First up, Glenn Reynolds, the guy behind the incredibly popular “Instapundit” blog has posted his USA Today column a day early where he criticizes the militarization of local police. It’s a good read. An excerpt:
Often, if you wait long enough, an idea comes around. Back in 2006, I wrote a piece for Popular Mechanics on how the federal government’s transfer of surplus military equipment to local police departments — sometimes in very small towns — was leading to “SWAT overkill.”
My complaints didn’t get much traction with either the Bush or the Obama administrations. But now, in the wake of what many consider to be an overly militarized police response in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama has ordered a review of federal programs — in the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security — to arm local police with military weapons.
Lawmakers — from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who quoted my 2006 piece in an op-ed in Time Magazine — are looking at legislation to limit transfers. This is good. There’s a role for SWAT teams in limited circumstances, but they’ve been overused in recent years, deployed for absurd things such as raids on sellers of raw milk. The problem is, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when you have cool military equipment, there’s a strong temptation to use it, just because, well, it’s cool. (Federal regulatory agencies have succumbed to SWAT Fever too.)
We put up a link late last week (thank you Ron B for the tip) for folks to find out what their local county governments are getting from the Department of Defense. (Story: SUNSHINE: What’s your local police getting from the Department of Defense?)
Guns Save Life’s “home county” Champaign County, IL, has received a whole bunch of AR-15s, and 7.62mm rifles, along with an MRAP – a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle. Basically it’s a tank with wheels.
We know our local sheriff Dan Walsh well. He’s been to a number of Guns Save Life meetings and is our kinda people.
I asked him in an email to give me his “elevator speech” on why the county needed an MRAP.
His answer, in a nutshell, was that the county’s then-current “armored” vehicle was a several decades old Brinks truck and given the price (free), an MRAP afforded the county’s SWAT team protection from prepared bad guys using rifles. He said he wasn’t sure that the old Brinks truck would protect occupants from rifle fire.
I know the deputies typically each have an AR in their squad cars for dealing with serious bad guys or active shooters, but I wasn’t ready for the number of 7.62×51 rifles Champaign County had received from the Department of Defense. I asked Walsh how many designated marksman rifles his department needed and his response was that he wanted his guys to be at least as well armed as the bad guys out there. (Apologies in advance to any female Champaign County law-enforcement division deputies out there.)
While he didn’t come out and directly answer my question if any of the firearms included belt-feds, I’m pretty sure the answer is no.
So, there you have it.
Champaign County has an MRAP.
We’ll see if everything looks like a nail to the Metro Champaign County SWAT Team now that they have the coolest hammer on the block.