Do towns need tanks?

Do small town police departments need automatic weapons, tactical body armor and tanks? All signs point to no.

In the wake of the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Michael Brown, there has been understandable scrutiny cast on police departments nationwide. The militarization of police throughout The United States has become an understandable issue, and it raises very good questions. Do local police, in their quest to uphold the law and “protect and serve,” really need access to military grade armaments? Do cities like Davis and San Jose need a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle when police patrol their streets at night? Unless jaywalkers are planning to tote around rocket launchers and large caliber machine guns, it’s safe to say that no police department needs a tank.

Did you know that there is a program in the Defense Department that allows the Pentagon to give military equipment to state and local police? It’s called The Department of Defense Excess Property Program aka the 1033 Program. Just to clarify, this equipment isn’t being bought by the police. It’s being given to the police. And apparently this 1033 program, is one of many that allows military grade weapons and vehicles to be given away to men and women who aren’t in the military.

Not to take anything away from the men and women who work for the police department, or hope to be in the future, but there is a severe difference between being trained as a police officer and being trained as a soldier. Just because you know how to fire an AK47 or an M4 Carbine doesn’t mean that you should, and just because you know how to drive the departments panel van doesn’t mean that you should try and drive a tank down the street to a riot.

Thankfully steps are being made, both at an executive level as well as a city level, to bring a stop to these military grade giveaways. President Barack Obama has called for an administrative review of programs like the 1033 program, and cities like Davis and San Jose are calling for the return of their police force’s shiny new toys to the government.

If, and this is a tenuous if, the police require such tools in the future then their training should be modified to go along with their increased inventory of guns and armored vehicles. There is a rather large difference between firing a Remington 700 SPS, a common Special Weapons And Tactics sniper rifle, and a .50 caliber Barret M82, a large caliber rifle utilized by the military. And if the use of an MRAP or other armored vehicle is necessary then, hopefully, the man or woman driving the tank has been trained, and isn’t playing it by ear or comparing it to the last time they played “Call Of Duty” with their friends.