Friday, August 15, 2014

Thanks, Uncle Sam! Surveying Middle Tennessee's Military Toys

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 3:40 PM

Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., have been, and continue to be, mystifying and shameful.

This awful episode began last weekend, when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen who was allegedly jaywalking. That gave way to several nights of demonstrations. On one night, that included some looting by some individuals, but the protests, or at least the protesters, were and have continued to be almost entirely peaceful. The police, on the other hand, escalated the situation from the beginning, appearing at prayer vigils with German Shepherds — sound familiar? — rolling out the armored vehicles with snipers perched on top, and military-style uniforms.

Although law enforcement has since abandoned that approach, leading to a completely predictable calming of the situation on the streets, they have continued to appear simultaneously inept and corrupt. At a press conference this morning authorities released the name of the police officer who shot and killed Brown along with surveillance footage that allegedly showed Brown steeling a box of Swisher Sweet cigars at a convenient store. The strong, albeit insidious, suggestion was that Brown was a suspect in a robbery and that his alleged crime was somehow connected to his later confrontation with police during which he was shot and killed. But this afternoon, at another press conference, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson confirmed that, actually, the officer who shot Michael Brown was not aware of the alleged robbery when he confronted Brown in the street. So, nope. Just the jaywalking.

As disturbing as the specifics of the situation are, it's all the more troubling that many of them are actually part of larger trends. And among those trends is the militarization of local police forces.

That phrase is familiar to anyone who's read Washington Post reporter — and Nashvillian — Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop or, really, any of his work on the subject in general. But regardless of one's familiarity with the notion, images like this and this and this are shocking.

It turns out police departments in towns large and small across the country have military toys, including right here in Middle Tennessee. And thanks to The New York Times we can tell you all about them. Here's what Davidson County and a few surrounding counties have received from the feds since 2006, thanks to a program that funnels surplus war gear from the Department of Defense to your backyard.

Davidson County:
Assault rifle: 365
Body armor pieces: 153
Pistol: 23
Helicopter: 4
Night vision pieces: 4
Other armored vehicles: 2
Mine-resistant vehicles: 1

Williamson County
Assault rifle: 69
Pistol: 2
Mine-resistant vehicles: 1

Wilson County:
Assault rifle: 19
Body armor pieces: 48
Pistol: 5
Night vision pieces: 4
Other armored vehicles: 2
Mine-resistant vehicles: 1

Rutherford County:
Assault rifle: 40
Night vision pieces: 25
Mine-resistant vehicles: 2

Also, according to the Times data, Shelby County has three grenade launchers. You can check out the whole country here.

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