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This week in police militarization

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The video above shows police officers in the Rock Island, IL police department SWAT team doing a training exercise in a public housing property scheduled to be demolished within weeks. "It's good experience where we're not having to worry about destruction on the property, that we can actually break stuff, which we do on normal search warrants, but we don't typically get to do in training," an officer says.

Here are some alarming developments in the militarization of US police forces from around the country. These stories are from the past two weeks alone, and there are tens more like them that I don't cite.

  • The police department in Ithaca, NY, population 30k, has just received a $100k grant from the Department of Homeland Security “to improve and develop tactical team capabilities through equipment, training, and planning projects that support counter terrorism missions.” The local news reports “the funding will be used to help the SWAT team maintain their services, but they'll also purchase a robot for tactical operations, new chemical suits, and night vision goggles.” The upstate, New York community is known to be “haunted by a reputation for suicides,” but is it a major terrorism destination? Not so much. The number of terror attacks to have ever occured in Ithaca, NY stands at zero.
  • Not to be outdone by Ithaca, the police department in the City of North Tonawanda, NY, population 31k, also recently received about $100k from DHS. The city's SWAT team plans to use the funds to buy new tactical vests. That's a lot of vests!
  • South Carolina’s Richland County Sheriff department announced “secretive,” likely “loud” training exercises to be held with unnamed military units from Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is home to some of the US Army’s most elite fighting units, including the notorious Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). As journalists Jeremy Scahill, Nick Turse, and Tom Engelhardt have demonstrated, JSOC commandos operate as a sort of Presidential Kill Force in hundreds of countries worldwide. These highly-trained killers were responsible for a raid on a civilian home in Gardez, Afghanistan, where numerous people from one family were killed in cold blood. Survivors say US special forces dug their bullets out of the bodies of their victims, the first step in what would become a failed coverup that finally ended when then JSOC commander Admiral McRaven admitted responsibility and apologized to the family. Do you feel safer knowing these special operations forces may be training your local police?
  • Police in Amirillo, Texas used chemical agents and flash bangs attempting to arrest someone wanted on a parole violation. Businesses and residents nearby complained about the militarized operation, which included a special operations command center and a military robot. “We had a job we were trying to finish off,” one man said. “Now we can’t make phone calls or send emails.” Just another day in the militarized USA.
  • After raiding his home, Los Angeles SWAT officers shot and killed a man suspected in a robbery of an LA Fitness. No officers were injured.

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