Pittsburgh police SWAT team members pictured in 2012. (File/UPI/Archie Carpenter) | License Photo
On Wednesday, American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 24 states filed over 177 public records requests with law enforcement agencies to determine the extent to which federal funding and support has fueled the militarization of state and local police departments.
Requests will include information on SWAT team weapons, deployment, injury rate, and funding. According to an ACLU statement:
"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."
ACLU cites ten cases where the use of excess force and weaponry demonstrate the need for investigation. In one case, police blinded themselves with a flash bang grenade and then mistakenly shot a sleeping nine-year-old.
Police in Paragould Arkansas had to pull back from a plan to patrol streets in full SWAT gear after public pressure mounted. The Paragould Police Chief had said he expected most people stopped would be innocent of any crime, but claimed it was the civilian's responsibility to "prove" innocence.
In 2012, police in New Hampshire received federal funds for a counter-attack vehicle, citing "terrorism" to the Department of Homeland Security, and asking "what red-blooded American cop isn't going to be excited about getting a toy like this?"