The DHS has been making purchases lately that seem to signal a federal fear of riots across the nation in the coming months. The obvious question is, what do they know that they American people don’t? A more enduring and chilling question is what will be the end result of America’s increasingly militarized police force?
PressTV reported this morning that the DHS has stated its intentions, via the Federal Business Opportunities website, to spend half a million dollars on 240,000 pepper spray projectiles, 100 pepper spray launchers and 36 “riot expansion kits.”
“The PepperBall TAC-700 pepper spray launcher ‘features full auto, semi-auto, or 3 round burst providing up to 700 rounds per minute, and is accurate to 60 feet with area saturation up to 150 feet.’ According to a video demonstration, the TAC-700 has a ‘strong psychological influence’ on the people it is being used against because it is so loud and sounds like an automatic machine gun.”
The equipment was designed for use in riot control situations, although the contract on the website states that the purchases are being made for training purposes.
The recent controversy is only the latest in a string of far more alarming incidents involving what many see as paranoid behavior on the part of the federal agency.
In February a ruckus was caused when it came to light that the DHS was training officers with practice targets featuring photographs of children, young mothers, pregnant women, and disabled elderly people who were depicted as armed with handguns.
The No More Hesitation campaign was supposedly designed to break down stereotypes associated with generally non-threatening figures, for the purpose of saving officers’ lives. However, judging by the ensuing outcry, the American people seem to feel there are good and noble reasons why civilization has erected these constraints around the lives of the young and the aged and the vulnerable. Furthermore, they don’t want those constraints shot down by the domestic task force that has been constructed to protect them.
Last week, it was revealed that the DHS is set to spend $80 million dollars on hiring armed guards for use at “public demonstrations” and “civil disturbances” in upstate New York. The information was acquired via another posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
But it’s not just the policy-makers at the DHS who seem to be developing paranoid habits and an irrational fear of the American people. In recent months, local law enforcement personnel all over the country have drawn fire repeatedly for actions that many insist constitute severe violations of civil liberties.
In August, Sarah Boaz, a Texas resident of Richland Hills, was ticketed for running a stop sign. The New York Daily News reported Boaz lost the ticket and failed to pay it on time. She expected to receive a late fee, but was shocked when a city marshal handcuffed her outside of her house one morning and carted her off to jail, where she was unexpectedly subjected to a strip search that left her overwhelmed and confused — and not a little indignant.
In a similar story, accompanied by outrageous surveillance cam footage, Dana Holmes is suing officers who she claims illegally strip-searched her after jailing her for a DUI arrest. However, the only thing that isn’t entirely certain is whether the search was illegal, since video evidence shows it clearly occurred. In the seriously disturbing clip, three male officers and one female officer jerk Holmes off of a wall and onto the ground, drag her into a padded cell and then proceed to remove all of her clothes.
“I just felt helpless and degraded … I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me,” Holmes told the local news station. “I just had all kinds of things going on in my head. I was scared and I lay there crying.”
Holmes’ experience is not the only instance of its kind. The Houston Chronicle reported in August that two Texas women are suing after they were subjected to cavity searches at traffic stops. The women were pulled over for speeding and considered the searches completely unwarranted and inexplicable. Thousands of Americans agreed, and Angela Dobbs, one of the plaintiffs, said she has received worldwide support.
Dobbs also said she’s heard from numerous other women who have experienced cavity searches after being stopped by state troopers, but who were too afraid to come forward. Clearly the outrage that Dobbs and Hamilton suffered was not simply a poor decision made by a rookie officer.
In an article for The Guardian earlier this month that raised questions about the 1033 program — an initiative that allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces — Michael Shank pointed to the mounting evidence that suggests the police force in America is looking more and more like the military.
“The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action,” he wrote, warning of, “the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.”
Someone is training law enforcement officials in this heavy-handed behavior. The question is, why? And what will become of civil liberties in a nation that tolerates these abuses at the hands of domestic officials?