On The Front Lines
John W. Whitehead to Appear in ‘The Root: Excessive Force’ Documentary on TheBlazeTV (5/21, 5 pm ET), to Discuss Loss of Civil Liberties in a Police State
NEW YORK, N.Y.—Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead will appear in “The Root: Excessive Force,” a special documentary hosted by Glenn Beck about what happens to civil liberties when the government favors police state tactics such as lockdowns, SWAT team raids, and mass surveillance. “The Root: Excessive Force” will air at 5 pm EST on May 21, 2015, TheBlazeTV. The airing of the documentary coincides with the Obama administration’s release of a 120-page “Task Force on 21st Century Policing” report and the announcement that the president will limit some of the military weapons being passed along to local police departments.
“It remains to be seen whether this overture on Obama’s part, coming in the midst of heightened tensions between the nation’s police forces and the populace they’re supposed to protect, opens the door to actual reform or is merely a political gambit to appease the masses all the while further acclimating the populace to life in a police state,” stated Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Certainly, on its face, the ban does nothing to roll back the deadly menace of overzealous police agencies corrupted by money, power and institutional immunity. And it certainly fails to recognize the terrible toll that has been inflicted on our communities, our fragile ecosystem of a democracy, and our freedoms as a result of the government’s determination to bring the war home.”
Congress launched the 1033 Program in the 1980s to allow the Department of Defense to transfer surplus military goods to state and local police agencies. The 1033 program has grown dramatically, with some 13,000 police agencies in all 50 states and four US territories currently participating. In 2012, the federal government transferred $546 million worth of property to state and local police agencies. This 1033 program allows small towns like Rising Star, Texas, with a population of 835 and only one full-time police officer, to acquire $3.2 million worth of goods and military gear from the federal government over the course of fourteen months. Military equipment sent to small towns has included high-powered weapons, assault vehicles and tactical gear. However, after it was discovered that local police agencies were failing to keep inventories of their acquired firearms and in some cases, selling the equipment for a profit, the transfer of firearms was temporarily suspended until October 2013. Police agencies have also been given a variety of other toys and gizmos, including “aircraft, boats, Humvees, body armor, weapon scopes, infrared imaging systems and night-vision goggles,” not to mention more general items such as “bookcases, hedge trimmers, telescopes, brassieres, golf carts, coffee makers and television sets.”
In addition to equipping police with militarized weapons and equipment, the government has also instituted an incentive program of sorts, the Byrne Formula Grant Program, which awards federal grants based upon “the number of overall arrests, the number of warrants served or the number of drug seizures.” A sizable chunk of taxpayer money has kept the program in full swing over the years. The Clinton administration funded the program with about $500 million. By 2008, the Bush administration had reduced the budget to about $170 million, less out of concern for the militarization of police forces and more to reduce federal influence on law enforcement matters. However, Obama boosted the program, using the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to inject $2 billion into the program. As a result of local police forces receiving militarized equipment and grants, heavily armed SWAT teams have also been increasingly used to carry out routine police procedures such as routine search warrants. Consequently, SWAT team raids, which once numbered a few thousand per year in the 1980s, have grown to over 80,000 per year.