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.

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Comments on “New Hampshire State Legislator Hopes To Push Back Against Police Militarization With New Bill”

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36 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

sorrykb (profile) says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

zip says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

RD says:

"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.”

zip says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

Rekrul says:

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?

Androgynous Cowherd says:

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.

Just Sayin' says:

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.

Fail says:

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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