As the New York Times has reported, state and local law enforcement agencies are getting armored up from another source as well: the U.S. military. With our troops withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, “the former tools of combat—M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more—are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice. During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.” USA Today reported Wednesday night that Ferguson is among the countless towns that received some of the nearly $450 million in military surplus distributed in 2013—most recently, two unidentified vehicles, a trailer, and a generator last November.
But what’s really driving the spectacle of militarized local police is that spigot of money that was turned on after Sept. 11, 2001, when a federal government abashed to have missed so many warning signs for those devastating attacks acted as if that massive failure could be washed away by sparing not a cent in preventing the next one. A whole industry has sprung up to capitalize on that spigot—like the company that’s been selling mine-resistant BearCats at $280,000 a pop to 100 towns per year. The flow of funds has become so reliable that the Missouri Office of Homeland Security holds regular workshops to advise local agencies on how to get their hands on the dough; the most recent one was held on July 24, at the Meramec Regional Planning Commission in St. James, according to a notice published in the Rolla Daily News.