Militarized police are become more common in the United States. The most recent example is the “overwhelming militarized response of the local police forces to the protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager” in Ferguson, Missouri. On August 17, Police vehicles, including armored SWAT carriers and armored tactical vehicles blocked some of the main streets in Ferguson. The officers had assault rifles, riot gear, and wore full camouflage uniforms (as if this would be needed in a suburban setting). Meanwhile about 150 protestors held their hands up to symbolize non-violent compliance. They had been peacefully marching, singing hymns and handing out flyers with Bible verses on justice and mercy. Adults, children and even people in wheelchairs observed the peaceful protests and the police over-reaction.
First the police ordered the crowd to leave the area then fired teargas canisters and flash-bang grenades into the crowd as the line of police vehicles began to move toward the retreating crowd. Chaos erupted as many in the terrified crowd panicked.
But Ferguson is not the only place where this is seen. Since September 11, 2001, the Federal Government has spent billions of dollars to arm local police forces with military grade equipment, weapons and ammunition. Counties in many places across the nation now have tanks with 360-degree gun turrets, with .50 caliber bullets that can knock a hole in a building several blocks away. Some are getting drones, Humvees, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) and other equipment that is best suited for a battlefield, not America’s communities. Even police departments of small, out-of-the-way places and university campuses have benefited from the government largess. And the federal handouts have brought the local police departments increasingly under federal control.
The disturbing trend has been at the expense of key American principles of law and human rights, if not the U.S. Constitution itself, and is making America’s streets look like a war zone at times of stress. The separation of military and police powers has been a key principle of American freedom. Merging them has served to intimidate rather than to protect and service its citizens.
President Obama ordered a review of the military equipment supplied to the police. But it is easy for law enforcement officials to mistake their calling to protect their communities and treat them as battlefields. It was the military that was violent on August 17, not the protestors. Yes, there had been protestor violence, but using the weapons of occupation and oppression only served to make matters worse.
The militarization of the police is one of many developments that will probably be used eventually to oppress with God’s faithful people who keep all of His commandments when religious laws are enacted to enforce compliance with laws that conflict with the law of God. Their trust in God must be complete and invincible.
“It is a perilous time now. If this land of boasted liberty is preparing to sacrifice every principle which enters into her Constitution, making decrees to suppress religious freedom, and for the enforcing of papal falsehood and delusion, then the people of God need to present their petitions in faith to the Most High. There is every encouragement, in the promises of God, for those who put their trust in Him. The prospect of being brought into personal danger and distress, need not cause despondency, but should quicken the vigor and hopes of God’s people; for the time of their peril is the season for God to grant them clearer manifestations of His power.” Selected Messages, Vol. 2, page 370