Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Paging Radley Balko: New Dallas Sheriff vehicle a case study in militarization of US law enforcement

A quarter century ago when the Cold War ended, many politicians (perhaps naively) called for a "peace dividend" where the nation could reduce military spending once the Soviet Union no longer posed a credible threat to invade the rest of Europe.  Now that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, it turns out our "peace dividend" this time around may amount to bringing the tools and tactics of military occupiers back to the United States for use against its own citizens. How else can one view the Dallas County Sheriff's acquisition of this monstrosity?


The blogs Unfair Park and Gin and Tacos have already covered the bases on this story, with UP's Eric Nicholson cutting to the chase thusly:
OK. Pretty cool. But let's back up for a moment. There's a very glaring, very fundamental question we haven't yet addressed: Why in holy hell does Dallas County need an armored military vehicle built to withstand a minor apocalypse?

The underlying reason seems to be that military trucks are fucking cool, but no one's actually saying that. The sheriff's office is touting it as a tool that will help them better serve warrants.
Which leads Grits to offer two predictions: Either 1) the vehicle will never be used outside parades because it's ill-suited for police use, probably gets around 3 mpg, and nobody will have the parts nor experience to perform routine maintenance, or 2) within the first dozen times the vehicle is used to serve warrants, DCSO will roll up on the wrong house.

For all that many in law enforcement dislike Radley Balko, or at least his caution against militarization of American policing, there sure are a lot of agencies who appear hell-bent on proving him right.

36 comments:

Lori Wilson said...

Wow! At least Dallas County has people! The "huge" county seat where I live has a population of ~7,000 people (the entire county only has ~45,000 - but is the 5th largest area wise in California). Yreka PD has just gotten one of those behemoths and are practically orgasmic with glee - especially since the Sheriff's Department doesn't have one! I can see a slightly more urgent need for one in Dallas than in Yreka (but only slightly)!

Anonymous said...

Ft Bend County has one like this that Homeland Security paid for. When I saw it, it was just sitting behind the jail.

Anonymous said...

There will likely come a time when these vehicles are necessary just to conduct routine patrol. In the past few months we've seen an alarming increase in the number of random attacks on law enforcement. http://www.policemag.com/channel/patrol/news/2013/09/25/15-year-old-arrested-in-detention-officer-s-death.aspx

Well-planned ambushes: http://www.wkyc.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=312045

And what appear to be organized retaliation hit-squads: http://www.policeone.com/police-heroes/articles/5916868-2-La-sheriffs-deputies-killed-in-ambush-responding-to-earlier-shooting/

These linked articles are just a small sampling of violence meted out against law enforcement which is probably due to cop-hating sites like yours and dozens of others which portray our heroes as villains by posting videos of brutality, or stories of officers who molest children, or about those officers who have to resort to stealing, robbing, or drug dealing to make ends meet. GFB, you and all the other cop haters have blood on your hands!

Anonymous said...

"or about those officers who have to resort to stealing, robbing, or drug dealing to make ends meet."

So, if your reason for committing a crime is that its to "make ends meet," then its acceptable? Wow, with that logic we can empty out the jails!

Anonymous said...

@ 9:36 - the law enforcement community bears a significant amount of the blame for fostering the "us vs. them" mentality. If officers would stop turning a blind eye to misdeeds of fellow officers and would learn to treat people decently, it would go a long ways towards remedying the problem.

If it becomes a regular thing for officers to patrol in these things it won't be for officer safety. It will be to keep the populace in line and enforce the government's will.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:36, you're utterly FOS. By your logic, moviegoers in Aurora Colorado need that vehicle to go to the cinema because of one mass shooting.

Back here in the real world, the 2012 US Census of Fatal Occupational Industries had patrol officers on-the-job death rate last year at 14.9 per 100,000, which was the same as taxi drivers. Truck drivers (23.3), farmers (21.3), roofers (40.5) and pilots (53.4), just to name a few, all were more likely to die on the job. And that doesn't even get to truly dangerous jobs like fishing and logging. (Source.)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.

North Texas Cop said...

Here's some facts for you:

http://www.policeone.com/police-products/vehicles/specialty/articles/6401816-Police-militarization-and-the-argument-for-armored-vehicles/

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No, NTC, that's all opinion. And defensive ones arguing against straw men, at that.

Anonymous said...

They are nothing more than "a vote for me battle wagon" and "parade eye candy." Ironically it tends to be S.O.s that gravitate towards these very expensive toys. One week these department heads are running to the media saying "we are saving tax payers money." The very next week spending a quarter million or more on a Bradley Tank! Go figure.
Public Response, "who cares how much they cost, our Sheriff must be kicking crime in the ass if we have a tank!"
Any stats that could indicate how much these tanks actually reduce crime?

North Texas Cop said...

Here's the companion piece to that first link:

http://www.policeone.com/Officer-Safety/articles/6390637-Police-militarization-and-one-cops-humble-opinion/

Radley Balko peddles plenty of straw men and opinions. Where are your facts on this issue? What do you know and how do you know it?

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 6:52:

It's not about reducing crime. It's about minimizing injuries and mitigating risk during extraordinary incidents. You can't gauge the worthiness of everything the cops do by how much a specific act or piece of equipment reduces crime. Sometimes it's about what we require them to do, even if it's only once or twice a year.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Its not about reducing crime. Its about the elite ruling class (i.e. the government) maintaining control over the peasants.

Do you really think Homeland Security is giving local departments all of this equipment to fight crime? They are giving it to local law enforcement because that is who they will turn to put down the uprising that occurs when people finally get fed up.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the only people who believe that cops need vehicles like this ARE cops.

Anonymous said...

Grits and his cop-hating ilk have seemingly hijacked legitimate media outlets that are now printing such filth as this: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-77104042/

But not to worry because a republican state representative has authored a bill that will soon deprive you of certain information regarding the criminal cases of police officers. And when we retake the senate next year a companion bill will be forthcoming that will protect our hero's reputations and allow the withholding of their names until there is a conviction. This way you and your cop-hating anarchist pals won't have much to write about.

Anonymous said...

I have personal experience with these. One MRAP isn't enough to "put down" an uprising, rebellion, or even a small riot. That's not what they're for. Their primary purpose is for life saving. They are not "tanks" and they are not fitted with weapons. They are defensive and protective in nature. Even if you had 10 of them, you still couldn't "take over" a small neighborhood. Stop the fear mongering and conspiracy theory bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like there are some skin headed Nazi cops on here. My how they hate it when you call them out on the carpet!

Anonymous said...

So tell me anonymous 4:00...since you posted the link about cops shooting unarmed citizens in error...do you think they should get away with it...because they are in your words "heroes"? It seems to me that you are of the opinion that cops are above the law. I think you would fit more in with Adolph Hitler's Germany than in present day America.

Anonymous said...

Excerpt from http://www.policeone.com/police-products/vehicles/specialty/articles/6401816-Police-militarization-and-the-argument-for-armored-vehicles/

"Oft-repeated claims that armored vehicle use by police with special weapons is a recent phenomenon are simply mistaken."

"Police departments were developing highly specialized vehicles thirty years before the mythical Mayberry appeared on television. Most critics are completely unaware that American police once openly deployed vehicles and weapons far more offense than anything in regular use today. Modern armored vehicle use is based on decades of trial-and-error during the rescues of wounded citizens and police officers."

"Despite hysterical tales to the contrary, police are not fielding “tanks” or vehicles with working main guns. A Bearcat in police hands is no more hazardous to freedom or safety than a fire truck. A police officer who cannot be trusted with an armored vehicle cannot be trusted with a .38 caliber revolver."

“Four agencies in my county (including mine) have armored vehicles. Speaking as a taxpayer, father, and husband, I'm glad these vehicles are available in case of emergencies. Should my family ever need to be saved while bullets are flying, I want the police to arrive with enough personnel, weapons, and armor to conduct an effective rescue.”

Excerpt from article by Dr. Mark Cannon at http://www.ntoa.org/massemail/Cannon.pdf

"Almost every law enforcement agency in the country that has purchased an armored vehicle has encountered some negative publicity through town meetings or print, television and Internet media. Fortunately, the need analysis for armored vehicles in law enforcement is overwhelmingly clear. The examples of officer protection provided by armored vehicles can be found in almost every major city in North America. A vehicle’s value as a secure platform for any rescue operation is also paramount. Countless lives have been saved by the presence of these vehicles in a time of unprecedented violence."

The article makes the case of why armored vehicles are critical for protection and rescue, not only for police officers but for civilians as was the case in the North Hollywood Bank Robbery shootout back in 1997.

Only the paranoid anti law enforcement conspiracy theorist refuse to acknowledge the large number of examples ranging from the 1966 UT Tower shootings to the 2013 manhunt of mass murderer Christopher Dorner where the availability of an armored vehicle could save lives.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Grits and his cop-hating ilk have seemingly hijacked legitimate media outlets that are now printing such filth as this"

You idiots give this blog a lot more credit than it deserves if you think I'm driving coverage at the LA Times.

And @5:58, yes, we all were able to cut and paste the link, it doesn't make the opinions found there any more compelling for you to reprint them. The idea that "countless lives have been saved" by military surplus vehicles going to US-side PDs is flat-out ridiculous, no matter now many times you repeat it.

Anonymous said...

Gritsforbreakfast,your irrational paranoid conspiracist rant about a major law enforcement agency in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. acquiring a low mileage surplus military armored vehicle at negligible cost is shameful.

While I am no fan of Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, she should be commended for the acquisition, maybe she will ride atop the damn thing in the next Dallas LGBT pride parade.

The primary role of MaxxPro on the battlefield was to save soldiers lives. The surplus MRAP came stripped of all weapon systems. The MaxxPro is basically an armored compartment mounted on a commercial dump truck chassis. In the hands of US law enforcement, the role is purely defensive by affording protection to officers in high risk situations and the capability to safely rescue victims in scenarios such as armed standoffs or active shooter encounters.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

2:20, the machine's role on the battlefield was offensive as well as defensive, which is why, as you say, it had to be "stripped of all weapon systems." It was not designed for domestic police use and is ill-suited for the stated purpose DCSO gave for acquiring it: Processing warrants.

I stand by my prediction that either "1) the vehicle will never be used outside parades because it's ill-suited for police use, probably gets around 3 mpg, and nobody will have the parts nor experience to perform routine maintenance, or 2) within the first dozen times the vehicle is used to serve warrants, DCSO will roll up on the wrong house." If you want to characterize that critique as an "irrational paranoid conspiracist [sic] rant," that's your prerogative. As I said above, you're entitled to your own opinion, just not your own facts, and the facts are DCSO faces no risk of IED attacks and doesn't need this behemoth for any practical, real-world policing purpose.

Anonymous said...

Gritsforbreakfast, your frantic obsession with the MaxxPro acquisition by DSO is delusional. You are manufacturing your own facts by declaring that a military surplus armored vehicle is ill-suited for protective and rescue purposes. Exactly why is the MaxxPro ill-suited ? Because it meets or exceeds the defensive capability of the commercially available Lenco Bearcat which is specifically designed and marketed for a public safety role and in use by LE across the nation at the cost of $300 to $400K per vehicle? Your foolish yet persistent rant against a vehicle that protects occupants from gunfire in emergency situations reveals a disturbing hateful biased attitude toward law enforcement. Get some help man.

Anonymous said...

I have a question gritsforbreakfast, you predict that inevitably "DCSO will roll up on the wrong house".

How exactly does the use of a bullet proof conveyance versus a non bullet proof conveyance effect the outcome of police going to the wrong address?

Are you suggesting that police officers in armored vehicles are more likely to target to the "wrong house"?

Anonymous said...

Henson sometimes you just cannot pass up a good chance to shut up. Your aversion to law enforcement has apparently rendered you incapable of bloggers due diligence to determine simple readily available facts. You wrote, “nobody will have the parts nor experience to perform routine maintenance”. A simple google search reveals; "The MaxxPro utilizes a crew capsule with a V-shaped hull, mounted on an International WorkStar 7000 chassis. According to Navistar Defense, the vehicle is designed with operational readiness in mind and utilizes standardized, easily available parts, to ensure rapid repair and maintenance. The armored body is bolted together instead of welded, as in other MRAPs. This facilitates repair in the field and is a contributing factor to Navistar's greater production capacity for the MaxxPro". Come on Scott you’re better than that, stop making an ass of yourself with such uninformed drivel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_MaxxPro

http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aw/dti0907/index.php?startpage=22

http://www.navistardefense.com/NavistarDefense/vehicles/maxxpromrap/maxxpro_mrap

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If anyone seems "frantic" here it's all you Anons so anxious to justify your stance yet so afraid to attach your names to your opinions. Honestly I don't give a damn about your opinions or your toys, but you seem to care a lot about my opinions because you keep returning here to repeat the same arguments.

It's ill-suited because it's too heavy, has poor visibility, gets low mpg, and will be unfamiliar to both DCSO drivers and the fleet maintenance crew. It's unnecessary, unaffordable and unjustifiable.

Plus, it provides zero extra margin of safety for the stated use. No one here has explained how this would improve safety when executing warrants. It's not like DCSO has ever in its entire history encountered IEDs at the scene when their SWAT unit arrived. This flashy new toy is just a solution in search of a problem. You still have to exit the vehicle to get to the front door serving warrants, unless you knuckleheads intend to just ram the thing through the wall.

BTW, it's downright quaint that 4:59 thinks cops won't roll up on the wrong house. Using armored vehicles doesn't necessarily make it MORE likely, but it'll make it a bigger deal in the press when it happens.

Anonymous said...

Henson's irrational obsession with the acquisition of the MaxxPro by DSO, as were his wild accusations against Austin PD which video proved false in February 2012, stem from the same inherent fear, when Scott feels threatened his mind fills in some pieces erroneously. We may see a surplus MRAP used to protect occupants from gunfire, but in Scott's mind he sees a menacing fully armed main battle tank packed with rogue cops rolling up on the wrong house hell-bent on injustice.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

How is one blog post an "obsession," 3:05? You're the one who keeps coming back here over and over to whine and wail. At this point you're arguing against some imaginary foe manufactured in your own mind, not anything I've written here. E.g., you still haven't explained how this will protect you while serving warrants unless you plan to somehow serve them from inside the vehicle. Nor have you offered one example of a time when DCSO or any other US police force has ever needed protection from IEDs. Try arguing against what's written instead of railing against straw men.

FWIW, I don't feel threatened by you at all. If anything, I feel sorry for you that you'd get so overwrought just because someone expressed an opinion different from your own. Must be difficult living that way, but to each their own.

Scott In South Austin said...

Gotta wonder what the Operations and Maintenance cost is one of those DOD designed vehicles. DOD has huge O&M budgets because they pay so much up front. The Pentagon commonly establishes 20-30 year service life for a combat vehicle. Conversely, we change out police vehicles here in Austin every 3 years, with the exception of certain specialized tactical vehicles. But even then, those never last more than 8-10 years because of new tools and resources.

I find it interesting the vehicle is built for defense against IEDs. That sure a lot of mass to fuel and maintain for a threat that has a low probability.

Anonymous said...

I don't know grits, every law enforcement department in Texas may actually need one of these to execute warrants for people who fail to pay traffic and parking tickets. And drive by who knows how many cartel drug houses, murderers, slave labor prostitution houses, on the way to kicking someone's ass for failing to pay a traffic or parking ticket.

Joshua Cottle said...

Mr. Henson, keep apostin'. It is amazing that so many illiterates who allegedly "read" your blog are allowed by this perverse world to "serve" their community by donning a badge and bearing a gun, and if not doing that, promoting those who do. I'd be honored if you'd drop me a line by reaching out through Prof. Laurin or on my own blog sometime to discuss your work.

@ 10.3.13 4:00 p.m., what a shame it would be for any state to pass a law that would protect its hyper-violent, mentally ill caste of self-appointed murderer-guardians from being scrutinized by the public for when they screw up, big time.

Anonymous said...

Give it up 3:05, only when confronted with irrefutable video evidence aired on the 6 o'clock news that proves he's lying does Scott Henson fall back on "fills in some pieces erroneously" line of bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Law enforcement in Texas won't be happy until they have their own stealth bomber or A-bomb to keep the citizens in line.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:59, just curious ... if I'm such a lying sack of shit, why in the world would you waste your time visiting here? For years on end, no less?

Anonymous said...

Having defended some very unlikeable accused citizens and cross-examined some very unlikeable lying cops, I can say the cops are no better than the common folks they fuck with daily. Cops are not heroes. They are just government employees like the mail carrier, the garbage man, and the tax clerk. They need to get over themselves. -- San Antonio, TX

Anonymous said...

Well said Anonymous 10:08...I have known many cops during my life and while law enforcement is a noble occupation, it is unfortunate that it is full of liars, thieves, bullies and crooks. And the kicker is that the cops on this blog who rant and rave about how great they are ..they KNOW how many dirty cops they work with..and most likely how dirty they are as well. It's really hard to respect a cop when they certainly don't deserve it.

Anonymous said...

You see Scott, I read a variety of blogs and news sources, even radical left sites with an extreme bias against LE. It's always good to have a broad perspective.

I must admit my visits to your blog steeply declined after the Austin PD incident (but you should already know that). For some reason I have a long memory when it comes to honesty and integrity.

Regardless of how infrequent or sporadic my visits to this site might be, I felt compelled to call bullshit on your obsessive irrational paranoid assessment of the DSO MRAP acquisition.

It's your blog Scott, eliminate the anonymous comments, then you will only have to deal with the facts you've created.