New Hampshire State Legislator Hopes To Push Back Against Police Militarization With New Bill

from the legislative-trench-warfare dept

The militarization of law enforcement agencies is a worrying development. It's not necessarily new. Law enforcement agencies have been converting police departments into quasi-military outfits for years, most of it spurred on by the over-deployment of SWAT teams to handle basic arrests and take down ever-so-dangerous marijuana users.

The push has become a shove in the last decade or so, as the government has handed out grants to purchase military-grade vehicles and equipment, when not just simply handing over the keys to something like Lenco's BearCat to any PD that requests one.


Not pictured: any logical reason a town of 42,000 should have a bulletproof assault vehicle

A New Hampshire state representative, J.R. Hoell, is trying to push back against this and further separate our military and law enforcement entities.
Enter State Representative J.R. Hoell, a libertarian Republican who represents Dunbarton, NH, just outside of Concord. Hoell recently introduced a bill, the Police Equipment and Community Engagement (PEACE) Act, in the state legislature.

The proposed legislation is now in committee. If it’s passed and signed into law by the governor, state and municipal agencies in New Hampshire will be barred from buying or even accepting free offers of “military style equipment” for police use, except with the approval of the assembled citizenry at a public town meeting.

That prohibition would include not just MRAPS and BearCats, but also things like fully automatic weapons or anything that is not “available in an open commercial market.”
Why is Hoell doing this? Well, it's because the city of Concord recently ignored its own citizens' wishes and allowed its police department to acquire a surplus BearCat.

Concord, NH has a population of 42,000 and has racked up three murders in the last decade. While its crime rates are higher than nearby towns (towns with populations far below Concord's), its rates are much lower than the national average. The Concord PD had a hard time justifying the acquisition of an armored vehicle based on local criminal activity alone. In order to persuade the city council this vehicle was a necessity, it had to conjure up an existential threat composed of anti-government activists.

In its application for the DHS grant to purchase the $258,000 vehicle, Police Chief John Duval listed the following potential threats to the safety of Concord, NH:
Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges…
More non-specifically, he added that various "anti-government clusters" also "challenged" the police on a "daily" basis.

When the news leaked out that the Concord PD was seeking an armored dissent-suppression vehicle, the response from the public was overwhelmingly negative. Activists collected 1,500 signatures against the PD's desired vehicle and presented that to the city council. This led to open public meetings in which many people spoke out against the militarization of their local police force, including a very strong speech from a former Marine Corps officer.


In the end, nothing the public had to say mattered. The city council approved the acquisition with an 11-4 vote. Here's how they justified the armored vehicle's existence in a town of 42,000.
[Liz] Blanchard said she was voting for the Bearcat because it was the replacement of an older piece of equipment and would only be used for defensive purposes. She said in the wake of the Newtown school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing attack, “we do need to be defensive.”

Ward 2 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic called the issue “a huge civic discussion” but said the calls from her district in support of the Bearcat were "ten-fold." She said recent murders and armed robberies in the northern part of the city showed that it was needed.
(Unless the Concord PD collates stats separately for the "northern" part of Concord, there were zero recorded murders in Concord in 2013 [and zero in 2012 as well] and only 20 robberies, which puts "recent" criminal activity at the same level it's been at for the last half-decade.)

Others stated vagaries such as recent school shootings and one council member expressed the sort of faith usually reserved for evangelical services.
At-Large City Councilor Marc Coen called the last four weeks “very interesting,” especially as he researched the issue and read about the concerns of the rise of the warrior cop. But he said while there were problems in other parts of the country concerning police abuse, he didn’t believe it was happening in Concord.
The Concord City Council apparently felt that "listening" to their constituents meant just literally listening to them. And then thanking them for their input, patting them on the heads and sending them on their way.

Fortunately, a legislator is looking to use the system to fix the system. If Concord's city council is indicative of the mentality surrounding the acquisition of military technology for local PDs, then those opposed to this sort of thing are screwed. The best defense this group could come up with was conjuring up school shootings and citing their lack of awareness in regards to the local crime rate. Hopefully, Hoell's bill will push back against the US government's tireless efforts to turn our local police departments into ad hoc military bases, especially when the justifications portray anti-government sentiments as a threat worthy of a military-grade response.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 3:28pm

    More non-specifically, he added that various "anti-government clusters" also "challenged" the police on a "daily" basis.

    Maybe that could have something to do with the apparent desire to arm the police in the same manner as the military is, a desire which sends a pretty clear message that they see the public as an enemy they need heavy duty gear to 'defend against'.

    Also, I would love to know just what he classified as 'challenging' the police, because if he's going to group people together into 'anti-government clusters'(and since when was that a crime?), I can't help but think it's probably mostly just people refusing to stop recording them, 'contempt of cop', and similar things.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 3:50pm

    A truism about any police department

    If you want to find the bullies, the psychos, the cowards, the liars, the thieves, the abusive, the corrupt, the worst and most disgusting -- look on the SWAT team.

     

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  3.  
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    sorrykb (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 3:52pm

    She said in the wake of the Newtown school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing attack, “we do need to be defensive.”

    Let's just say I go along with this argument, just for the sake of making a good faith effort to understand this city councilor's point of view.

    How exactly would an armored vehicle have stopped either of those events? Or been of any use whatsoever in the aftermath?

     

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  4.  
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    Nigel, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 3:54pm

    That town is huge

    Relative to the one 20 miles down the road from me.

    POP: 9,677 (2012)
    2 murders in 10 years

    Here is their version...

    http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20091123/NEWS/911239983

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 3:55pm

    "The best defense this group could come up with was conjuring up school shootings and citing their lack of awareness in regards to the local crime rate."

    lets hope they don't crank it up a notch to *staging* a school shooting. There is nothing insane and perverse enough I wouldn't expect it from these people...

     

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  6.  
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    droozilla (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:03pm

    Re:

    You say that like they already haven't.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:05pm

    just think of the terrorists this vehicle will dispose of!! i bet they'll be so scared now, they wont dare to enter the city! as for the police chief, like so many others, he probably sees himself as a figure head in protecting his town from all instances of fuck all happening!!

     

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  8.  
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    HegemonicDistortion (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:21pm

    I don't know what members of Sovereign Citizens or Free Staters actually do there that they find so dangerous, but Occupy members are just protesters (save maybe the FBI/DHS humint plants).

     

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  9.  
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    zip, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:24pm

    I'm a bit surprised that this bullet-and-bomb-proof "rescue" vehicle does not have a built-in rotating machinegun turret on top -- like several of the ones authorities unleashed on the streets of Boston recently.

    Because, let's face it, having just FOUR machinegun ports on each side of the vehicle simply won't cut it!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:29pm

    Re:

    Simple, no crazed lunatic would ever dare go into a gun free zone and start shooting women and children when they know a bearcat will show up with a police bull horn blaring "come out with your hands up."

    See it defends the police man just fine, the citizens on the other hand are not allowed to defend themselfs in the gun free zone.

     

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  11.  
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    zip, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Re:

    The way things are headed, there could be a day in the foreseeable future when police are so hated that they better be traveling by armored vehicle anywhere they go (Think Baghdad!).

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:43pm

    They've pepper sprayed pregnant women, shot or threatened people and their pets over false positives, and entered homes without proper warrants, and THEY are the ones who get military weapons while some such as "mentally defective" war veterans don't get any at all?

    And despite all of this, John McCain still wonders why young people don't trust the government. That's how out of touch the vast majority of politicians are these days. It's like they've learned nothing from/completely forgot about/trying to reinvent the Red Scare.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 4:46pm

    Bearcat

    The Design of the BearCat looks like a truck chassis with a armored passenger space, with internal stowage of weapons & other equipment plus a deep blue paint job. It looks massively overpriced at $230,000.

    The obvious flat bottom to the vehicle makes the BearCat Obsolete on the modern combat environment. the IUD's in Iraq & elsewhere blast up through the floor, if the soldiers are lucky the BearCat is disabled and rolled over. If the soldiers are unlucky insurgents will kill them as they exit the vehicle.

    Its Manufacturer in Massachusetts, Lenco Armored Vehicles, has found a new market with the closing of the Pentagon contracts, too bad DHS gives a thumbs down to FOI requests, a bit of investigation would turn up who benefits form giving away BearCats.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 5:14pm

    Small townships and large cities alike, across this great nation and the world need the iron fist of law enforcement ready and eager to bust your chops for what ever they see as needing a chopbusting. I say they need these vehicles and more, Might I suggest a few Apache attack helos ... maybe a few A1 Abrams tanks would put the fear of the 1% in those ungrateful peons. Why stop there, it is quite obvious that in order to keep the peace, every police station needs their very own nuclear tipped cruise missiles ready for deployment at a moments notice. One never knows when or where the next peaceful protest will commence, and it is a good idea to be prepared. Kno wadda mean?

     

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  15.  
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    zip, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 5:21pm

    Re: Bearcat - massively overpriced at $230,000

    Considering that virtually everything the federal government buys is *massively* overpriced, from the toilet seats to the coffee makers, the Bearcat at $230,000 doesn't seem like too bad of a deal: basically a $50 thousand delivery truck with *maybe* another $30 thousand worth of steel plating, inch-thick glass, and other stuff. So about a 200% profit margin then. Seems like a bargain.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 5:38pm

    Follow The Money

    Uhhh...maybe someone (or everyone) on that council are being paid - under the table, of course - to approve this purchase. Keep in mind that it's based on a DHS GRANT to cover the cost - plus a little, perhaps.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 6:43pm

    There are smart people in government, like the titular state legislator, but so many of them have so little self-awareness that I almost feel bad for them.
    It's amazing. They're so out of touch with reality that they're literally buying tanks to deal with nonviolent protesters. No hesitation, no second thoughts, just "we need to kill these people because they say we're bad guys".
    It's the kind of tyranny Americans used to enlist to fight against during world wars, except this time we're doing it.

     

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  18.  
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    RD, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 7:05pm

    "Anti-Government Clusters"

    The Founding Fathers of this very country were an 'anti-government cluster.' Had they existed today and been as dissatisfied with our current government as they were with the Brits back then, they would never have made this nation into the Great Nation it became, and would be rotting in Gitmo uncharged and branded as "terrorists."

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    RD, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 7:08pm

    Re:

    "How exactly would an armored vehicle have stopped either of those events? Or been of any use whatsoever in the aftermath?"

    Because....FEAR!

     

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  20.  
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    zip, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 7:37pm

    Re: "Anti-Government Clusters"

    But the founders of the United States had the revolutionary idea of a system in which the citizenry and the government would be EQUALLY armed -- and for the first century of the republic, they basically were.

    But now the 2nd Amendment is completely upside down. The Government arms itself with ever-greater weaponry while at the same time putting the citizenry on ever-greater arms-control.

     

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  21.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 18th, 2014 @ 8:27pm

    Re: "Anti-Government Clusters"

    Everyone knows, only terrorists are anti-government, you sure you want to idolize such subversive individuals? /s

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2014 @ 9:47pm

    defending?

    Who, or what, are militarized police actually defending? They are public servants, sworn to serve their communities; many have as part of their oath to defend and uphold the Constitution; what power they actually are accorded is by Social Contract with consent of the other members of the community they purport to serve..... They live and have families that are part and parcel of the community around them...So where does the disconnect come from? Where does the "Us versus Them" mentality derive? And why do so many officers buy into such a poisonous idealism?

     

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  23.  
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    Rekrul, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 1:21am

    Hopefully, Hoell's bill will push back against the US government's tireless efforts to turn our local police departments into ad hoc military bases, especially when the justifications portray anti-government sentiments as a threat worthy of a military-grade response.

    You can call me a conspiracy nut, but I think that military response to anti-government sentiment is exactly where all this is headed. They already eased the requirements for arresting protestors and there have been rumors that FEMA has plans in place to operate prison camps for troublemakers if martial law is declared. Frankly, I don't trust our government at all. They keep eroding the Constitution while giving themselves more and more power. This is exactly the kind of situation that the founding fathers were worried about.

    And if the world has become so dangerous that police departments need military style hardware, why are those in charge pushing to disarm the general population and leave them defenseless, unless they now see the average person as the threat?

     

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  24.  
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    Androgynous Cowherd, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 1:36am

    Welcome to City 17

    That thing looks an awful lot like the armored vehicles the Combine Overwatch uses to maintain repressive order in City 17. Dr. Breen would be proud!

    Meanwhile I think it's safe to assume that this is half a result of lobbying by defense contractors hungry for sales growth and half a quasi-conspiracy to create a turnkey tyranny. Even if there's no deliberate design to create a turnkey tyranny, between all of this muscle and firepower accumulating in executive branch hands at every level of government and increasingly pervasive surveillance (ALPRs, NSA wiretapping, PRISM, etc.) it will be easy for anyone sufficiently evil and motivated that gets to high office to just throw a switch and turn this place into The Land of Tyrannee and the Home of the Slave.

     

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  25.  
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    Just Sayin', Feb 19th, 2014 @ 3:27am

    You aren't looking at it very straight

    The issue here isn't that the police think that they need this stuff, it's that the population does as well.

    It's probably the biggest weakness of the US, for all the freedom and such, everyone is absolutely scared of everyone else, everyone believes that everyone else is armed, that every criminal is packing an AK47 and a bazooka, and pretty much they feel like their police force should be armed to "match" the threat. Yet, the threat is created by the people themselves, who buy the weapons in the name of self protection and then either sell them to criminals for case, have them stolen, or go postal and use them by themselves.

    The problem, plain and simple, is the people themselves.

    Trying to legislate a stop to it by stopping the good guys from being armed is a pretty funny way to fix the problem. I guess it's easier than facing up to the fact that the US constitution has a few basic flaws in it (like the right to bear arms) that people are using to scare themselves into a tizzy.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 5:15am

    Re: defending?

    "Who, or what, are militarized police actually defending?"

    The moneyed interests, of course.
    The 1% are getting nervous. Guilt induced anguish maybe? - nahhh.

     

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  27.  
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    Pragmatic, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: "Anti-Government Clusters"

    EQUALLY armed?

    Citation, please, mostly because I don't like the thought of my neighbor starting a keep-up-with-the-Joneses nuclear arms race.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 7:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    This day is not so far off.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 7:40am

    justifications portray anti-government sentiments as a threat worthy of a military-grade response.


    Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of "protesters = terrorists" stories lately and it scares me. Anti-government sentiments are not a threat worthy of a military-grade response. They're a wake-up call to get them to raise their game, damn it!

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 7:50am

    After what they did in Boston, im surprised they would even consider not arming even more cops with military gear.

     

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  31.  
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    Fail, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 8:33am

    Seems par for the course

    "The Concord City Council apparently felt that "listening" to their constituents meant just literally listening to them. And then thanking them for their input, patting them on the heads and sending them on their way." Lol being a person from Southern NH this is basically normal behavior. That's nice but we do your thinking for you.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2014 @ 8:39am

    Ouroboros?

    we need a armored truck to combat the anti-government activists protesting the purchase of an armored truck.

     

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  33.  
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    charlie4, Feb 20th, 2014 @ 3:29pm

    Occupy?

    Occupy is a threat? Seriously? To what? Overflowing city trash cans?

     

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  34.  
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    jerry wallace, Feb 20th, 2014 @ 11:48pm

    Re: You aren't looking at it very straight

    "the good guys" your full of shit and sound like a cop. You obviously haven't had your rights violated by one of "the good guys". fuck you cop

     

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  35.  
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    Bergman (profile), Feb 22nd, 2014 @ 2:12am

    There's a simple solution, if the government goes rogue on us...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Bergman (profile), Feb 22nd, 2014 @ 2:17am

    Re: There's a simple solution, if the government goes rogue on us...

    Argh, this site doesn't play so well with iPads.

    What I meant to put in the post:

    So what if they have an 'armored dissent suppression vehicle'? Armored dissent suppression suppression devices are much more compact and far cheaper.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RPG-32

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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