Much of the debate over the growth of these police forces has been trapped in DC partisanship, however. After Ferguson, advocates are hoping that is finally going to change.
“I see a real connection. The new public debate on [militarization] is going to help focus attention on the regulatory side, too,” said Walter Olson, a top scholar at the CATO institute who’s written extensively about militarization. “There a lot of the same issues, and there are now really interesting possibilities for political coalitions as well.”
Until this week, opponents of regulatory agency militarization most often cited the 2009 and 2011 raids of the Gibson Guitar factory in Tennessee. Around two dozen armed agents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other federal agencies stormed the factory as part of a larger federal investigation into allegations Gibson was using illegal wood in the manufacture of guitars. Eventually, the company settled with the federal government over the wood, but the image of guns and bullet-proof vests used in the raiding of a business over stacks of wood galvanized the tea party and quickly fueled conservative claims of Obama administration overreach.