Police Department Says It Would Rather Have A Good Relationship With The Community Than Cheap Military Gear

from the correctly-ordered-priorities dept

Here’s something worth reading: the Burlington, Vermont Police Department has announced it will no longer be participating in the Dept. of Defense’s 1033 Program. This program is the well-intentioned effort to somehow make use of excess/old military inventory. Unfortunately, along with desks, computers, file cabinets and other office staples, the government also allows police departments to pick up mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles, grenade launchers and other military gear — often at a steep discount that’s made even more inexpensive by Homeland Security grants.

The full press release by the says several things those within its jurisdiction need to hear, along with the rest of the nation’s law enforcement agencies (via Information Liberation)

The Burlington Police Department announced today that the Department has severed its ties with the much-scrutinized “1033 Program,” a Department of Defense initiative that allows aging military equipment to be repurposed for domestic policing. Until this summer, the Burlington Police Department possessed two military-issued night vision devices, which were the extent of its holdings under the Department of Defense (DOD) program.

“The militarization of local police departments is a genuine concern in our nation,” said Burlington Chief of Police Brandon del Pozo. “There are times when military-style equipment is essential for public safety, but they are very rare. Between our partners in the Vermont State Police and the Vermont National Guard, as well as the other federal and local agencies the Burlington Police Department partners with, we have the resources to handle all but the most inconceivable public safety scenarios. Amassing a worst-case scenario arsenal of military equipment results in officers seeing everyday policework through a military lens. When I realized what a small role the military played in equipping our police, I concluded it was better to return the items and let our 1033 Program memorandum of understanding expire.”

The Burlington Police Department has no plans to acquire tactical or military items beyond the types of conventional policing equipment it already possesses.

Mayor Miro Weinberger offered his support of this decision: “Today’s announcement cements the Burlington Police Department’s long-standing practice of avoiding the use of military equipment, in contrast to many other police departments. Our focus instead is on the basics of good policing in the 21st century: foot patrols, strong relationships between the officers and the community, and the use of modern tools to increase public transparency and police effectiveness.”

One thing should be clarified: the 1033 Program is by no means mandatory. “Severing ties” really means just deciding not to participate. The MOU may have expired but it could have run on forever without the PD feeling obligated to order anything from the 1033 catalog.

What’s more important are the sentiments expressed by the Burlington police chief. He recognizes that acquiring military gear only leads to a military mindset that turns public servants into an invading force. Even better, del Pozo recognizes that using worst-case scenarios as justification for heavily-armored vehicles and military weaponry is a bullshit tactic. As we’ve seen time and time again, local law enforcement will claim anything and everything is a “potential terrorist target” just so they can acquire cheap MRAPs and M4A1 rifles. Del Pozo isn’t going to take his force down a similar path.

The mayor’s vocal support of this decision is a pleasant surprise as well. Mayor Weinberger won’t be making himself any friends in other law enforcement agencies after calling them out for their (ab)use of the 1033 program. Hopefully, other agencies will see Burlington’s very public opt-out as worthy of emulation. But considering the latest narratives to take hold (Ferguson Effect, War on Cops) both paint police officers as under siege, it’s highly doubtful many will recognize the goodwill they could generate simply by treating residents as human beings, rather than enemy combatants.

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Comments on “Police Department Says It Would Rather Have A Good Relationship With The Community Than Cheap Military Gear”

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46 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Faith will never be restored… but its always very nice to see some good news though…

I just wish more police would follow these guys example.

Just as in all Authority, you should NEVER EVER HAVE FAITH in any of them. Even if they have had a centuries worth of perfect performance you still cannot trust or have faith in them for that is the very moment that corruption will be allowed to enter and destroy it!

Lets leave faith for the religious folk, it has no benefit when faith is pointed at humanity or ANY of its institutions!

Zero says:

Re: Re:

I completely agree. It’s always appreciated to hear about those situations when there are those such as this mayor and police chief recognize there are avenues towards repairing their image with their citizens instead of following the current narrative (war on cops, etc.).

I applaud TD for reporting this and those officials in their decisions. Perhaps other communities and media outlets will take notice by their example.

Faith in humanity is still at an all time low, but this is a step to restoring it. Awesome article

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

It is nice to see them understand the issues presented by getting new toys, the desire to find ways to get to use them.
Why talk to a subject when the pepperspray fogger is right there?
Why serve a warrant, when we can play dress up and roll a whole swat team to remind Mr. Jenkins burning leaves is illegal?
The best tool that officers have, is supposed to be their mind. Showing up dressed for a riot, changes the mindset of everyone involved. Bigger & better toys just crank everything up, when all that was needed was a polite word & understanding.

The other fall out from having to use the new toys, is finding ways to justify actions that shouldn’t have been taken. Protecting the ‘image’ is more important that reigning in a cop who has gone to far. More and more gets excused, and then the tears that the public isn’t supporting them. There is a disconnect that these actions are tied to each other, blaming everything but the real problems.

Accountability is required from both sides, the problem is for us acting like a jerk can end up with hospital stay. For them it at best seems to be a paid vacation to enjoy having gotten away with it again.

Jason says:

…we have the resources to handle all but the most inconceivable public safety scenarios.

Sadly, there are a great many people who spend far more time preparing for “the most inconceivable scenarios” than they do for situations that are vastly more likely to occur.

Still, this is a welcome event. Let’s hope more cities follow Burlington’s lead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

–Sadly, there are a great many people who spend far more time preparing for “the most inconceivable scenarios” than they do for situations that are vastly more likely to occur.

Exactly.
When less than 4K died on 9-11 and 30k+ die each year in automotive accidents our government chooses to spend a disproportinate amount of money on the lesser problem.

Maybe some day they will want to prevent actual deaths and stop wasting $$$ on anti-terrorism and direct it toward anti-automotive-fatalities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The war on drugs is a stupid waste of money and will never stop stuff abuse.

The reality is that controlling drugs and making some illegal does nothing to stop abuse. It does however create a need for a black market and the crime that comes with black markets.

If I could walk to the corner drug store and purchase my heroin it would put the street dealer or of business AND prevent me from getting some tainted shit that kills me.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Maybe some day they will want to prevent actual deaths and stop wasting $$$ on anti-terrorism and direct it toward anti-automotive-fatalities.

They can’t win! They pass regulations to improve automotive safety and it’s a socialist nanny state takeover that also takes money out of the pockets of hard working people by making cars more expensive. People still die in car accidents and they’re not doing enough to protect us.

Altaree says:

Throwing out the baby with the bath water?

I can see the Burlington VT police not needing serious military equipment, but why are they turning down the opportunity to repurpose cheap government office supplies as you stated: “along with desks, computers, file cabinets and other office staples”? Reading the Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1033_program indicates that one of the big uses of the program is cheap ammunition. I really want police officers to be able to hit where they aim. This requires live fire range time which uses ammunition. If the police department can get their bullets cheaper through 1033, so much the better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Throwing out the baby with the bath water?

I can see your point, but I prefer “not shooting at anything” as an alternative to “shooting where they aim”.
Aside from that, perhaps the community goodwill coming from this gesture would come with a policing cost reduction that offsets any increased costs the department has to pay for desks…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Throwing out the baby with the bath water?

The weather in Ireland (to name just one country) tends to be cool and wet, and police shootings don’t happen there because the police simply don’t carry guns — or even want to.

The same is true in countless other countries: where police are unarmed, shootings don’t happen because cops are then forced to resolve situations using other means … like thinking.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Throwing out the baby with the bath water?

You’re quite the ditz. This’s a classic case of “kneejerk, redneck reaction”, not to mention completely missing the point of the article which is that police are peace officers who should be enforcing the law and protecting citizens from would be offenders, not a military organization fighting a war against domestic insurgents.

In the immortal words of Cheech & Chong, “Bailiff, whack his peepee!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Throwing out the baby with the bath water?

I can’t recall a single article that complained about the ammunition, just the weapons themselves. For example a M4 carbine is a legitimate weapon for a police department though those should be deployed only for really bad situations; they should not be displayed for normal stop-and-questions. The ammunition for a M4 is common to other weapons so it should not be unusual for a police department to obtain such ammunition.

Now if we’re talking about a 50 caliber sniper rifle, then it’s a legitimate question as to why a police department would need such a weapon, and the ammunition thereof.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Throwing out the baby with the bath water?

They aren’t:

“The Burlington Police Department has no plans to acquire tactical or military items beyond the types of conventional policing equipment it already possesses. “

I read that as they’re not “buying” military weaponry, but will continue to use the program for the items they already use for “conventional policing”.

Anonymous Coward says:

military gear AND military tactics

The problem is not the military gear as much as the military tactics that police always use.

For instance, when cops knock on someone’s door in a routine visit (such as a welfare check) why can’t they remain standing there — so that the person inside can look through the door’s peephole and plainly see an officer in uniform — instead of ducking to the side and hugging the wall where they can’t be seen (but presumably putting them in the ideal position to rush inside in a sudden ambush with guns blazing)? Why do cops always have to act like they’re expecting the worst possible outcome from every routine encounter with the public?

Sadly, it seems that police never consider that people will become suspicious when they hear a knock at the door but can’t see anyone there … and are therefore more likely to either not open the door or open the door while holding a gun — both of which are likely to result in a violent outcome.

It will be a welcome change when American police finally start treating the public as decent human beings instead of wild dogs or enemy combatants in a war zone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: military gear AND military tactics

Sadly, it seems that police never consider that people will become suspicious when they hear a knock at the door but can’t see anyone there … and are therefore more likely to either not open the door or open the door while holding a gun — both of which are likely to result in a violent outcome.

I’m pretty sure that many of them do consider it, and they consider it a good way to have fun on the job.

Innocent Bystander says:

Good example, but limited scope

Unfortunately, the police departments most willing to set a good example by walking away from this program are also the ones that can use it responsibly. Two night-vision devices (the military gear this department actually had) sound a lot more reasonable and relevant to policing than bearcats and grenade launchers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: People should follow this example...

Wait, you mean getting military surplus weapons, and pointing them at my neighbors because they looked at me funny and/or I thought their garden hose was a potential weapon is not the proper way to develop a friendly rapport with them?

Never would have guessed, I mean it works great for the police, figured it would work just as good for non-cops at establishing relationships of mutual trust and respect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One question...

“The thing that perplexed me was the 1033 program gave away bayonets… about 8,000 of them. What possible use do the cops need bayonets for?”

What possible use does a modern military need bayonets for?

The bayonet was indeed very useful back in the days of muzzle-loading muskets (especially in the rain, when flintlocks would not make sparks and wet powder would not burn) which due to black powder’s slow burn rate, needed near-pike-length barrels, which literally begged for something sharp to stick on the end.

But ever since the mid-1800s advent of the repeating rifle and multi-shot pistol/revolver, the bayonet, as a standard infantry weapon, became a lingering relic of a completely outdated battlefield tactic known as the bayonet charge. That bayonets would still have a place in 21st century warfare — let alone the post-19th century battlefield — would suggest a heavy preference of style over substance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: One question...

Hell, what do we need regular infantry and their weapons for in modern warfare? Spotters for planes and artillery and positional retention is all and that can be achieved with civilians who are barely able to find the right end of the gun…

Modern warfare is in substance merely more than a question of large equipment and learning to operate it. The military personel in Afghanistan, Kosova etc. are barely more than a substitute police and ambassadors to local authority.

That is probably also part of the reason behind the stockpiles of equipment in 1033. That bayonettes are in the 1033 program is surprising since most of them should be antique by now and therefore valuable collectors items.

I mean, why waste them on police, when certain politicians are fond of them and likely to pay well for them?

Anonymous Coward says:

bdj

The tax payers bought the equipment that the 1033 program reallocates. The public is led to believe that the military hardware is needed for fighting our enemies abroad. If the government told the people that they wanted to buy it for the local police, the people would fiercely object. So when the government purchases military equipment and then turns around and deploys it to local police, it’s really an end-run around the system. The military is not authorized to police the citizens. Militarizing the police and arming them with the machines of war should be a violation of posse comitatus.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1385

The 1033 program should either sell the unused equipment to our allies or recycle it. Any proceeds should be repaid to the Treasury to be used for future purchases that benefit the country.

Whatever (profile) says:

OMFG you guys are funny!

Did anyone bother to check up on the racial mix of Burlington Vermont before touting this story? Seriously?

93% of the population is white. 39000 people, and 32500 of them are white. There are less than 700 black people in the city, outnumbered by more than 1000 Asian people.

The city is so white bread, it’s beyond understanding. They just don’t have the issues that the other cities face. They don’t have an “inner city” or a “ghetto” or a huge gang problem (biggest gang in Burlington is the cows in the farmer’s fields).

It’s sort of like Miami turning down snowplows. *facepalm*

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: OMFG you guys are funny!

With due respect John, Burlignton isn’t the richest place in the world, but it has a very low crime rate and part of that is not having all the trappings of crime ridden cities of the US – and yes, that includes things that make some people say “that’s Wassist!”. It’s fairly easy to draw a correlation between ethnic mix and crime rates, but few have the balls to do it. Those that do generally find themselves in serious shit because nobody wants to deal with reality.

Ignoring the facts is sort of like saying “guns don’t kill people”… but damn, have you ever tried to push a bullet into someone by hand? Hard work. Some people have a hard time accepting that guns kill and injure so many people each year. They deny cause and effect (while screaming to take the guns away from the cops because people get killed… odd that).

America won’t get better until there is a shift back to personal responsiblity and less PC bullcrap that makes us avoid talking about problems because someone might get offended or start a riot and burn down unrelated stores.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: OMFG you guys are funny!

There may be a high correlation between neighborhood, culture, “values” and crime. While US discussion is a bit to the pc-side, an “us and them”-rhetorics as some places in europe practise is worse. Mostly I would blame the racial profiling used in statistics and the publishing of those as being part of the problem.

Crime is mostly a result of neighborhoods and their economic capability and economic diversity. Whatever else you try to sell is more likely a correlation not equal to causation error on the part of the analyst.

While it is true that bullets won’t be very effective to thrust into people using your hands. Using skin-colour to push a bullet into people is just that much more ridiculous…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: OMFG you guys are funny!

Government statistics demonstrate a very high correlation between race and crime, which is apparently the point that poster was trying to make. And it’s not just related to cultural “tastes” like crack cocaine.

For instance, New Jersey police statistics showed that the perpetrators of the crime of carjacking were almost exclusively young, male, and black — a tiny demographic that represents only about one percent of the general population. To claim that this particular crime is an issue of primarily “economic status rather than race” is a huge stretch to make.

Source: New Jersey State Police
http://www.njsp.org/info/ucr2011/pdf/2011_carjacking.pdf

The perpetrators of (homosexual) prison rape are a similarly narrow (and yes, racially-skewed) demographic.

Of course, it’s considered highly “politically incorrect” — as well as racist, xenophobic, etc — to even notice such things. Even when such “prejudices” are formed by solid statistical evidence.

OK, enough on that uncomfortable subject. Time to move on.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: OMFG you guys are funny!

Yes, there is a strong correlation. However, the cause of dangerous areas is not that they tend to have a lot of blacks in them. It’s that they tend to be very poor. That there are lots of blacks in those areas is due to our racist society.

To bring up race when discussing this issue is to distract from the actual issues and to imply that the issue is something inherent to the race.

My comment has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with trying to identify the actual problem.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 OMFG you guys are funny!

Sorry John, but you lose out on this one. Burlington Vermot has about a 20% “poverty” rate. Yet with a relatively high poverty rate, there don’t have a high crime rate, they don’t have random protests in the streets, they don’t have people getting magically shot by police…

it would be strange if there wasn’t something entirely obvious, which is that most of the citizens are white or Asian. It’s entirely racist to suggest poverty is only a black thing (it sure ain’t) but it’s incredibly ignorant to try to explain away the obvious facts:

Burlington Vermont is not only as white as it gets, all of the surrounding areas for probably 100 miles in any direction are also equally as white. They don’t have the crime rate, they don’t have ghettos, they don’t have the problems that come with it all. They don’t need the 1033 funds and equipment because… the people are generally well behaved and respectful of the law and law enforcement.

If you want to consider the reasons for the militarization of police, just use Burlington as your polar opposite, and look for what other places have or don’t have that makes it a pretty need.

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