Police state dispatch: "public safety" edition

Police state dispatch

by digby

Better stock up on body armor citizens:

Following a rise in violent crime in Paragould, an Arkansas town of around 26,000 residents, the mayor and police chief announced that starting this month police in SWAT gear carrying AR-15s would patrol the streets.

“If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, and check for your ID,” police chief Todd Stovall told a December town hall meeting. As if to render the implementation of a visible police state more palatable, Stovall assured residents that police stops would not be based on any profiling: “We’re going to do it to everybody,” he said.

Stovall also told residents he had not consulted an attorney before instituting the plan. HuffPo’s Radley Balko noted that Paragould is not the first town to bring in such measures:

Using SWAT teams for routine patrols isn’t uncommon. Fresno did this for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The city sent its Violent Crimes Suppression Unit into poorer neighborhoods and stopped, confronted, questioned, and searched nearly everyone they encountered. “It’s a war,” one SWAT officer told Christian Parenti in a a report for The Nation (not available online). Another said, “If you’re 21, male, living in one of these neighborhoods, and you’re not in our computer, then there’s something definitely wrong.”

They ended up cancelling two town hall meeting because after the public outcry the police felt there were "public safety concerns." Which is hilarious.

There's an awful lot of taxpayer funded quasi military gear just sitting in police stations waiting for some terrorists to move to town. It's only reasonable that they'd want to use it. I suspect that's what's driving most of this sort of thing: boys wanting to use their toys.

 The martial law aspect of this is the only thing that's really out of the ordinary. The general militarization of the police is nationwide.


If you live in downtown Miami, you've probably noticed something unusual in the sky the past few nights.

Residents have been posting videos on YouTube of unmarked military helicopters flying through Brickell at late night hours, creating lots of noise and a little concern.

The videos, titled "Miami Under Attack" and "POLICE STATE 2011: Homeland Security/ARMY Black Helicopters in Drill Over Downtown Miami," show the black choppers navigating through the high rises, hovering in place and flying pretty low.

But Military officials released a statement Wednesday saying the helicopters are part of a military training exercise focusing on operating in urban environments, but didn't give any specific details.

the training exercises, conducted with the support of the Miami Police Department, were being done at night to minimize the impact on Magic City citizens, the statement said.

"We recognize this training has an impact on Miami residents and we appreciate your support during this critical training event," the statement reads.

Uhm, what exactly is the "support" being given by the police department? I suppose if it's just logistics then you could just call it a really stupid, paranoia inducing maneuver on the part of the military. All over the internet conspiracy theorists are breathlessly reporting that there are black helicopters doing maneuvers over their city. (I have no idea if it's true, and it probably isn't.)

If this Miami event was some sort of "homeland security" operation, we have reason to be concerned. We don't allow the military to do domestic policing in America. Or at least we didn't used to. And maybe it's outdated anyway. With all the combat gear local police are wearing and carrying around, I'm not sure it makes any difference. An awful lot of police departments seem to think they're at war with the citizens.