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August 29, 2014 11:08 AM Fears About Gear

By Ed Kilgore

No matter what happens with respect to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the Officer Friendly image of police officers there and everywhere has taken a bit of a beating, and without question, the lighting rod for discontent is going to be the use of military equipment and weaponry. It’s interesting that the “police lobby” isn’t quite smelling the coffee yet, per this report from The Hill’s Megan Wilson:

Police associations are beginning a major lobbying push to protect their access to the military equipment that was used against demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo.
Law enforcement groups argue a Pentagon program that provides surplus military gear helps protect the public, and they are gearing up for a fight with lawmakers and the Obama administration over whether it should be continued.
“We are the most vigorous law enforcement advocacy group, and we intend to be at our most vigorous on this issue,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police organization in the country.
The Fraternal Order and other groups told The Hill that they are already meeting with lawmakers’ offices in an attempt to get a jump on the issue before Congress returns from the August recess.
Congress is facing a time crunch in September, with only a handful of legislative days on the calendar before members head back to their states and districts to campaign for reelection.
Police groups fear a stopgap bill to fund the government, which Congress must pass in September to avoid a government shutdown, could be used to stop the transfer of military gear.

Perhaps I am overestimating the extent to which Tea Party paranoia about concentration camps for conservatives and identification of overarmed police forces with Big Government has infected the GOP; maybe the FOP has the votes to stop the loss of war gear. But it might want to consider the alternative strategy of promoting better policing strategies in which the gear is used less often and more appropriately. This is actually something on which cops could partner with the Department of Justice, and maybe redirect attention from imagery to substance.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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