Thursday, November 27, 2014

How Police Unions Stopped Congress From 'Militarization' Reform

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul took his time responding to Monday's events in Ferguson, Missouri. After the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Paul's office politely rebuffed requests for an immediate reaction. He concentrated on an op-ed, published in Time magazine.

"I will continue to fight to end the racial disparities in drug sentencing," wrote Paul. "I will continue to fight lengthy, mandatory sentences that prevent judges from using discretion. I will continue to fight to restore voting rights for non-violent felons who’ve served their sentences... I will continue the fight to reform our nation’s criminal justice system."

Not mentioned, apart from an aside about an infamous case of police misconduct in Georgia, was the subject of Paul's first Ferguson op-ed, also published in Time. "We must demilitarize the police," wrote Paul in August, as he listed the ways that local police departments obtained and misused surplus military equipment. "The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it."

Three months later, as Evan McMorris-Santoro reports, the anti-"militarization" is nowhere. Even by Washington's amnesiac standards, the efforts to reform the 1033 program that makes military gear available to police departments faded absurdly fast. An Aug. 31 Politico story reported on lawmakers' optimism that Ferguson "actually will lead to some policy changes." One week later, Politico published a report about how "substantive action on the federal level is an uphill battle," and that lobbyists for the cops were likely to save the military gear program.

So they did. While the National Sheriffs Association declined comment, the Fraternal Order of Police made executive director Jim Pasco available to talk about how the skeptics—like Paul—were defeated.


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