers have paid for this equipment already, does it not make more sense to share this equipment with local law enforcement agencies, as opposed to asking for the taxpayers to buy the same equipment twice?” asks Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, in an email to In These Times.

ACLU Minnesota legal director Teresa Nelson says that she is sensitive to the needs of law enforcement. “Nobody wants the police to be unsafe,” she says. “At the same time … when you have police in armored vehicles that look like tanks, you really change the dynamic between the police and the communities they serve.”

In January 2015, Obama responded to growing criticism of the program in the wake of Ferguson by issuing Executive Order 13688, which created a federal interagency group to investigate police militarization and come up with recommendations. As a result of this investigation, police were prohibited from receiving certain equipment, including bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50‐caliber or higher, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms and weaponized aircraft.

Critics said the reforms were superficial. Last year, an NPR analysis of 10 years of DLA data showed that of all the aircraft given to local police through the 1033 program, none were weaponized. The investigation further revealed that nearly 87 percent of the hundreds of armored vehicles being used at the time by local police ran on wheels, not tracks. Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Social Justice Studies and one of the leading researchers of police militarization, told the Guardian that the new rules were nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”

The ongoing transfer of armored vehicles, such as MRAPs, epitomizes these criticisms. Since the vehicles run on wheels, they aren’t on the new list of banned transfers. Nevertheless, their heft and design for use in warfare illustrates what critics see as the increasingly blurry line between police and military.

According to the DLA, police departments have received 708 MRAPs through the 1033 program since 2011, when the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan first created a large reserve of unused equipment. At press time, 84 police departments had received the armored vehicles this year. More than 100 others have been approved and are awaiting delivery, according to DLA records obtained by In These Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

As part of the Obama administration’s reforms, law enforcement agencies receiving “controlled” items, such as MRAPs, must demonstrate that they plan to train officers on proper use. But training materials used by various California police departments, obtained by the website MuckRock in June, show that instructional time for MRAPs ranges from 20 hours to as little as 15 minutes.

COMING TO A TOWN NEAR YOU?

Previously, only large urban police departments would have had the resources to justify acquiring the armored vehicles, which can cost upwards of $1 million. In 2014, Bill Johnson, executive director of NAPO, told USA Today that the 1033 program allows smaller police forces to play catch-up: “It’s their turn to get some of this equipment.”

That may explain why the 1033 program is particularly popular in states with significant rural populations such as Minnesota, where 74 of 87 county sheriffs have received surplus military equipment since 2005—mostly assault rifles and armored vehicles.

Jason Dingman, sheriff of sparsely populated Stevens County, Minn., told In These Times that an MRAP arrived this summer with only 56 miles on it. Virtually brand-new, the armored vehicle will just need a paint job and a fresh battery before being ready for use by West Central SWAT—a multi-agency task force that carries out tactical operations along the South Dakota border, but is called to the scene just six to eight times per year. “If we’re just executing a search warrant then we won’t bring [the MRAP] out,” Dingman says.
“But if the bad guy starts shooting at us then it’s a different situation and we can call out the MRAP to give our officers more protection.”

The DLA’s data show that police agencies receiving MRAPs in 2016 included those serving such tiny municipalities as Fallon, Nev. (pop. 8,458), and Westwego, La. (pop. 8,542). Even the police force in rural Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (pop. 6,171), found the need for an MRAP—perhaps to more effectively repel potential terrorist attacks on Dollywood, the town’s Dolly Parton-themed amusement park.

While police contend that equipment such as MRAPs are used defensively, renewed concerns arise whenever protests are met with a show of force. Following the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge in July, a local reporter videotaped an armored vehicle pushing up against a crowd of protestors.

John Lindsay-Poland, who has researched the topic for the anti-militarism group American Friends Service Committee, thinks that the 1033 program fosters a “warrior mentality” that can further corrode police-community relations. “If we do not want our police to be at war in our communities,” he tellsIn These Times, “then we shouldn’t equip them with war-fighting equipment.”

Investigative stories like this are only possibly because of the support of readers like you. If you want to see more hard-hitting journalism, make a tax-deductible donation to support In These Times.


From the November 2016 Issue

SETH KERSHNER is a writer and researcher whose work has appeared in outlets such as Rethinking Schools, Sojourners, and Boulder Weekly. He is the co-author (with Scott Harding) of Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Source: If You Thought Obama Was Giving Less Military Gear to Local Police Departments, You Were Wrong

So Many Black People Locked Up it has Warped our Sense of Reality | Emerge News Online

So Many Black People Locked Up it has Warped our Sense of RealityApril 23, 2016 0 45Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Prisoners from Sacramento County await processing after arriving at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) in Tracy, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)For as long as the government has kept track, the economic statistics have shown a troubling racial gap. Black people are twice as likely as white people to be out of work and looking for a job. This fact was as true in 1954 as it is today.The most recent report puts the white unemployment rate at around 4.5 percent. The black unemployment rate? About 8.8 percent.But the economic picture for black Americans is far worse than those statistics indicate. The unemployment rate only measures people who are both living at home and actively looking for a job.The hitch: A lot of black men aren’t living at home and can’t look for jobs — because they’re behind bars. READ MORE

Source: So Many Black People Locked Up it has Warped our Sense of Reality | Emerge News Online

This Week on OUR COMMON GROUND φ “40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests Later: “The Truth About the War Against Us” φ LIVE

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“The Truth About the War Against Us”
09-12-15 War on Drugs4
40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests – the war still rages against our community. IT WAS NEVER ABOUT DRUGS

 Saturday, September 12, 2015

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This week on OUR COMMON GROUND, we review and examine the truth about the policies and intent of the “War on Drugs”. We need to talk about the money making behind the politics; how the drug war can be considered slow Nazi policy on the poor and the racial profiling used. We look at these destructive and failed policy and manipulation in its historical context and destructive outcomes. We will present audio clips for our discussion which will assist us in understanding just how much the “War on Drugs” was really never about drugs.

For sheer government absurdity, the War on Drugs is hard to beat. After three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily available, drug potencies are greater, drug killings are more common, and drug barons are richer than ever. The War on Drugs costs Washington more than the Commerce, Interior, and State departments combined – and it’s the one budget item whose growth is never questioned. A strangled court system, exploding prisons, and wasted lives push the cost beyond measure. What began as a flourish of campaign rhetoric in 1968 has grown into a monster. And while nobody claims that the War on Drugs is a success, nobody suggests an alternative. Because to do so, as Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders learned, is political suicide.

As a community we need to understand how Drug War fever has been escalated; who has benefited along the way; and how the mounting price in dollars, lives, and liberties has been willfully ignored. Where are the policy maker offices where each new stage was planned and executed? What happened in the streets where policies have produced bloody warfare. This is a tale of the nation run amok – in a way the American people are not yet ready to confront. Are you?

You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. Come listen and learn. SHARE please.

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Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum | Politic365

Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum 

Dr. Wilmer Leon, Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio radio program “Inside the Issues”

Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed into existence by the constitution of the United States…they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for…” Chief Justice Roger Taney – Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

The verdict is in.  Michael Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted second-degree murder but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the most significant charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jordan Davis.

Instead of celebrating what would have been his 19th birthday, Jordan Davis’ parents continue to mourn the legally unrecognized murder of their son. I can only imagine that this verdict is analogous to killing him again.  Jordan Davis has become another victim of a murderous historical American continuum.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, the killings of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, Sean Bell on November 26, 2006, Police Sgt. Cornel Young, Jr. on January 28, 2000, Police Officer Willie Wilkins on January 11, 2001, Amadou Diallo on February 4, 1999 and so many others we find ourselves coming to the same conclusion, by focusing on their color; people failed to see theirhumanity.

The subtext to all of these untimely deaths remains race.  The subtext to the inability of juries to convict the George Zimmerman’s and Michael Dunn’s of the world of murder is tied to race as well. They are the most recent victims of a murderous historical American continuum.  Tolnay and Beck in their book A Festival ofViolence, “identified 2,805 victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in ten southern states.  Although mobs murdered almost 300 white men and women, the vast majority-almost 2,500-of lynch victims were African-American.  The scale of this carnage means that, on average, a black man, woman, or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week, between 1882 and 1930 by a hate driven white mob.”  Today, lynch mobs have been replaced by Zimmerman’s and Dunn’s and sanctioned by “Stand Your Ground” and “juries of their peers”.

As Africans in America and later African Americans, we have been engaged in a struggle for a very long time. Too many of us have forgotten what’s at the crux of the issue.  Many believe it’s economic, others believe its civil rights.  Both of those are important and play a significant role in improving our circumstance but what we’ve been  fighting to have recognized since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from the Dutch Man O War off the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 (395 years ago)is to be considered human.

According to the Virginia Statutes on Slavery, Act 1, October 1669; what should be done about the casual killing of slaves?  “If any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not considered a felony, and the master should be acquitted from the molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate.”  We were property, not human – part of the estate.

In Dred Scott Chief Justice Taney wrote, “…they (Negro’s) were at that time an considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them.”  Unfortunately, Taney’s perspective remains prevalent in the minds of too many Americans.

For decades, the law recognized the value of life over property.  In many jurisdictions, before a person could use deadly force they had a duty to retreat.  They had to prove that the use of deadly force wasjustified. This is often taken to mean that if the defendant had first avoided conflict and secondly, had taken reasonable steps to retreat and so demonstrated an intention not to fight before eventuallyusing force, then the taking of a life could be considered justified.

Today, Stand Your Ground has turned this long held principal on its head.  Today it provides individuals (seemingly mostly European American’s) the right to use deadly force (seemingly against African American’s) to “defend” themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a circumstance of their own creation.

One cannot stress enough, in both the Treyvon Martin murder and the murder of Jordan Davis, both victims were in public space, engaged in legal activity, and at the time they were confronted were not a threat to anyone. George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn initiated the confrontations, put themselves in harm’s way, and thentook matters into their own hands, choosing to use deadly force against unarmed and non-threatening innocent victims.  Neither Martin nor Davis was given the opportunity to stand their ground.

What ties the death of all of the individuals listed above together is the culturally accepted stereotype of the threatening Black male. Defense counsels in the murder of Treyvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Amadou Diallo and so many others rationalized these irrationalshootings by tapping into the oftentimes unspoken but clearly recognized and understood fear of the Black male.

Even though no weapon and nothing resembling a weapon was found in the vehicle Jordan Davis was riding in, at least one member of the Dunn jury understood his claim that he was in fear of his life.  Even though Treyvon Martin was unarmed, members of the Zimmerman jury understood on a gut level his claim that he was in fear of his life.  Amadou Diallo was armed with only his wallet when NYPD unleashed a barrage of 41 bullets striking him 19 times.

Since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from the Dutch Man O War off the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 African’s in America and now African Americans have been victimized by a murderous American historical continuum.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to http://www.wilmerleon.com or email:wjl3us@yahoo.com. http://www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com  © 2014 InfoWave Communications, LLC

 

 

Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum | Politic365.

Tim Wise » Choosing Whiteness or Humanity: Jordan Davis and the Minimizing of Black Pain

Jordan Davis was killed by a white man, who had learned well the lessons of his country, handed down by other white men going on 400 years now. The fact that some black men have also int

ernalized those lessons — that black life is not worth much and as such can be disposed of with nary a second thought — does not change the identity of the teacher.

via Tim Wise » Choosing Whiteness or Humanity: Jordan Davis and the Minimizing of Black Pain.

Update: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court

WED NOV 13, 2013

Updated: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court

by Leslie SalzilloFollow

in SOLIDARITY mARISSAMarissa Alexander, the Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband, was granted no bail Wednesday afternoon in a Jacksonville courtroom. The mother of three will most likely not get to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with her children, as the ‘deciding judge’ opted to make no decision and set another hearing for January 15, 2012 – pending of course, that he does, or does not, change his mind.In 2010, just days after giving birth, Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot in self-defense to keep her abusive husband, Rico Gray, from attacking her. In his deposition, Gray who has a history of abusing Alexander, admitted it, stated he intended to hurt her had she not fired the warning shot, and said she did the right thing. He also said Alexander did not aim he gun at him. Gray then changed his story once the case went to trial. He walked out a free man – Marissa Alexander, the battered wife, received 20 years. The Florida Stand Your Ground Law did not work for Alexander because she fired a warning shot. Had she shot and killed Rico Gray that day, she would have most likely served no time at all.

My source who was in the courtroom today, reported new evidence has been brought forth – a text message of Rico Gray asking Marissa to come over for sex while there was an order of protection. Rico Gray claims Marissa should not be let out on bond because he is afraid of Marissa; he fears/feared for his life. Does asking her for sex sound like someone who feared for his life?

“I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”~ Rico Gray in his deposition on November 22, 2010.

Again, does this sound like a man fearing for his life?Marissa Alexander’s case has been highly publicized from the start, and the Free Marissa Now campaign has grown throughout social media. The case was catapulted into even more national spotlight, following the George Zimmerman case. In July 2013, Zimmerman was set free after killing teenager, Trayvon Martin, even though Zimmerman was the aggressor. Ironically, the same state attorney that failed to successfully prosecute George Zimmerman, is the same attorney that sent Marissa Alexander to prison. State Attorney Angela Corey ‘twisted the knife’ by refusing to drop Alexander’s case,even after it was overturned in September.

Unless something changes, it doesn’t look as though Marissa Alexander and her three children will be having happy holidays, as she awaits a new bail hearing, and then a whole new trial in March 2014. Supposedly the next trial will be different. This time, Florida courts say the burden of proof will be placed upon them rather than Marissa Alexander. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work, Florida?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, or know someone who may be, there is help: Call: 800-799-SAFE/National Domestic Violence Hotline or Call: 800-656-HOPE/RAINN (Rape,Abuse, & Incest National Network) 

Michelle Alexander: I can no longer just stay in my lane

Michelle Alexander: I can no longer just stay in my lane

September 3, 2013

by Michelle Alexander

For the past several years, I have spent virtually all my working hours writing about or speaking about the immorality, cruelty, racism and insanity of our nation’s latest caste system: mass incarceration. On this Facebook page I have written and posted about little else. But as I pause today to reflect on the meaning and significance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I realize that my focus has been too narrow.

Michelle Alexander graphic, webFive years after the March, Dr. King was speaking out against the Vietnam War, condemning America’s militarism and imperialism – famously stating that our nation was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He saw the connections between the wars we wage abroad and the utter indifference we have for poor people and people of color at home. He saw the necessity of openly critiquing an economic system that will fund war and will reward greed, hand over fist, but will not pay workers a living wage. Five years after the March on Washington, Dr. King was ignoring all those who told him to just stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights.

Yet here I am decades later, staying in my lane. I have not been speaking publicly about the relationship between drones abroad and the War on Drugs at home. I have not been talking about the connections between the corrupt capitalism that bails out Wall Street bankers, moves jobs overseas and forecloses on homes with zeal, all while private prisons yield high returns and expand operations into a new market: caging immigrants. I have not been connecting the dots between the NSA spying on millions of Americans, the labeling of mosques as “terrorist organizations” and the spy programs of the 1960s and ‘70s – specifically the FBI and COINTELPRO programs that placed civil rights advocates under constant surveillance, infiltrated civil rights organizations and assassinated racial justice leaders.

I have been staying in my lane. But no more. In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington, but what he said and did after. In the years that followed, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. Instead he connected the dots and committed himself to building a movement that would shake the foundations of our economic and social order, so that the dream he preached in 1963 might one day be a reality for all. He said that nothing less than “a radical restructuring of society” could possibly ensure justice and dignity for all. He was right.

I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. A new system of racial and social control will be born again, all because we did not do what King demanded we do: connect the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism. I’m getting out of my lane. I hope you’re already out of yours.

This statement was posted by Michelle Alexander to her Facebook page on Aug. 28, 2013.