Last summer’s riots in Ferguson, Missouri, prompted much talk by President Obama and certain members of Congress about the need to demilitarize local police forces. Nearly a year later, the opposite is happening.
New and more powerful weapons are flowing into local police departments daily, and still others are new to the marketplace.
One weapon about to make its debut is the “Z-Ro Retinal Obfuscation” gun. When fired, the gun allows an officer to temporarily blind his targeted subject for up to 15 minutes.
The new “compliance weapon” made a splash at the Urban Shield trade show last October in Boston. It is not yet available for purchase but recently entered the manufacturing stage, according to its maker, Reno, Nevada-based Shield Defense Systems LLC. It can be weapon-mounted or hand-held.
“We are currently developing and manufacturing numerous proprietary technologies, don’t be left behind,” the firm says on its website. “Contact us now to be on the priority list for information and demonstrations at [email protected]”
The company refers to “recent controversies” in making its pitch for the sight-stealing gun, and says the weapon is safe to use against humans.
“With the rise of recent controversies directed at law enforcement officers … Shield Defense Systems has dedicated its personnel and resources with primary objectives in providing non-lethal and less-harmful but effective, deployable defense systems to proactively subdue would-be assailants. Our systems focus on the PRESERVATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and POST QUALITY OF LIFE, while delivering effective compliance techniques to quell both foreign and domestic threats.”
John Whitehead, a constitutional lawyer, founder of the Rutherford Institute and author of the new book, “Battlefield America: The War on the American People,” finds it interesting that while police have bulked up with military-grade gear, including night-vision goggles, they will soon have a new tool to block the vision of citizens.
“What you’re dealing with now is a fully armed army on the ground with the drones coming out overhead. In my book, I call them vigilantes with a badge, [and they] will be so high tech they’ll be connected electronically with drones and robots,” Whitehead told WND.
“I really don’t want some rogue law enforcement officer having the ability to blind me or anyone else, either temporarily or permanently,” he said.
Exactly how the blinder works without damaging the eye remains a mystery. All the facts about it may never come to light. Whitehead said weapons companies often require cities and counties that purchase their products to sign non-disclosure forms keeping certain facts about the weapon secret.
Whitehead said a new K5 robot is also coming out that he expects will be handing out parking tickets in some cities by 2016.
“It’s a 6-foot-tall robot that in the late 2020s will be the new cops,” he said of the K5. “I believe they will eventually replace cops, at least in some situations.”
Robots, tiny cameras, and more
Robots were also a popular attraction at the Urban Shield conference, whose list of public-private sponsors reads like a who’s who of corporate America, including Motorola, HaloDrop Robotics Co., Lenco Armored Vehicles, Cisco Systems, Amtrak, Sprint, Verizon, Kaiser Permanente and Google.
Buzzing around one booth was a cylindrical, remote-controlled robot that sold for $1,100. “If the robot was too big to fit into, say, a building’s ventilation system, the police could make a smaller body on-site using a 3-D printer, then transfer the electric wiring,” reported Mother Jones.
QinetiQ’s 20-pound Dragon Runner with tank treads and an arm that could be maneuvered like a miniature crane also drew attention. It’s made for “some of the most hazardous conditions and terrains found on earth, from desert and mountain combat situations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to the streets of Europe and the United States,” according to its product literature.
Cameras are also all the rage. One vendor reportedly used a pole extended 20 feet into the air to demonstrate a special camera used for peering into windows. “They sold cameras that could be slipped under doors and others made for strapping onto a dog, relaying video to a screen on the user’s wrist,” the Mother Jones article reported. “They also had a device for steering the animal with vibrations to which it was trained to respond.”
Homeland Security running the show
The annual Urban Shield conference is an opportunity for defense contractors to market their wares to the fastest growing group of potential buyers. While the U.S. government may be cutting back on its defense budgets, state and local police are on a buying binge – using the federal government’s money.
Weapons contractors who would otherwise deal with the United States military or foreign governments, are now redirecting their products for domestic use.
The Urban Shield conference was mainly funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with dozens of corporate sponsors also chipping in thousands of dollars.
In the wake of Ferguson, Whitehead said many reports centered on the federal government’s 1033 program, which allows it to transfer used military hardware to domestic police agencies.
“The myth that was put out there was, there is 2 or 3 billion dollars worth of equipment flowing to police departments and it’s just old military equipment. But 40 percent is new stuff,” he said.
The weapons and gear are purchased with federal grants and also through the federal asset forfeiture laws, which allow police to seize cash, automobiles, electronics and other assets they believe are being used in crimes. More than $4.5 billion in cash and equipment was seized by cops in 2012, often without any charges being filed.
The limits of what this money can buy is endless. Take the Rumsfeld Ray Gun, for instance, which is used for crowd control. It can heat the surface of targets, including human skin. Again, it is considered “non-lethal,” just like Tasers and flash-bang grenades, which have killed and wounded hundreds of people.
“Yeah, I’d say the policemen over the next 10 to 15 years will be armed in such a way you won’t recognize them,” even by today’s militaristic police standards, Whitehead said. “It’s the Founding Fathers’ concept of the standing army being used against us.”
Almost all state and local police now train alongside Army, Marines and Navy personnel.
“So there’s a lot going on out there to send the message that we’re transitioning into a totalitarian state and, to be honest with you, I don’t know if we can stop it,” Whitehead said. “Just all the aggression we’re seeing toward unarmed people, cops putting people down and their boots on their heads. It’s the tough, military training they’re exposed to. The DHS and FBI run most police departments now so you don’t have local police anymore.”
The key to good, local policing was always that citizens knew the cops, and the cops were treated as part of the local community, answering to the local people’s elected leaders, Whitehead said.
“It’s different now. They see us as suspects or enemy combatants, or, the new term they like to use is ‘civilians,'” Whitehead said. “I tell cops now ‘I’m not a civilian I’m a citizen and so are you.’
“When they use that word ‘civilian’ that’s code word for servant. If you’re in a helicopter over Afghanistan and you see civilians that won’t comply with your order, you take them out,” he said. It’s called collateral damage.
That’s the same mentality police are now trained to employ on the streets of America. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, white or black, young or old, mentally ill or perfectly sane. Your life is in danger if you do not immediately comply with an officer’s order, Whitehead said.
That was evident in the case earlier this year when a 12-year-old boy was sitting on a swing set at a Cleveland, Ohio, park, playing with a toy gun. Police drove up, jumped out of their squad car, and ordered him to drop the “weapon.” In a split second the boy was gunned down, even though the 9-1-1 dispatcher warned that the gun may have been a toy.
A ‘fourth branch of government’?
What type of society the U.S. will end up with is up for debate. Whitehead sees a “highly trained occupation force” taking over.
“They view us differently. If you just talk back to a cop now it could bring about your death,” he said. “We’ve seen pregnant women getting kicked in the stomach — they’re not differentiating between men and women anymore. Many of your police chiefs go to Quantico (Virginia) to train now under the FBI. The DHS basically runs the country now in cooperation with the FBI and NSA. This has become the fourth branch of government.”
Whitehead said automated license-plate readers can now pick up facial images of a driver behind the wheel.
“So they’re scanning your facial features and uploading it to a database. They knew down the road what those things could do and what they’d be used for,” he said. “When drones first came out they said they would be used primarily for finding lost children, well, how many lost children are there? When that cop comes to your door down the road there will be drones up in the air. So don’t even think about running. You’d better have an armored personnel carrier if you intend on getting away. It’s basically ‘comply or die’ is what I call it.”
Cell phone microphones can be tapped into remotely by police seeking to record your conversations. Stingray devices can steal all the data off your cell phone without you ever knowing it.
The enabler for all this government intrusion, Whitehead believes, is public schools. “They don’t teach about the Constitution anymore,” he said. “I was just on the Glenn Beck show last week, and asked if anyone could give me the five freedoms of the First Amendment and nobody could.”
Whitehead says the servant-master relationship laid out in the Constitution has been reversed, to where “We the People” are now the servant and the government is the master.
The irony is, the more police arm themselves with bigger and more lethal weapons, the more they see regular citizens as the enemy, and the more they become targets, Whitehead said. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Does law enforcement need these weapons? Only if they continue to arm up against we the people,” he said. “As long as law enforcement continues to look at the citizens as enemies of the state, they will need advanced weapons like this. If we can somehow regain control over the government, there would be no need for this type of dangerous weaponry.”
In this brave new digital world, nothing is private, and everything recorded is stored forever.
“The point is, in the end, like George Orwell said, you can’t escape. Facebook works with the government, Google works with the CIA and NSA, so I would say that the pervasive situation is awesome and overpowering. And I say in the book we have a fairly short time to react, the average citizen doesn’t have drones, doesn’t have blinder guns or Stingrays.”
He believes the federal government has become too big to reform, no matter who is elected to the White House or Congress.
“Citizens have to take control of local government and local government needs to start saying no (to the federal government), start nullifying laws and ordering local police not to cooperate,” he said. “Replicate the model our founders gave us in the 9th and 10th Amendments. It’s our power. It’s our government. It ain’t theirs. Anyway, I think the wake-up call is here. Some are listening. The fact that I could get this book published means this battle isn’t completely over.”