The news is out: [When US police flooded the streets around the country to confront protesters two weeks ago, for many it appeared like the army had deployed, with camouflage uniforms and combat gear, heavily armored anti-mine vehicles, and high-powered assault weapons.
That’s not by accident. For years the US Defense Department has been handing its surplus equipment over for free to police departments — and the departments, large and small, have reveled in it.
Since 1997, the US military has distributed used and new equipment ranging from handguns to helicopters to armored vehicles, worth around $8.6 billion, to more than 8,000 federal, tribal and local police forces, according to the US Congress.
Critics say it has been part of the overall militarization of the police, and helped fuel mass nationwide demonstrations against police abuse and deadly tactics that began after the May 25 killing of a handcuffed African American, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer.
As soon as protests began in Minneapolis, the city’s troubled police department rolled out armored vehicles appearing more suited to Middle East battlefields.
Other large cities have them too, but also small towns.
In a country where many people have their own guns and where schools have suffered mass shootings, even local education districts are taking advantage of the Pentagon’s handouts.
The 47 primary and secondary schools of the Bay District in Panama City, Florida acquired no less than 27 assault rifles and two mine-resistant armored vehicles in 2012 and 2013.]
Worse than the fact that police departments have been preparing for years to go to war against civilians is the notion that many people don’t see anything wrong with that.