NRO: Barney Fife meets Delta Force

Historians looking back at this period in America’s development will consider it to be profoundly odd that at the exact moment when violent crime hit a 50-year low, the nation’s police departments began to gear up as if the country were expecting invasion — and, on occasion, to behave as if one were underway. The ACLU reported recently that SWAT teams in the United States conduct around 45,000 raids each year, only 7 percent of which have anything whatsoever to do with the hostage situations with which those teams were assembled to contend. Paramilitary operations, the ACLU concluded, are “happening in about 124 homes every day — or more likely every night” — and four in five of those are performed in order that authorities might “search homes, usually for drugs.” Such raids routinely involve “armored personnel carriers,” “military equipment like battering rams,” and “flashbang grenades.” 

Were the military being used in such a manner, we would be rightly outraged. Why not here? Certainly this is not a legal matter. The principle of posse comitatus draws a valuable distinction between the national armed forces and parochial law enforcement, and one that all free people should greatly cherish. Still, it seems plain that the potential threat posed by a domestic standing army is not entirely blunted just because its units are controlled locally. To add the prefix “para” to a problem is not to make it go away, nor do legal distinctions change the nature of power. Over the past two decades, the federal government has happily sent weapons of war to local law enforcement, with nary a squeak from anyone involved with either political party. Are we comfortable with this? 

The Right’s silence on the issue is vexing indeed, the admirable attempts of a few libertarians notwithstanding. Here, conservatives seem to be conflicted between their rightful predilection for law and order — an instinct that is based upon an accurate comprehension of human nature and an acknowledgment of the existence of evil — and a well-developed and wholly sensible fear of state power, predicated upon precisely the same thing. As of now, the former is rather dramatically winning out, leading conservatives to indulge — or at least tacitly to permit — excuses that they typically reject elsewhere. Much as the teachers’ unions invariably attempt to justify their “anything goes” contracts by pointing to the ends that they ostensibly serve (“Well you do want schools for the children or don’t you? Sign here”), the increasingly muscular behavior of local police departments is often shrugged off as a by-product of the need to fight crime. This, if left unchecked, is a recipe for precisely the sort of carte blanche that conservatives claim to fear.

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16 thoughts on “NRO: Barney Fife meets Delta Force

  1. This isn't new, either. This country, along with our ancestors', has a long history of crooked law enforcement bodies running the politics of local areas, long before unions, and long after.

    The unions can lobby to keep the police state going, but the only people running to bring that to an end are on the Left, save for a few libertarians. You will never get the conservative right to turn against the police state. It's up to the libertarians and the left to bring it down.

    To my mind, this is among the top three or so most pressing issues of our times. We have almost irreparably damaged two entire generations of mostly men, and too many minorities, and all their families, with this horrifying drug war. The casualties abroad are even more bloody and stark. Meanwhile we have produced millions of tattoo-clad felons with hair-trigger tempers in a country where anyone can get a gun, anonymously, with little effort. This is the most important civil rights issue, and crime issue, of our time, and most people just ignore it.

    It's a shame.

    JMJ

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  2. Some interesting points, Jersey. But as for the drug war, it is entirely easy to avoid by choosing not to abuse dangerous illegal drugs. Though you do have some point, there.

    As for “anyone can get a gun, anonymously, with little effort.” I would welcome background checks, as long as the information does not go into any sort of register or database. Given the very real danger (from the Left) of firearm confiscation, such a database would be used by government to come after people and steal their guns.

    You need to reign in those who are extreme on this issue like Andrew Cuomo and the legislators who say “Confiscate Confiscate Confiscate!”

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  3. What an even larger danger than military hardware policing our streets, is the paradigm shift in how the police view themselves – as not civilian – and insulating themselves from the public.

    Further, they’re taking overt steps to ensure that they will fall under decreasing oversight from the public.

    From WaPo:

    As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments.

    Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests. Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/06/26/massachusetts-swat-teams-claim-theyre-private-corporations-immune-from-open-records-laws/

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  4. “…it is entirely easy to avoid by choosing not to abuse dangerous illegal drugs….”

    How do you know that? Why is it up to you what other people do with their own bodies? They are obviously choosing to take the drugs, regardless of the consequences, so why have the consequences?

    I'll be honest, personally, here. I would like to see most of the guns confiscated and destroyed, especially the hand guns and high powered semi-automatic guns of whatever size. THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ANY TIME IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE, every educated person, who knows the subject, knows that for a fact. The closest we ever came to that was back in the 70's, and the country was far more open to it back then.

    OF COURSE, you wouldn't have to worry about what assorted governors might do (Cuomo has no such power) if we had a coherent national regulatory system. Background checks are not the most important thing here. They will not put much of a dent in gun crime. The only thing that will get the “illegal” guns off the streets is the ability to track the gun to the “legal” purchaser and hold them responsible for the disposition of THEIR firearm, like they do in Australia – a highly successful program that has NOT led to confiscation.

    You just want the right without the responsibility. The right to sell your gun to a criminal or a psychotic.

    JMJ

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  5. It's not a larger danger in and of itself, but it certainly compounds the problem and makes it starker. In the grand scheme, there's not much difference between between bullets if they're lodged in your brain. It's the laws, the scope, the power of the Police State that makes it so dangerous. Why conservative/libertarian folks disdain all government power EXCEPT for the most dangerous power of them all, the power that enforces all the other powers, is beyond me.

    JMJ

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  6. Jersey: I know that it is entirely easy to avoid by choosing not to abuse dangerous illegal drugs from experience. Just like I know it is dumb to jump off cliffs.

    “I'll be honest, personally, here. I would like to see most of the guns confiscated and destroyed”

    I'll be honesty, personally, that given the out of control “justice-industrial complex” CI wrote of in his most recent comment, and the real threat from Democratic politicians to steal guns, that more and more people buy guns. More and more people express the basic human right enshrined in the Second Amendment… and (to use you words) “get a gun, anonymously, with little effort.” Especially the hand guns and high powered semi-automatic guns of whatever size.

    “THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ANY TIME IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE, every educated person, who knows the subject, knows that for a fact.”

    Yeah right, Jersey. When you have one of the top Democrats in the country wanting to steal our guns, “it will never happen” doesn't cut it. We need to be vigilant.

    “OF COURSE, you wouldn't have to worry about what assorted governors might do (Cuomo has no such power) if we had a coherent national regulatory system.”

    We'd have a lot to worry about if this fascist dream you speak of comes about.

    “The only thing that will get the “illegal” guns off the streets is the ability to track the gun to the “legal” purchaser and hold them responsible for the disposition of THEIR firearm, “

    I oppose this 100%.

    “like they do in Australia – a highly successful program that has NOT led to confiscation.”

    Something has led to confiscation in Australia. It is a major problem there. If it can happen in Australia, it can happen here.

    You just want the right without the responsibility. The right to sell your gun to a criminal or a psychotic.

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  7. I am amused by the word games employed by the gun control lobby. I'm not sure what you'd call mandated surrender of certain types of firearms in Australia, then seizing those who fail to comply – anything but confiscation. A confiscation only enforceable by means of a registry.

    Like-wise for “high powered”. I might have thought that you at least, would know better than to employ terms that you cannot define or are knowingly false. When you look at the scary, black AR series rifle….be assured that it is not “high powered” unless your metric is a slingshot. This is one reason the gun control lobby has failed to realize their goal of disarmament…they are seeking to ban and restrict an item they know nothing about.

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  8. Libertarians have a strong stance against the police state too, that can't be denied.

    That they disdain government power other than a properly limited police and military role is because the federal government has a Constitutional mission to control this government sector, and not much else (and certainly not health care, banks, education, industry, etc).

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  9. “Why conservative/libertarian folks disdain all government power EXCEPT for the most dangerous power of them all….”

    As dmarks alludes to below….Libertarians have been by far, the leading voice against the militarization of law enforcement.

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  10. First source I found on the firearms confiscation, CI, mentioned 651,000 weapons stolen. I've also found numerous references to the resulting rise in violent crime there.

    As for “high powered”, CI, you know, it's all about big SCARY “assault weapons”, which are defined as being dangerous due to paint colors, handle locations, etc.

    ” This is one reason the gun control lobby has failed to realize their goal of disarmament…they are seeking to ban and restrict an item they know nothing about.”

    One would hope, CI. One would hope. However, the history of Federal action (or over-action) involves legislation on matters that the legislators and backing advocates know little about…. so much of the time.

    Ignorance combines with ill-intention for success, too much of the time. I think the main reason the gun control lobby has failed when it has is due the vigilance of those who defend our Constitutional rights.

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  11. Yeah, the “militarization.” There's a f'n hell of a lot more to it than that. Besides, you give me a list of ten prominent libertarians who are “leading voice(s)” against the Police State and I'll give you a list of ten thousand liberals. Get real man. Libertarians are leading voices of things like not paying taxes, screwing hookers, and wearing profane t-shirts in public. It's the liberals who always lead the way on the serious matters.

    JMJ

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  12. Jersey…also, those 10,000 liberals in your example will all want the police to take away people's guns. Yes, the libertarians have a much better record on this, by far.

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  13. Hey Jersey, guess what. According to sources ranging from The Young Turks and The Huffington Post to Reason TV, the Obama justice department conducted twice as many raids on medical marijuana facilities (reports of even senior citizens and AIDS patients being in handcuffs – reminiscent of the Brits in 1946 beating down Holocaust survivors with the butts of their rifles) in their first 4 years as the Bush administration did in its entire 8. So much for this individual being “pro-choice”, huh?

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