Of all the issues that might arise in Pat Toomey’s re-election campaign for his Senate seat in Pennsylvania, his opponent, egged on by a raft of liberal groups with a few libertarians mixed in, is criticizing Toomey for supporting law enforcement’s use of military equipment.
This, while crime rates are soaring, while terrorists are armed to the teeth, while the police are under assault, while law enforcement was praised for its use of military equipment to end the Orlando assault. And Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania, as most major U.S. cities, has seen a sharp increase in violent crime over the past two years.
Looking for something to attack Toomey over, the Daily Beast headline screams Sen. Pat Toomey is Trying to Protect His Seat by Arming the Police.” (Don’t they realize that the police are already armed?) The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a reliable Democrat paper, chimes in with an editorial slamming Toomey for wanting to provide “hardware more appropriate for ferreting out guerrillas in Fallujah or fighting in the lawless borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
In a speech last week Toomey called on Democratic challenger Katie McGinty to state her position on the issue. She largely demurred, refusing to oppose providing surplus equipment to the police, but instead just accusing Toomey of hypocrisy for previously voting against an additional spending for such equipment.
Militarization of the police is largely a bogus issues promoted by the anti-police left. Along with the charge that the police are the greatest existing threat to Black America, the “mass incarceration of blacks,” “white cops gunning down innocent black kids,” and the charge that “racism is rampant in the criminal justice system,” the left’s claim that tanks, grenades and bazookas proliferate in police departments is part of the big lie about law enforcement.
As with “hand up don’t shoot” and “black lives matter,” the issue first became prominent after the Ferguson riots during August, 2014 when the National Guard was called up to assist the police quell the disturbance, using some military vehicles and weapons. Typical of the hyperbole was this comment from U.S. News and World Report – not usually part of the leftwing media, but predictable in its political correctness:
An image of a camouflaged man in Ferguson, Missouri, training a sniper rifle on a group of protesters with their hands up has forced Americans to ask themselves what kind of protection they’re willing to tolerate. The growing militarization of domestic police forces has been a concern at home for years, but has risen to the forefront of national debate this week as shocking footage emerges from Ferguson. The St. Louis suburb remains the site of clashes and heated racial tensions between protesters, angered by the shooting death of unarmed teen over the weekend, and the police forces they believe have a history of abusive practices.
Police use of military hardware has been a factor in local police departments since 1996, when Bill Clinton signed into law what is known as the “1033 Program” which authorized the Defense Department to transfer surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies, resulting in the distribution of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, armored vehicles, aircraft, medical supplies and much else. To cash-strapped departments, the equipment has been a godsend and has mostly been effectively used. Although most of the equipment is well-suited for police use, there have been the occasional transfers of tanks and other heavy equipment.
After the Ferguson riots were quelled and no indictments returned, “militarization” became part of the left-wing anti police line. The ACLU weighed in, horrified that the police were armed as if going into battle, the media picked it up, running stories with pictures of armed personnel carriers maned by camouflaged bazooka-carrying cops. Not to be outdone, and looking for an issue for his dead-end presidential campaign, libertarian Senator Rand Paul published an op-ed in Time magazine stating there was a “systematic problem with today’s law enforcement, that governments were building what are essentially small armies… that make many Americans… feel like their government is targeting them.”
President Obama, always a willing shill for the left and with an innate dislike of law enforcement, responded with an executive order limiting certain types of equipment from being transferred by the military and ordering that certain items be returned to the Defense Department. Although few departments actually complied with the order – the reaction was often “we are not returning it and you’ll have to go to court to get it back” – the Obama directive was viewed as more of his anti-police posturing. Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Ala. Told Fox News “these things are useful tools and the president taking them away will put more officers in jeopardy and at risk of harm or even death. I don’t know how he can sleep at night knowing his actions will have those repercussions.”
Toomey was right to raise the issue, and should stick to his guns, so to speak.