By Josh Ely
The militarization of local police and law-enforcement agencies across America has been thrust into public focus because of the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of an unarmed black teen by a police officer.
But an author who observes a growing police-state atmosphere in the U.S. contends those who think the attention will prompt changes should think again.
Cheryl Chumley, author of the newly published “Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality,” believes it probably will be “business as usual.”
She said deeply linked private companies and police departments will veto citizen efforts to rein in the use of military-grade equipment in local communities.
“Companies aren’t going to be take so kindly to legislative campaigns that curb the purchasing power of one of their largest customers – the local police,” she said.
She noted that according to OpenSecrets.org, the defense industry spent $134,377,531 for lobbying last year.
With that influence, she said, plans to curb militarization probably are dead on arrival.
There even are plans for trade shows that enable communities to obtain unused military vehicles and weapons, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and Military Police Regimental Association trade show in Oakland, California, and the Military Police Expo in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Oakland was the site of citizen and police turmoil during the Occupy protests, while the Missouri site is about 150 miles west of Ferguson.
Chumley suggested the timing and placement of the trade shows indicates that the companies are out of touch.
She noted a newly released University of California at Berkeley study analyzing 192 protests held in 2011. The researchers found that when officers use aggressive tactics, protesters reacted aggressively. Even the uniforms officers used could be a cause for violence, the study suggests.
Chumley believes citizens should set the rules for engagement.
“Americans sick and tired of seeing police dressed like soldiers and behaving as if they’re members of the military, rather than civil servants tasked with protecting innocent civilians. Fed-up Americans can still petition their local governments to pass an ordinance that limits when police can use this equipment and gear – and when they can’t,” she said.
Her book, examining issues from traffic light cameras to phone tapping, asks whether or not the government really wants unfettered control over the American people.
A report this week revealed university police departments now also are cashing in, with Politico reporting Florida International University’s access to military-grade rifles and Ohio State’s acquisition of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle. Florida State acquired a new Army Humvee.