On the front page of the RDR, Friday, June 16, we were treated to a picture of a “SWAT truck” that was getting needed repairs. It was actually a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, undoubtedly obtained from the U.S. military somehow. My question is, “What the heck does our police department need a vehicle like that for?” Why pay for fuel and repairs for a vehicle we don’t need? When was the last time our police force needed mine resistance? When was the last time our police dealt with an ambush? Militarizing our police force in this way will lead to militarizing our police force in other ways.
A member of a military force, by definition, is engaged in confrontations with other military forces, including wars. A police force is designed to “protect and serve” a civilian population. Police departments that carry a military outlook with them to interactions with civilians seem to end up abusing their power. Look at the Albuquerque Police Department as an example. They have a military outlook, complete with military equipment and military weapons, and it has resulted in lots of police shootings (and a lot of expensive lawsuits the city has settled) and a lack of ability to deal with run-of-the-mill crimes like car theft and domestic abuse. Their culture of violence has gotten them in trouble with the Department of Justice, too, with a consent decree to help the police become more responsive to and less punitive toward the citizens of Albuquerque. Do we really want Roswell to become more like Albuquerque?
The Obama administration put a stop to transferring military equipment to police departments to help lessen militarization of police forces and support better relationships between police and citizens. The Trump administration has ended that policy. But just because Roswell can have military weapons, vehicles and equipment does not mean Roswell should have them. We have no need for those things. They will move our police force in a confrontational direction, which would be very bad for the safety of our citizens. We’re not there yet, despite owning a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, and should not support policies that move us in that direction.
A militarized police force would be a bigger threat to Roswell citizens than our criminals are. Please, do not be so scared by crime reports that you give up your civil rights to a military force. Even worse, don’t be so scared you give up other people’s civil rights to a military force. Just because police shooting victims nationwide are mostly people of color does not mean that Anglos should not worry about a militarized police force. Niemoller said, “First they came for the socialists and I was not a socialist …” Democracy requires a little courage from people to stand up for the rights of all citizens. Let’s get rid of our “SWAT vehicle” and keep a police force committed to serving citizens.