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NRA’s “Dom & Jerry” on Militarization of Law Enforcement

I’m not really pleased with NRA taking a position on this issue, so I’ll join the chorus of gun bloggers who have been condemning it. Bob Owens notes:

We’re giving real, selective-fire assault rifles and submachine guns to officers that mean well, but who were never trained to the point of competence, and law enforcement leaders are increasingly using these units in a wider range of operations in order to justify their expense.

I don’t know of anyone would would deny law enforcement officers the use of body armor, sidearms, or patrol rifles as needed in the course of their duties, as long as those officers are adequately trained. Unfortunately, many agencies are using military tactics and weapons in routine operations, where they are contributing to the risk of innocent people being hurt or killed, instead of serving and protecting.

Read the whole thing, because I think Bob hits the nail on the head here. On a humorous note, I had to add a like to the top-rated comment when NRA shared this on their Facebook page:

TopCommentNRA

I’m sure if I talked to someone there about this, they’d stress the importance of not alienating law enforcement. It is unfortunately true that we depend on law enforcement acquiescence in order to maintain our political power (politicians might be OK with going against the IACOP, but when the FOP has turned on us we’ve traditionally lost). Also, a decent portion of NRA’s membership are LEOs and former military. Despite that, I don’t think NRA needed to take a position on this issue. It may help with the cops, but probably a decent portion of NRA’s membership believes they are on the wrong side of this issue.

38 Responses to “NRA’s “Dom & Jerry” on Militarization of Law Enforcement”

  1. Alpheus says:

    As much as I detest the militarization of the police, I cannot help but draw one conclusion from it: if machine guns, tanks, and flash grenades are necessary for police officers to act in self defense, then surely, these things should be useful for ordinary folk, too!

    Having said that, after reading Cato’s report on what SWAT teams do, I would be completely in favor of disbanding SWAT teams, and of passing a law that says, in effect, if something is illegal for a citizen to own, then it should be illegal for a police officer to own and use in the course of their duties.

    Also, while I understand Sebastian’s concern that the NRA doesn’t want to alienate the law enforcement community, it should be observed that the best way would have been to remain silent on this issue–in part, because some of the members of the NRA who oppose the militarization of the police, also happen to be current and former law enforcement officers (as can be seen by looking briefly at the comments)!

    • Alpheus says:

      One other thought. Before the militarization of the police, it hasn’t been uncommon for the police to use interesting tactics to get someone out in the open to arrest them. Indeed, the police still do this when they know they need to arrest a particularly dangerous suspect!

      Indeed, this SWAT team fad has been demonstrated to needlessly put both the lives of suspects and the lives of officers in danger, when more peaceful, traditional ways of serving warrants would have worked just as well. (This was another point made by the Cato report.)

      • J says:

        “it hasn’t been uncommon for the police to use interesting tactics to get someone out in the open to arrest them”

        This is an important point. While I am WHOLLY against the militarization of the police, if they could borrow a little from SFOD that would be great and that’s because they have long sought out creative solutions to problems and shooting everyone in the face is not the default.

  2. Rydak says:

    To me the entire issue boils down to misuse and outright abuse. Not the existence of the units and their gear. Some people on our side loose their minds when they see a dept with an MRAP. This makes no logical sense at all. What are they going to do with it? Run over an unsuspecting citizen’s big toe? It has been de-weaponized,there is nothing on it. Its great source of protection, mobile cover and a means of transport. Nothing more than scary looking. And when you consider that the depts get them cheap, because the military is trying to get rid of them,. its a total bargain.

    I just think we should focus on demanding accountability and training. Which ironically, training was the main focus of Dom’s video….basically his entire message. Some of the abuses I have seen should be investigated and where appropriate charges filed. The abuse of the units and lack of training is what’s causing the problems. Not their existence. Attempting to strip protective gear from LE solves none of these issues.

    If you look at all of that scary gear almost everything is protective in nature. So what if some of their rifles, and I do mean some, as most agencies issue 16″ semiautos as swat rifles, have a select fire option. Most of those officers support their fellow citizens rights to own select fire weapons and most of them openly oppose the NFA.

    Yea, Id have to say, pissing off LE, one of our side’s biggest supporters, is not a good message. That said…NOTHING I said here should be taken as a free pass on abuse, each and everyone of those assclowns that abused and or killed citizens with swat, with the overuse should be held to account and proper training on when and how to use swat should be a national priority for police. Either learn to use the units correctly or disband it.

    • Patrick Henry disagrees with you… :-\

      Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.

      Please tell me which officers “openly” oppose the NFA. I did a Google search and could not find any police unions, organizations, or departments which advertise that they do not support the NFA and would refuse to arrest someone for violations of the federal law or the state counterparts. I’ve never come across such a department that makes it a matter of policy to refuse to enforce the NFA. You specifcally brought up select fire rifles, so which police agencies opposed Hughes and advocate for its repeal? Heck, the Fraternal Order of Police supported Clinton’s 94 AWB…

      If you read the link, you’ll find that Bob highlights the lack of training as the problem. Given that the patrol carbine has been standard issue for a decade or more, how many “second chances” should LEOs get to learn to use their toys properly?

      MRAPs are infantry fighting vehicles. The SWAT officers that ride in them are kitted up like mechanized infantry. Why do so many towns need a mechanized infantry squad or platoon?

      • Rydak says:

        Um…yea, “OK”

        So it appears that you will simply see whatever it is that you wish to see.

        Police have long been opposed to gun control and have poled that way many times. You can google until your keyboard wears out…you will NEVER see a police agency come out in opposition to any law, they all have policies against this. However you will see things like the poll on policeone.com and NY state police refusing to enforce the SAFE ACT, Sheriffs speaking out because they are elected officials and are allowed to have public opinions….police may not have such things while in uniforms. But honestly if you have to ask…you do not understand them. I can not help you on this one.

        You did not provide link. Honestly I don;t need one, as mentioned, that was the main focus of Dom’s video….TRAINING. duh

        MRAPS are infantry fighting vehicles? No, they are armored vehicles….not a single weapon on them. They are protection…nothing more. I hope your big toe does not get run over. :)

        • Renegade_Azzy says:

          “SAFE” and Hughes are 2 different things. Ive heard plenty of cops say they supported dealers and them having and owning FA firearms, but its not common to see support for you or I, of the lower caste, to have access to them.

        • J says:

          We have curtailed their use in Afghanistan. Know why? They alienate the public, they damage roads and property and they are difficult to maintain.

          All of these police derpartments are going to have some mighty fine looking hangar queens.

        • Bram says:

          How many regular American police patrol cars have been destroyed by mines or ambushes? How many police officers have died in these attacks? Against what danger do police need MRAPS to protect themselves?

          They are gigantic, expensive, gas-guzzling instruments of oppression.

        • I’ve been to Afghanistan and know what MRAPs are used for. Depending on the variant and armament they are either classified as IFVs or APCs. Either way they are light armored vehicles intended to transport mechanized infantry around the battlefield. Some departments indeed have mounted crew-served weapons on their MRAPs — Richland County in SC for example boasts a M2 50 cal. So sure, I’ll amend my previous comment to strike “IFV” and replace with “APC.” Does “armored personnel carrier” sound more cuddly to you?

          In Afghanistan we forbid many of the tactics used by too many US LEOs because they cause civilian casualties, alienate the populace, and in the long run increase the risk to our guys. We generally stayed away from “no knock” raids except for the worst of the worst insurgents/terrorists (actual AQ affiliated terrorists, who were rare). We generally preferred a “soft knock & call out” which is just what it sounds like — actually knock on the door and ask to TALK to the inhabitants. We curtailed tactics like “road dominance” with the APCs because it pissed off the locals when we ran over their kids or hit their cars with armored vehicles. We limited the use of non-precision fires, preferring to break contact, cordon, and call air to monitor the bad guys because it turns out that spraying a neighborhood with full auto fire pisses people off and kills kids. We didn’t rough up women and kids and had specially trained civil affairs and female engagement teams intended to interact with those key domestic populations to win their support.

          So if these rough & tumble tactics are generally inappropriate in AFGHANISTAN, why are they ok in the US, where the threat is WAY lower, the people theoretically enjoy much stronger protections for their civil liberties, and the officers trying to carry out these missions have much less training?

          From a fiscal responsibility point of view, these toys are not “free.” Do you know what it costs to maintain an MRAP, especially without economies of scale? DOD pays north of $60K per year per vehicle and enjoys the cost savings of running a whole fleet with dedicated MX. A single department is probably paying more. While the mileage is less, those who have worked on complex vehicles know that “garage queens” often develop problems too which are harder to diagnose (leaky hoses, corroded parts, etc). That’s the same cost as one beat cop or a few reserve deputies. Does a small town benefit more by increasing their number of cops by 10% (or more), or having a large armored personnel carrier that they will rarely if ever use? Or do we not care about financial costs because OFFICER SAFETY (and the fact that taxpayers will foot the bill)?

          Plus, are these departments getting the training to operate them safely? Before driving light armored vehicles I got quite a bit of training, from road safety to “rollover” drills in a simulator. Given that several departments have gotten into five-figure accidents with their MRAPs, I’d guess not.

          I just don’t see the need for the typical police department to organize, train, and equip a mechanized infantry squad or platoon. Those resources seem like they could be better invested in proactive community engagement, more beat cops, more reserve deputies, and individual officer training so they can use the tools they already have. Crime is at record lows and so are OTJ officer fatalities. If you look at how officers die, the #1 cause is traffic accidents. These departments would improve officer safety by giving their cops more defensive driving classes, not buying APCs prone to rollover crashes.

          On the plus side, I think the militarization of law enforcement does have big bonuses for civilians as pointed out above; if these tools are in common usage for “self defense” for LEOs then they should be protected for civil usage too. I should be able to go out and write a check for an MRAP with 50 cal autoturret mounted on it, no?

  3. emdfl says:

    “…depend on law enforcment acquiescence in order to maintain our political power.” What in the heck does that mean? Who is the “we” and whose “political power” is being referred to there/here?

    • Rydak says:

      Not sure I would have used those words exactly, But what I think he means is that the Police, not Chiefs generally, but the actual street cops, thru the FOP and other orgs, strongly oppose gun control and have their beliefs aligned very much along the same side as us. most are ardent 2A supporters. Politicians and anti gun nutjobs knows this and it pisses them off something awful. Because not only do they support 2A, but they also say that they wont enforce any more gun laws…etc. This drive Poles crazy….batshit crazy. What I think he means is that, as mentioned in my post, it would be a good idea to demand hard accountability and tighter policies on when and how the swat teams can be used.,….it may not be a good idea to go all cop hater on this and divide ourselves from a very important group of people who support us. Especially when the same result can be achieved without making NMEs out of each other and dividing ourselves.

      • Sebastian says:

        That’s pretty much what I’m saying. If the police turned against us, meaning we gun owners, we’d lose a lot of ground. Remember that the AWB passed in the 1990s largely because Clinton bought off the FOP by promising 186,000 new police officers on the street with federal money.

    • Sebastian says:

      What I mean is many legislators are scared to death to be on the wrong side of the rank and file police officers, which speak largely through their union, the FOP. I don’t agree this should be the state of affairs, but it is. Most voters aren’t libertarian and think highly of police.

      • Rydak says:

        And as stated above, I think we can still hold the over use and abuse of swat to account AND maintain our good relationship with police. IE: not throw the baby out with the bathwater and not kiss LE’s ass just because they are a powerful force in politics.

        It’s kinda like given a police officer a profanity laced ear job with a never ending series of ‘one upmanships’ and vague threats to his manhood on the side of the roadway because he gave you a ticket for an offence that you did not commit…OORR.. making a different choice such as speaking politely the officer’s supervisor with a valid complaint and proof that you were not the one and the officer has a vendetta against you…or whatever, insert your story here kinda thing.

        I think the concerns of horrific abuse of swat teams can be brought to pols, who control the money they get to buy these things and pressure them to make changes. Going on a cop hating fest will get us nowhere. And no….they will not give up their swat teams. Increased training and more stringent standards of use should be the message of the day.

      • Rydak says:

        I also think it will strike the public at large as kinda odd that we are screaming bloody murder to keep our scary black rifles but want to take away the police officers scary black rifle because some of them have an xtra notch on the selector switch. That along with the idea that we don’t like the way he dresses? It’s like I get the idea, we don’t want to see police go away from a shiney spit polish uniform and be all 1984 on our asses with Gestapo looking goon squads on every street corner. But we cant demand they give up swat teams because they look scary. Again…its about the use, the use, the use,over and over. They are abusing it and needs to stop right fricken now. But to get rid of protective gear because it looks scary? hard sell boys. Hard Sell.

        • McThag says:

          It’s because if I shot someone who doesn’t deserve it, I go to jail. For a long time.

          If a police officer shoots the wrong person… paid vacation (suspension with pay) then a finding that they followed procedures and return to duty.

          It’s more about responsibility and accountability than the form of the weapons.

        • Alpheus says:

          I don’t know about others, but I don’t just oppose SWAT teams because they look scary. I oppose them because they are overkill: they train in tactics that go well beyond what is proper for most police activities, particularly in serving warrants, and the tactics too often result in a civilian or a police officer getting killed, when a simple warrant service would have worked better.

          And it’s expensive to maintain the protective gear and special weapons needed for a SWAT team. While I generally don’t necessarily oppose the police owning them, and then keeping them in reserve in the case of an actual emergency (and not just to serve warrants), I don’t know if the cost of maintenance of such gear justifies the rare occasions such gear would be useful.

          Finally, I am deeply concerned about the Federal government feeding their military surplus into the hands of the police officers, both because this stuff is optimized more for combat than it is for protecting and serving the general public, and also because it’s yet another tentacle of the Federal government, reaching in and interfering with local affairs that the Federal government has no business in getting involved.

  4. Whetherman says:

    I am not clear on what the reasonable and prudent use of automatic weapons in a civilian police scenario would be.

    Tactically, automatic weapons have use defending against mass assaults — unlikely in a civilian scenario — or for tactical use, for fire suppression, to keep the enemy’s head down while your own troops maneuver for advantage. For engaging individual targets directly, it is ineffective. I’m not sure how appropriate auotmatic fires is in a civilian, populated area. It may be one example of where we must ask police to take a little more risk, in the name of safety for the population they are supposed to be protecting.

    As an analogy I’m thinking of the “MOVE” confrontation in Philadelphia back in the 1980s, when a satchel charge dropped on the MOVE bunker burned down an entire neighborhood of over 60 homes. Dropping a satchel charge on an enemy bunker is an entirely appropriate tactical military move. Doing it to one target, surrounded by an entirely civilian population, was not.

    • Alpheus says:

      I’m still skeptical about automatic fire myself, but after reading how one gun store owner used automatic fire to protect his gun store, I have concluded that it’s probably just a matter of training–training that both civilians and police officers should receive.

      In either case, I will still stand by the standard that if machine guns are good enough for the police, then they are good enough to own by civilians as well, and if civilians should be banned from the use of such weapons, then so should the police. There should be NO special exceptions for law enforcement when it comes to weapons!

  5. Rydak says:

    “I am not clear on what the reasonable and prudent use of automatic weapons in a civilian police scenario would be.”

    And the pol response to that is…

    “Well then,if thats the case, we see no response for the public to have access either…lets just ‘change’ some lines on this NFA thingy”

    Seriously…focus on the abuse and we will win. Get distracted into telling the police that they are nothing more than glorified meter maids and don’t need that gear, and we will not win broad public support.

    • Sebastian says:

      I’m more interested in making that argument to the courts than I am to politicians, and you won’t often hear me say that. I think judges are probably a bit more skeptical of cops than your average citizen. They’ve seen more. Not that there aren’t judges who think the cops walk on water (and a lot of judges used to be cops), but I think if you polled judges, they’d be more open to, say, the concept that cops lie, more than your average low-information voter.

  6. janklow says:

    you know, i understand the notion of not alienating police officers –i don’t know that one should strive to alienate ANYONE, really– but to be honest, no matter how many times i get told “the rank and file officers are on our side,” the police only seem to take public political positions in favor of the pro-gun-control side.

    now… maybe that’s just my local mileage and other peoples’ varies, not sure.

    • Bram says:

      Some of the cops I served with in the Reserves were very pro-gun rights and actually believed in the Constitution. I got the impression they were in the minority.

    • I think part of the issue is that other than elected sheriffs in rural areas, police LEADERSHIP is pretty anti-gun.

      So while rank and file cops may be pro-gun, their bosses (who talk to the media and pols) are not. And if rank and filers don’t toe the line, at least publicly, they will be disciplined.

      And most men will sell out their principles pretty quickly if their benefits, retirement plan, and salary are on the line. Especially if they have a family to feed. Sad but too often true. Even if they personally, quietly refuse to arrest people for violating gun laws, they will not censure or restrain their peers who enjoy going after gun owners, or turn on their departments for enjoying the fruits of civil asset forfeiture. The thin blue line will almost certainly hold.

      So while cops may claim to be opposed to SAFE act, it will be enforced. By Nov 2013 over 1K people had been arrested under SAFE Act. Many of these were already criminal under the old NY laws, but why is a cop who will enforce a 10 round mag limit suddenly going to draw the line at 7? Or 5?

      • Rydak says:

        Because, the guy who is stuck sending his neighbor or a fellow citizen to jail for ten years over an arbitrary number is finally starting to say “HEY ENOUGH!” “This is BS, I won;t do it anymore!”…and my entire point, everything I said is founded from the principal that we should embrace this. We know they cant speak publicly for or against any law…its their badge if they do. But they are finding inroads thru things like the NRA and are looking for other ways. Shutting them down cause they have a vehicle with heavy armor to hid behind the next time some wackjob goes all ak47 on their asses just because it reminds you of your days in the service….is gimp. Just my opinion. And it seems that those days of people shooting at the cops seem to be happening more and more and more now. The public sees this and will not join us in this “take away their toys” approach. Again, just my opinion man.

    • Rydak says:

      I do not have statistics and honestly I don’t need them. Large portions of police are ardent 2A supporters and NRA members. I meet and work with hundreds of cops and socialize with the online. I travel allot to LE functions. If you want to become an outcast and have nobody associate with you at a police gathering….start talking about the need for gun control. In fact it may even be dangerous to your health. They are not shy about it at all.

      Now on duty and off duty for that matter, it will be a long hard cold day before anyone of them steps in front of a camera. All depts regulate the officer’s behavior both on and off duty with regards to press releases or even speaking in a basic format about their job.

      Now we get to the brass tax here…lol. Chiefs of Police (of major cities). they are appointed politically. They know and are told in no uncertain terms, that they will march to the beat of their mayor or be replaced….by lunch time. And they only have only to look behind them to the cadre of depty commissioners see their replacements.

      • janklow says:

        oh, i won’t say i don’t know police officers who are very pro-gun. it’s just my impression that whether they’re alienated or not, they’ll still end up as fodder for anti-gun groups and politicians in the end thanks to those chiefs you mention.

  7. J says:

    The NRA should have stayed out of this. Plain and simple. I like the NRA because they are a single issue organization. This is not that single issue.

    • Rydak says:

      Na they should have addressed the issue and touched on the abuse and the need to restrain it only for true emergencies…etc. The message they gave was one of training. Which is also a crucial part of the issue.

      It’s also not a bad idea to keep the entire thing in perspective. Back in the day, the military had almost no experience of conducting raids into occupied structures. Pre Gulf One, that was not their thing at all. If a soldier took gunfire from a window…..that building came down. End of story. I remember reading how some of the elite Swats teams from LA were training with military and they were teaching lessons they learned to the military. This was about the time that our nations military started to take a more focused approach to things. vrs.. “Take that building down…and that one too….and that one over there also”

      So yea, I think its a good idea to focus on the pluses of swat and show, for all to see, the bad of it. Not just lash out at them with nerd rage….cause again, the public at large will not embrace it. never have.

  8. So it appears that you will simply see whatever it is that you wish to see.

    I guess one other question then for those who object to a characterization of these as “mechanized infantry squads.”

    What do you suggest we call an ~8ish man team equipped with a mixture of M4s, 37/40mm launchers, full auto light machine guns or carbines, and perhaps a scoped precision rifle (plus body armor, tactical communications, and load bearing gear) rolling in an APC?

    • Rydak says:

      You could call them “SWAT TEAM” or “ERT TEAM”…yes that would do nicely. They have been around for decades. Hell even back in the day they had Tommy guns and BARS…etc.

      Like I said before, throwing out military jargon and trying to make this about the equipment will not sit with the masses. Not even close.

      However, focusing on the abuse is the key. Its what we are enraged about, it resonates with everyone and is easily communicated. “What do they need that for?” is not a good campaign slogan. And its a question with many answers from many different perspectives and lines of thinking. “Stop the abuse”….thats a good one.

  9. Greg says:

    Why are the police becoming more militarized while the violent crime rate is dropping?
    Why do the police shoot so many people and puppies?
    Why does having a proscribed plant in your home mean that the police can violently invade the sanctuary of your castle and kill you in your bed? Or even worse, invade the wrong house and shoot an innocent man in his bed…

    In 2013 39 LE officers were shot and killed, while they were on the other end of the barrel killing 316 people. Some may be worried about alienating the police and their unions, but those police should be even more worried about alienating the public. Perhaps this is why they need all of that hardware, for the day the public violently turns against them.

    I was solid law and order conservative. Now I’m clearly in the f’ the police camp. Having my kid get his arm broken by a cop who outweighed him by 100 pounds and then my son being charged with assaulting a police officer when the police officer grabbed him and through him to the ground was the final straw for me.

  10. Burnt Toast says:

    WRT some of the above discussion of cops and automatic weapons, by coincidence,

    http://weaponsman.com/?p=16085

    (hope the linky works)

    WRT the MRAPs – they have a very specific narrow function which I haver never heard being an issue stateside, until it is an issue even one dollar spent towards the things is a dollar wasted –

    MRAP – Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected

    – when cops are getting hit with mines we can get into discussing cost effective counter measures.

    (not to say that RPGs are not an issue…)

    WRT “militarization” – cops either are or are not civilians and subject to the same rules, if the are not subject, then they are not civilians.

    Military or Civilian – pick ONE.

    If they chose military they should at least be subject to the same rules of engagement that the military is.

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