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ACLU announces campaign to investigate increasingly urbanized militarism in the US

March 7, 2013

American neighborhoods are increasingly being policed by cops armed with the weapons and tactics of war,” says the ACLU.

This is nothing new for communities of color, immigrants and people who have been engaged in resisting state repression and global capitalism, but it is becoming more apparent to more and more people as local police departments are now using or signing up for drones.jus13-tdnt-landingpg-town-rel2

According to the ACLU:

Federal funding in the billions of dollars has allowed state and local police departments to gain access to weapons and tactics created for overseas combat theaters – and yet very little is known about exactly how many police departments have military weapons and training, how militarized the police have become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend. It’s time to understand the true scope of the militarization of policing in America and the impact it is having in our neighborhoods. On March 6th, ACLU affiliates in 23 states filed over 255 public records requests with law enforcement agencies and National Guard offices to determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments. Stay tuned as this project develops.

Yesterday, the Michigan branch of the ACLU announced that Michigan and affiliates in 22 other states simultaneously filed 255 public records requests today to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

Through federal grant programs, state and local police departments have virtually unlimited access to military equipment and training at no cost,” said Sarah Mehta, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. “Although these wartime tools and tactics are free for cops, they come at great cost to communities.”

ACLU of Michigan filed five public records requests with police departments in Flint, Dearborn, Detroit and with the Michigan State Police to seek information on:

1) The use of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Teams, including:

Number and purpose of deployments0616-drones-over-america.jpg_full_600

Types of weapons used during deployments

Injuries sustained by civilians during deployments

Training materials

Funding sources

2) The use of cutting edge weapons and technologies, including:

GPS tracking devices

Unmanned aerial vehicles (“drones”)

Augmented detainee restraint (“shock-cuffs”)

Military weaponry, equipment, and vehicles obtained from or funded by federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and/or Homeland Security

A separate request, filed with the Michigan National Guard, seeks information regarding:

  • Cooperative agreements between local police departments and the National Guard counter-drug program
  • Incidents of National Guard contact with civilians

Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for ACLU’s Center for Justice. “We’ve seen examples of this in several localities, but we don’t know the dimensions of the problem.”

In addition to the ACLU of Michigan, ACLU affiliates from Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin also filed the public records requests.

Once the information has been collected and analyzed, if needed, the ACLU will use the results to recommend changes in law and policy governing the use of military tactics and technology in local law enforcement.


One Comment leave one →
  1. March 7, 2013 4:44 pm

    Scary trend in the U.S. today – especially after the Obama Administration’s legal defense regarding the targeted killings of Americans abroad and NDAA.

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