After the tragic shooting in San Bernardino earlier this month where 14 lives were lost and 22 others were injured at the hands of domestic terrorists, the world saw an excellent and heroic law enforcement response that was successfully performed with the use of special equipment.
When the Ferguson riots occurred in 2014 and police deployed armored vehicles to quell rioting and keep responding officers and the public safe, there was heavy scrutiny by the media (not me, my friends), civil rights advocates, liberal political figures and even some spineless police chiefs feeling the heat from their bosses.
Some public figures even came right out and questioned the need for police officers to wear “armor” and carry “assault weapons.”
Even our own president, kowtowing to the civil rights sector, said militarized gear sometimes appeared threatening and gave people a feeling like there’s an occupying force and actually moved to ban certain types of equipment from local police departments.
His declaration of there’s “our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred” had all the makings of a disaster leaving law enforcement without the ability they need to properly perform their jobs.
The liberal calling for the rejection of “militarization” and return to the look of the “good old days” of policing like Andy Griffith or even Adam-12, just shows one’s ignorance to the modern-day situation.
The San Bernardino incident, like some others – Stockton bank robbery and hostage situation just miles up the road for one – is proof of why local law enforcement agencies require military gear and training.
These “overkill” claims of “militarization” are only based on “the optics” of how the police appear doing the job rather than facts of what’s needed to accomplish the job. Depriving law enforcement of equipment like armored personnel carriers, ballistic vests, and assault weapons in this era endangers the lives of officers and civilians alike.
Have these detractors ever considered that the use of technology – INCLUDING military-inspired technology – has permeated many parts of other present-day life?
If law enforcement has become “militarized” as they fear, then the same is true for trauma medicine at many ERs, your kid’s video games, the satellite television in your man cave, and GPS navigation that many of us rely upon to get from Point A to Point B.
What’s being forgotten is the police only employ their Kevlar helmets, tactical vests, ballistic shields and armored vehicles when there is an identified heightened threat, not on regular patrol duty. In other words – When the stuff hits the fan, the big toys come out to take care of business.
In everyday life, police officers patrol in standard uniforms, wear a standard issue semi-automatic handgun on their hip, and drive the streets of their city in marked patrol cars.
Unfortunately, these officers are usually the first on the scene of some very dangerous situations that can go sideways in seconds where they can find themselves ill-equipped and outgunned. For those who recall the North Hollywood shoot-out in 1997, Los Angeles officers bravely stood their ground with just 9mm handguns and shotguns against two heavily armed and armored bank robbers that took hours to eventually end.
No one decries when the use of specialized equipment and protective gear by firefighters is seen as a logical response to potential hazards and the use of armored vehicles to protect bank deposits and those who transport them is so commonplace, why the outcry over police using armored vehicles in a high-profile, violent and dangerous emergency?
But somehow the police officer who dons a ballistic helmet, rifle-rated body armor, and an assault rifle and may be riding in an armored tactical vehicle to deal with dangerous criminals is deemed guilty of “overkill” and on some “power trip.”
Kevlar, helmets, vests, and armored personnel carriers are not aggressive; they’re protective. They stop bullets and are protecting the individuals putting themselves out on the line to protect you, the public. The defensive weapons law enforcement carries during these operations are no more deadly than what the criminals – who obviously started this confrontation – have in their possession.
No matter how many gun free zones, anti-violence prayer vigils, or banning your local PD from “threatening looking” equipment, the bad guys are going to do terrible things. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that it would be foolish to have available safety equipment such as this and not use it when facing known threats such as a barricaded gunman, armed drug dealers or gang members, hostage situations or even armed terrorists that just shot up a county building and killed 14 people.
There may be more cowardly terrorist attacks to come, but hopefully smart government leaders will equip our police to respond to them even if it does make the cops look “scary.”
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.