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Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Last week President Trump announced his decision to lift a ban on turning over excess military equipment – presumably surplus and decommissioned – to municipal and county law enforcement agencies.

On the surface conservatives might find aspects of this to applaud – we approve of cutting waste in government and reducing spending; we want a capable civilian police force in our home town. We are on the side of law and order.

But this scheme of federal beneficence towards our police is very troubling and, upon closer examination, is not consistent with conservative philosophy.

Throughout history oppressive, totalitarian regimes have been shored up by a state police force. In our time – or at least in recent memory – we have seen the Stazi in East Germany, its parent, Russia's KGB/NKVD, Hitler's Gestapo and state police in North Korea, China and most other Communist countries as well as national militarized police in many banana republics.

Our constitutional design places all domestic law enforcement outside of federal jurisdiction and firmly with state, county and municipal/local government. We shouldn't need to be reminded that our federal government was intended only to provide for a common defense, international relations and commerce, issuing a standard currency, secure our borders and to referee disputes between and among the several states. It was never intended to meddle in civilian law enforcement, nor, for that matter, any other areas of domestic policy.

Our police and county law officers are said to be delighted with this new directive. They shouldn't be. It signals an abandonment of that all-important factor: local control; it is bad PR and tends to make them look like jack-boot thugs. Such equipment gives some standing to not-so-benign entities as Black Lives Matter and Antifa, among others, and it is unlikely these tools would be used aainst them if police had them – for that reason. Way too risky. I think that if they are, we (law and order) lose.

It is sane and right to supply the actual needs of our law enforcement but never through "gifting" by our federal government or our president, any more than through a private donor. It is inevitable that following years of wars we will have a lot of military goods in warehouses. A few of these items might be appropriate for domestic use. A far better plan for distribution is for the federal government to make them available for sale at reasonable prices to bona fide local, state and county law enforcement agencies, authorized by their elected civilian governing bodies, paid for by a state legislature, a county commission or a city council.

By putting it on a paying basis we ensure that our civilian law enforcement answers to us – to our locally-elected representatives and that no domestic police force becomes beholden to or accountable to our federal government.

We hear rumors swirling about us of "imminent" martial law being imposed, most perhaps groundless. This military arming of local police fuels this fear and undermines civil government and discussion and our faith in our government. This is destructive of a climate of liberty and is not acceptableto a free people.

It is no better for the federal government to meddle in our local law enforcement than in our educational system or our health care.

Perhaps you are unaware of the stealth with which the federal government has insinuated itself into our law enforcement but it is there in funding of personnel and "gifts" of equipment and even possibly training. Your local police probably have a repurposed fire station or bus garage full of the stuff.

We do need some drastic reforms in our law enforcement and we should invest in it locally, the first of which is proper education. It is not enough to know how to put the arm on an "unruly" hospital nurse and drag her off in handcuffs. Our police officers must be, above all, well-grounded in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Meanwhile we should demand that our local law enforcement reject federal funding, personnel, training and equipment of any kind that our local governing bodies do not authorize purchase of. It is not needed and should not be wanted.

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