Tuesday Bag o’ Militarization

bag of swatI’ve been thinking about the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt, and what seems to me a colossal overreaction by the authorities. If what I’ve heard is true, the FAA suspended flights into and out of Boston, Amtrak stopped train service, and even Greyhound quit running. The city shut down ferry, subway, taxi, and bus transit. Businesses (except, hilariously, for donut shops) were told to shutter their doors. Residents of Watertown were ordered to stay inside, and judging by the empty (except for law enforcement) streets we saw on TV, willingly complied.

Chickenshit? Common sense? I don’t know. I wasn’t there and no one consulted me. But it seemed way out of proportion to me. Despite the media’s best efforts to turn Boston into another 9/11, it was clear all along the bombings were amateur terrorism, most likely homegrown. Sure, there were two armed men on the run, but when aren’t there armed men on the run, in any city, at any time?

And now I’m thinking about police militarization. If you’re not an inner-city minority or suspected drug dealer, you rarely encounter your local SWAT division, but let me tell you, they’ve been busy amassing military weapons and equipment, and they appear to be ready for almost anything. Boston gave us a glimpse into just how militarized they’ve become:

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What the hell? If you’re from Belfast or Grozny, a scene like this might make you feel at home, but I don’t think most Americans are ready for it. And yet it’s been happening right under our noses. What scares me is the thought that when law enforcement agencies have military hardware, firepower, and training, they’ll inevitably cook up reasons to use it.

On to happier cities and times, and a bit of local color. Last week I wrote about walking in downtown Tucson on the night of the Boston bombings. Tucson still feels like a quiet, peaceful city. Sure, local law enforcement has a SWAT division, probably a couple of tanks as well, but so far they’re out of sight and law-abiding mind. And long may it stay that way. Here are a couple of photos from our walk last night:

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Our friend Angie, visiting from Tampa
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Donna and me with the kids

© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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