The Federalized Militarized Police


by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor of The Progress Report

There are two disturbing trends in law enforcement. First, the US military is being used for domestic law enforcement, contrary to law. Secondly, the federal government is taking over the financing, training, and direction of local police, removing the police from local control. The result is that the federalized police have increasingly turned to violent tactics and assaults on people who have not committed any crimes.

Traditionally, the United States has had civilian control of governments at all levels. The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act made it illegal for the US military to act as a domestic police. But the trend now is towards the militarization of law enforcement. The slaughter at Waco was a prime example.

The US military is increasingly involved in domestic law enforcement. The Posse Comitatus Act was amended in 1981 to allow some military involvement in law enforcement. A 1991 amendment provided for military training of the police in drug-law enforcement. In 1996, Joint Task Force 6, under the control of the Department of Defense, was expanded to cover the entire USA. In 1997, the first US Citizen was shot and killed by JTF-6 troops. (See the web site by Common Sense for Drug Policy domestic military involvement.

Under the 1981 "Military Cooperation with Law-Enforcement Officials Act," the US Department of Defense is supplying the local police with paramilitary training and equipment, especially for SWAT teams, for use against civilians. According to Peter Kraska in his article "Militarizing the Police" in Social Problems (issue #1, 1997), many SWAT teams are being trained by former military special operations officers.

In an article in Sept. 7, 1999 San Francisco Examiner, Harley Sorensen had a column entitled "Paramilitary cops serve themselves, not us" reports that the Pentagon routinely send armored personnel carriers, grenade launchers, and M-16 rifles to the police.

These militarized SWAT teams execute warrants by breaking into homes at night, breaking down doors to surprise the sleeping residents. The house gets trashed, the cat might get killed, and if they don't find any drugs, they leave without any apology. No records are kept on the number of innocent people brutalized and shot by paramilitary units (The American Sentinel, December 1999). The police are also increasingly practicing asset forfeiture and seizure, where the raiders keep the loot.

What to do? We can ask candidates for federal offices about how they stand on federalized militarized police. Let candidates know you are aware of the issue and concerned. Let your local officials know you are worried about this because this federalization can reduce safety rather than make us secure. If federalization proceeds, the police will be taken out of local control. Their funding will come from federal funds and asset seizures. Your local city council will lose control of the police. They will not longer be local police, but units of a federal police force allied with the US military.

We are not yet a national military police state, but America has started on this path, and it should be stopped before the police become tools of the federal government, terrorizing civilians rather than protecting local public safety.


Copyright 1999 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.

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