Militarised Police

In his drive to undo every single Obama policy, Trump has lifted restrictions on police getting military combat gear. This ban was put in place after images came out of the militarised response to protests in Ferguson. The problem with police having military gear is that they will use it in interactions with civilians.

Without a doubt, this is a national issue. However, it is also a local issue. Every police force has it’s own rules about what it can and can’t purchase. Your city can direct it’s police not to buy military hardware.

Many cities are organised into districts, so that every district elects a council member. I used google and my city’s web pages to find my district and from there, found the phone number for my council member’s office. The following is roughly what I said:

Hello, I am a registered voter in [District X] and I’m calling because Trump has just lifted the ban on police forces acquiring military hardware. I’d like to ask that our city police do not get an military equipment and get rid of any military equipment that they might already have.

I vote in Berkeley, and the person answering the phone had not heard of the new rules and was unhappy to hear of them. She assured me that my council member was in agreement and expressed hope that the whole council would feel similarly. It may seem like it’s unnecessary to make this call in Berkeley, but my concern was that some people might think that military kit would be an appropriate way to respond to the fascist violence that’s been rising in the city. However, I would argue that the danger of fascism is part of why we must ensure our police are de-militarised.

Because local politics are smaller scale, our voices are much more easily heard than they are in national politics. Calling about this issue can help make a difference in your community. Moreover, this does have a national effect. Cities refusing this hardware will help repudiate Trump. And keep our cities safer from police overreaction.

for more about local police reforms and reducing police violence, check out the excellent group Campaign Zero.

Write Letters

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I am writing to ask that congress investigate whether the president has violated Posse Comitatus. I’ve just read, in the Army Times, that an infantry brigade has been deployed domestically on a permanent mission. This would seem to be in direct violation of H.R. 4986, Section 1068, signed into law on 28 January 2008, which restored the Posse Comitatus to it’s original wording. I believe strongly that the army should not be used domestically and that the president should obey the law. I hope that congress will take action on this issue.

The Army Times article is here:

Thank you for your time,
Céleste Hutchins

Posse Comitatus was a law passed in 1878 which prohibited using the Army for domestic law enforcement. There’s a lot of reasons that this is a good idea. Police Officers, for all their short comings, are employed by the area that they police and are subject to review by several layers of government. The National Guard is under the control of the governor of their home state and generally only deployed in emergencies. They are under review by the national government in addition to the state government. And really, they only ever should be mobilized during emergencies.
Police Officers, ideally, are trained in doing police work. Recently, they’ve been toying with becoming a military force, but their job is supposed to be public safety, which means that they use force only as a last resort and use non-lethal force whenever possible. The army’s job is to kill people. They are trained to be an occupying force. In the army, to “pacify” a situation means to kill everybody who is upset about it. People who have been doing a lot of killing overseas are not really the best folks to do police work at home or anywhere. Furthermore, the army’s chain of command goes up to the Commander in Chief. George Bush. They are loyal to the president.
Deploying the Army domestically is a violation of an important law. This is a blatantly illegal act. Their mission is contrary to our democracy. Action must be taken.