Police state USA?

A Nashville Sheriff's Police Bearcat. Sign of militarized police and maybe overweaning government.
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Is America turning into a police state? Is someone deliberately turning America into that? Several disturbing signs, each explainable by itself, form a chilling pattern. And the pattern might reach deeper in history than one administration.

Police brutality!

“Police brutality!” Americans have heard that since the 1960’s and arguably earlier. Back then, Hollywood movie and TV producers fought against the term. Most of their projects portrayed the police as a line of defense between lawful residents and criminals. (But one project, Shadow on the Land, prophetically warned of a real, formal police state in America. More on that below.)

But several times in the last few years, city and state police departments (including “Highway Patrols”) have made several arrests using far more force than they needed. WorldNetDaily reported yesterday on a case in point. A California Highway Patrol officer saw a woman wandering toward the median strip of a busy highway. He says he tried to get her to stop and she wouldn’t. But witness David Diaz says the CHP officer wrestled the woman to the tarmac and punched her face repeatedly. Then another officer came in and “helped” put the handcuffs on her. WND has no word on whether either officer will face discipline. The CHP blandly said this:

As a matter of policy, every time there is a use of force by our officers, there is a review conducted to determine whether the use of force was appropriate.

Broderick Crawford’s character in the old Highway Patrol TV show would have had that officer’s badge in a trice. But such things just didn’t happen on that or any other “cop show.” The problem: this isn’t television, “reality” or traditional. This is real life. And in real life, that officer was no one’s friend.

Nor is this the only incident involving either the California Highway Patrol or any other American police department or sheriff’s office. WorldNetDaily has dozens of cases in its files. They even coined a special tag for them: “Police State USA.”

Nor is WorldNetDaily the only outlet. Fox News Channel occasionally runs footage in which police officers chase and catch someone. Sometimes they “take them down” brutally. In one case, a scantily clad woman stole a truck, ran it into a fence, then got out and tried to run. Police tackled her and bore her to the tarmac. That arrest looked for all the world like a BDSM eroticum. And the news anchors, commenting on the footage, said not a word about how the police were treating this woman.

In a police state, the police do not serve the public but fight a war with them instead.

One would think police academies would never accept recruits that think more like soldiers in an ancient Roman occupying army (like the Garrison of Jerusalem in Ben-Hur and other “passion play” projects) than like fellow citizens trying to keep criminals’ heads down and hot heads cool. Now if the quality of recruits has suffered, recruiting officers aren’t doing their jobs. Or are they? Has word gone out to every police academy to recruit people for a capacity to obey orders and a mind-set to treat everyone they meet as an enemy?

Up-armoring the police

A Nashville Sheriff's Police Bearcat. Sign of a police state?

The police of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, owns and runs this Lenco Bearcat rescue vehicle. Photo: User Sdlewis at Wikimedia Commons, who released it into the public domain

Remember the Lenco Bearcats, finding their way into the police departments and sheriff’s offices of ever smaller hamlets and sparsely settled counties? Here’s a report of a similar vehicle delivered to the Salinas, California police department. A local citizen wrote in:

That vehicle is made for war. Do not use my safety to justify that vehicle.

He also accused the police of a cowardly stance, hiding behind this light tank to scare the people.

Another citizen identified the real problem:

Why would the ARMY!!! give something like that [away] FREE!!!

Why, indeed? Why, if not to turn America into a police state? This is an example of staging: putting equipment in place in advance for a big job. What kind of job needs mine-resistant armored vehicles? What force would need it, except a national gendarmerie, the instrument of a police state? John Fund, writing in National Review, said the same three months ago, in describing “The United States of SWAT.” (Recall: “Special Weapons and Tactical” squads have the same arms and armor as do the French Gendarmerie, the Italian Carabinieri, or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Such agencies earn the name paramilitary.)

Defending the police state

Blue Thunder mock-up at Disney-MGM Studios, 1999. Did the 1983 film presage a police state?

Blue Thunder, MGM Studios Back-lot tour. (Left view) Photo: User Cplbeaudoin/Wikimedia Commons, taken in 1999, and released into public domain

The police state, or the idea of one, even has its defenders. Today, a single chief or sheriff can deny his department is helping “stage” the weapons of a police state. But while those denials fly, liberal commentators do something they never did before: defend the police state, or at least the police. Back in the 1960s, when they were clearly out of power, they decried the police state. Against almost treacly TV projects like Adam-12 and the Highway Patrol show I mentioned earlier, liberal producers produced several projects to decry the military (Apocalypse Now) and intelligence services (The Killer Elite). They made one project (Shadow on the Land) that didn’t sell. Maybe they were too forthright in their predictions and no one would believe them. But they made another project (Blue Thunder) that sold well and got the message out about militarization of an ordinary police department.

(An interesting sidelight: ABC-TV re-imagined Blue Thunder for television as a sympathetic project. The show failed after eleven episodes. CBS-TV, from the same company that gave us the original Blue Thunder, produced Airwolf, about a military prototype helicopter whose test crew stole it and used it in a sympathetic way apart from the government. That show ran for three seasons. Furthermore, one of the two airworthy Blue Thunder aircraft from the original film appeared again as the “United Nations Special Service Unit” aircraft, in the TV mini-series Amerika. Maybe the people started to get the message then about an over-militarized police, and did not sympathize.)

Where is the Blue Thunder of today? (If they made it today, they could paint an Apache helicopter gunship in police blue and probably presage a real “Tactical Helicopter Offensive Response” project!) Where is the project highlighting, and warning about, mine-resistant armored trucks built not to carry cash receipts, but to do urban combat on American streets?

Instead, liberals, who once seemed to suffer from rhabdouchophobia, now try to promote rhabdouchophilia – an obsessive-compulsive, even erotic, love affair with the police, or with the concept “police” as opposed to the concept “citizen militia” or “committee of safety” or definitely “armed citizen acting in self-defense.”

A history lesson is in order. The rhabdouchoi, or “rod bearers,” of ancient Alexandria served as the first municipal police force in Western civilization. Oddly enough, they were slaves. The city literally owned them, yet still issued them each a rod and assigned them to control crowds at public events. Luke the Physician-Evangelist later used the word rhabdouchoi to describe Roman lictors, the official escorts of Roman Imperial magistrates (though whether lictors functioned as police officers is not settled). But the spiritual descendants of the original “rod bearers” became hired bully boys. Which might explain why American cities did not even have police until after the War Between the States, at about the time Sir Robert Peel created the London Metropolitan Police Force. (“Bobbies”? Robert. “Peelers”? Peel.)

We now see liberals seeking not to abolish the police but to supplant them, or at least take them over. Conservatives must ask themselves: can a free society have police? Or do police forces naturally tend toward a police state?

Perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps Sidney Sheldon and Matt Rapf (Shadow on the Land) and John Badham (Blue Thunder) also exaggerated. But police academy recruiting officers have to explain recruiting rookies who think and act like bullies. And procurement officers, and whoever in the Defense Department is “giving away free” mine-resistant armored trucks, also have to explain why towns and counties that could barely pay to keep those trucks up if they had to do it on their own, need them.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

5 Responses to Police state USA?

  1. […] Police state USA? […]

  2. Fergus Mason says:

    “this light tank”

    *sigh*

    No it isn’t.

    I know what a tank looks like, OK? That does not look even remotely like a tank. It has no tracks and it has no armament. And no, it can’t be easily fitted with armament either. Military MRAPs have a remote weapon station, but that’s not exactly a drop-in upgrade. This is an armoured truck. I assume the police want them because they don’t like being shot at. Want to know who to blame for your police buying these? It’s simple. The culprits are every person who’s ever pointed a gun at a police officer. Incidents like the Bundy affair have a price, and this is the next instalment.

  3. […] readers know the United States Department of Justice has prepared for martial law for years. They have placed up-armored Army and Marine surplus vehicles with police […]

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