Tuesday, September 16, 2014

San Diego school takes MRAP to 'store medical supplies' and 'teddy bears'

Are schools sending the message they're "at war with students?" This is crazy!

The San Diego Unified School District is facing plenty of criticism from the community over its acceptance of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle  -- an MRAP -- from the Department of Defense.

But the school and local police are saying not to worry -- the vehicle will be used for the likes of storing teddy bears and medical supplies, and not for conducted military-type operations, NPR reported.

The Pentagon 1033 program allows the federal government to transfer cast-off military equipment, including armored vehicles, night vision goggles and high-powered weapons, to local police departments around the nation -- leading into criticisms and concerns of a growing militarized police force. But the school district's acceptance of the MRAP has ratcheted concerns further.

One school board trustee, Scott Barnett, called the decision to take the MRAP a "misguided priority," and suggested it was better off with local police, NPR reported. He made the remarks in context of discussing the school's payment for the vehicle, which came in at $5,000 for shipment costs. The vehicle itself is valued at $733,000, but the school obtained it for free, NPR reported.

A day before the school district was to take possession of the MRAP, administrators and local law enforcement held a press conference to stave off criticisms from the community.

"There will be medical supplies in the vehicle," said San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn, in NPR. "There will be teddy bears in the vehicle. There will be trauma kits in the vehicle in the event any student is injured and our officers are trained to give first aid and CPR."

KPBS reported that school officials say they're going to store $20,000 to $30,000 worth of donated medical supplies in the armored vehicle.

The school district, meanwhile, also present artists' renderings that show the MRAP could be painted white and include images of the American Red Cross.

But not all in the community are happy with the school's latest buy.

"They can call it a 'love buggy,' a 'student patrol limo,' or a 'campus polio fun bus' and then paint it pretty colors," one wrote on the KPBS website, where the story of the school's new MRAP was posted. "But that doesn't change the fact it's a piece of military equipment that is unnecessary and sends the message that local officials are at war with students."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yes, Congress, our police have become a 'standing military'

Sen. Tom Coburn from Oklahoma perhaps said it best.

“There is no role in for the federal government in local and state police forces in our country,” the Republican said, during a recent hearing, the “Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement,” of the full Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Interestingly, his comments were followed minutes later by a statement from his Democratic colleague Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“I am confident militarized [police] tactics are not consistent with the First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly,” she said, reminding how Ferguson, Missouri, streets were recently overwhelmed with camo-dressed police carrying military-grade weapons and riding atop an armored vehicle. And one more point the Missouri Democrat raised: Florida police departments, for example, maintain among their equipment stocks dozens of MRAPs, or mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles. But Florida’s National Guard?

None, she said.

Her statement alone is shocking enough. Why are police obtaining, storing, maintaining and using cast-off equipment from the military – but our state-run military forces are not? Good question.

The militarization of police has taken front and center because of the shooting death of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, 18, and the subsequent Department of Justice civil rights investigation into the shooting officer, Darren Wilson, and into the response of police to street protesters. And the fact that Republicans and Democrats seem equally outraged at the growing threat from military-outfitted police riding armored vehicles through the streets of America’s communities is heartening. 

Nonpartisanship is a good thing, in this case, because it means the congressional talk may not be simply political talk. Action and reform could result.

But what’s not so heartening is that this issue is only coming to Capitol Hill and widespread national light now, after the white-officer-on-black-teen shooting in St. Louis. 

What about a few months ago, when the toddler baby “Bou Bou” saw his face and chest half blown off when police, dressed in SWAT gear, stormed the Atlanta home where he was sleeping and tossed a flash bang grenade into his crib, all in pursuit of a drug suspect? He spent weeks in a medically induced coma and faces years of more hospital treatments – and for what? The drug suspect wasn’t even in the home at the time, but was later located at another site a short distance away.

Or how about a few years ago when 26-year-old former Marine Jose Guerena was killed in his home when a drug-sniffing SWAT team busted through his front door and riddled him full of bullets? Guerena thought his home was under attack and he rushed his wife and 4-year-old son into a closet, while he grabbed his rifle. Storming police saw him with a weapon and fired – 71 times, it seems. Again, it was all a mistake. Police found nothing illegal in the Guerena family home. Guerena’s family was awarded a settlement of $3.4 million in 2013 – about $2.4 million of which was paid by Pima County taxpayers – but police involved in the botched raid weren’t ever disciplined.

Civil rights groups have chronicled dozens of other such cases in recent years where SWAT-type police with an overzealous mindset have mistakenly injured or killed innocent Americans – mistakes that are most often chalked up as little more than “oops,” absent any repercussions to the offending officers.

As Coburn said: “I am brought constantly and frequently back to the position of our founders, not only their wisdom, but their vision” and the vision of police is to “protect and serve.” Among one Founding Father who definitely would have been alarmed at the trend toward police to take on a more militarized look, role and mindset was James Madison.

The pertinent quote, from Madison during a speech to the Constitutional Convention in 1787: “A standing military with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”

How is this ominous warning not true today?

We have a president who brags about the power of the pen and phone to bypass Congress, an attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, who practically conducts surveillance operations on the press – and taps into Associated Press and Fox News telephone and email correspondences – to find out the source of supposed information leaks, and a federal Environmental Protection Agency that wants to rewrite Clean Water Act rules that clamp down on private property rights even further, with or without congressional permission. 

That’s just a drop in the bucket of executive overreach – of an “overgrown executive” branch Madison feared.

Now add in a nationwide shift in police departments so that officers dress like soldiers, train like soldiers and use gear like soldiers. The Pentagon’s 1033 program alone has awarded more than $4.3 billion of cast-off Department of Defense equipment to police stations around the nation since 1997 – and nearly half a billion in 2013 alone. Granted, some of that equipment is of the office-supply type. But the rest is armored vehicles, tactical weaponry, night vision goggles, body armor and Kevlar and the like.

Now send those officers into the streets, and by all appearance, they look like soldiers – full-time law enforcement agents who serve as a “standing military,” just like Madison warned.

Again, Coburn had a good point when he said, “I think we need to recenter where we are” with these police departments and the use of military equipment by civilian law enforcers.

Ditto. It’s high time to slow the tide of police purchases and free receipts of military gear, reassess what the equipment’s needed for, and restrict law enforcement’s use of their overzealous tactical responses to certain situations tied to terror – not simply serving drug warrants. Police shouldn’t have the power to ride MRAPs into our neighborhoods and through our suburban streets citing simply the need to keep themselves safe on the job. After all, a police officer’s first and foremost duty is to the public – to keep the innocent-until-proven-guilty American safe, and those who can’t keep those priorities straight have no business serving in the civilian law enforcement sector.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Restaurant owner fends off atheist attack over meal discount for church-goers

Why are atheists so afraid of something they say doesn't exist?

A restaurant owner in Arkansas has come under fire from atheists for offering a 10 percent discount to church-goers — but bluntly says: I’m not stopping my policy.

Steven Rose, the owner of Bailey’s Pizza in Searcy, said to The Blaze that he only offers a 10 percent discount to those who bring in church bulletins as a “marketing tool,” similar to that given to Boy Scouts or military members.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation disagreed and said Rose is violating federal law.
Rose, however, said he’s not excluding anyone and that he has no plans to discontinue his discount.

“It was just like giving a discount to the Boy Scouts or the military, and they made it an ugly thing,” Rose said of the atheist group. The Blaze reported. “From their argument, if I’m giving a discount to the elderly, it’s ageism. If I give one to police officers, I’m prejudiced against people who aren’t police officers.”

Rose continued, The Blaze reported: “Short of a [judge’s ruling], there’s nothing that they’re going to say to me that makes me waiver on what I believe,” The Blaze reported.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why are police dressed like military soldiers?

Armored vehicles on patrol, Kevlar-wearing, camo-dressed officials carting short-barreled rifles modeled after M-4 carbines, tear gas wafting through the air – sounds like something right off the streets of Iraq. But it’s not. It’s actually the scene that’s playing out in the suburban streets of Ferguson right now, with SWAT-type police taking to the residential St. Louis streets for what amounts to crowd-control duties.

Protests in the Ferguson neighborhood streets have been raging for days over a police officer’s fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, 18, ostensibly after a physical altercation that left the law enforcer feeling as if his life were in danger. And while looting has no doubt become an issue – and residents have ratcheted their acts of violence, alleging trigger-happy police were blatantly racist with their shoot-first reaction, cuff-later response to Brown’s aggression – an underreported question arises: Why are police dressed like military soldiers?

One quick and curious note is that emerging Ferguson photographs show the responding officers outfitted in Army green camouflage uniforms – the type used by U.S. soldiers to blend with heavily forested battle zones. But on a city street? The camo green shows a sharp contrast with the dull grey of pavement and drab tan of nearby concrete block buildings. Perhaps they’re preparing to fade into the small patches of grass that dot the city street intersections?

Mocking aside, the deeper danger is this: The camouflage battle-dress uniforms are simply part and parcel of the intimidation factor that’s trending among local law enforcers. Police are with ever-increasing frequency dressing and behaving more like battlefield soldiers. What ever happened to the old “serve and protect” model and mantra of civilian policing?

As Ferguson shows, that mindset is pretty much a thing of the past.

Most Americans need only look to their own backyards to see how those tasked with fighting crime are snapping up military-grade gear, largely through the Pentagon’s 1033 program that lets local law enforcement obtain equipment cast-offs from the actual battlegrounds of Afghanistan and Iraq. And the result? Our police aren’t local cops on beats, eager to serve and protect the civilian sector from crimes. Now, they’re locked-and-loaded, prepped for action and ingrained with a shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality that’s aimed first and foremost at keeping officers safe.

In recent years, civilian police have purchased a total of 435 armored vehicles, nearly 45,000 pairs of night-vision goggles, almost 94,000 machine guns and 180,000 or so ammunition magazines – as well as top-of-the-line weapons scopes and silencers. Welcome to crime-fighting, 2014 – and the many disasters that have resulted.

In 2008, a young mother named Tarika Wilson, 26, was killed by SWAT officers who broke down her Lima, Ohio, front door and began firing off shots, hoping to apprehend her drug-suspect boyfriend in the process. Wilson’s 14-month-old son, whom she was holding at the time, was also injured in the gunfire.

In 2011, SWAT officers seeking another drug suspect in Framingham, Massachusetts, forced their way into a home with a battering ram and flashbang grenade, mistakenly discharging a weapon in the process that killed a 68-year-old grandfather of 12 – an elderly gentleman who wasn’t even suspected of any drug crime.

In 2014, SWAT officers botched yet another search for drugs when they threw a flashbang grenade into a home outside Atlanta that mistakenly landed in a toddler’s crib – and blew half his face and chest off. The boy, dubbed “Baby Bou Bou,” spent weeks in a hospital in a medically induced coma – while Rambo officers issued a lame apology, after they learned their suspect wasn’t even in the house at the time of the raid.

And in July 2014, a mother and daughter from California announced they were suing the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for a violent SWAT storming that took place in 2010. Among their claims: SWAT riddled the then-17-year-old daughter’s legs with bullets and shot and killed their dog. The violence was needless. Once again, the suspect sought by SWAT didn’t even live in the home at the time of the raid.

This is just a drop in the bucket of the atrocities that have occurred at the hands of overzealous police with warrior mentalities – police who aren’t even seeking suspects accused of the types of crimes that reasonable minds would see as warranting such dramatic searches and seizures. Moreover, many of the suspects aren’t even where police intelligence places them. When does it end?

At what point do local county government officials – with the power of the purse strings – decide that enough innocents have died at the hands of those who are supposed to serve and protect, and vote to deny military-type equipment and weaponry to their local police departments? More than lives are being lost from this alarming police militarization trend.

Our Constitution, and its specific rights to be safe and secure in one’s home and possessions, and to be considered innocent until proven guilty – two ideals that a shoot-first policy doesn’t uphold – are being rapidly scratched from our legal process. The spotlight of SWAT-type tactics may now be on Ferguson. But it really belongs on the backyards and residential streets around our nation – on the thousands of communities that serve as home to these same type of police agencies that are currently commandeering St. Louis.

Read more here: Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/08/why-are-cops-dressed-like-military-soldiers/#Eqvb007GLvSetAG0.99

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Is this the feds' next Cliven Bundy moment?

Word is the small town of Murrieta, Calif., is about to become the country’s next constitutional crisis.

That’s because armed federal agents are reportedly set to converge on the town, prepped – meaning locked and loaded, dressed in riot gear – to pressure local protesting citizens to go home, keep quiet and let the good illegal immigrants from Central America be bused in and deposited. If true, this could be the worst crisis of constitutional proportions since – well, since early April, when armed agents with the Bureau of Land Management took up spots outside Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s property to try and force him, at gunpoint, to pay his bill.

Upon second thought, April’s not that far back.

An American citizen could actually start to get a bit paranoid that the feds are finding it far too easy these days to take up arms against those who -- in strictest constitutional sense -- are the employers. As John Henry, a Murrieta resident for more than 20 years, described to Breitbart Texas: “We’re being told that federal marshals or ICE will be here in the next few days and that they are bringing riot gear. They’re apparently going to be blocking off the street with concrete blockades so that no vehicles can get through. The [nearby] River County Sheriff’s Department showed up … and brought a huge watch tower that shoots up into the air 35 feet.”

Another resident of the nearby town of Temecula said in the same media report that he was told by local police officers the situation was “going to get ugly” and that officers bearing shields and decked in riot gear are going to be used to quell the crowd.

Murrieta’s crime?

Daring to keep criminals in the form of illegal immigrants from overriding their community.

The town’s not exactly equipped to handle the inflow of illegals. As Mayor Alan Long described it on Fox News on Monday, Murrieta’s a sleepy “bedroom community of 106,000” and now, “all of a sudden, the world showed up at our door step.” And residents – rightly so – are concerned. Some of the bus riders are sick and diseased, lighting from bus steps to hospital emergency room care in seeming seamless motion. All are illegal. And tempers at the protest site are flaring.

Now add to the mix federal agents in riot gear.

Is this the government’s next Cliven Bundy moment?

President Obama, meanwhile, refuses to visit the site of the chaos, issuing only campaign-style pronouncements from the safe distance of Washington, D.C., of the “humanitarian crisis” nature of the situation – referring, of course, to the children. And the White House just insisted its goal at the border was to control the flow and apprehend those who are found to have entered illegally. Yet federal authorities are reportedly sending armed agents to ensure the buses of illegals are allowed access to Murrieta?

This has all the makings of a disastrous episode in American history and one lesson – as we all pray for a peaceful resolution in the community and with the entire border chaos – can nonetheless be found in this quote from Richard Henry Lee, a member of the first U.S. Senate of the United States, who said in 1788: “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms.”

The modern day meaning is clear. If the federal government is embarking on some sort of trend to take up arms against protesting American people, then perhaps the American people should respond with a quiet, yet bold, message of their own – and simply buy more guns.