Target: Santa Cruz, CA Mayor Don Lane
Goal: Don’t buy an armored vehicle for a local police force
The militarization of state and local police forces is a rapidly growing problem. The small city of Santa Cruz, California is currently debating whether to buy a BearCat militarized armored vehicle for its local force. We must urge Mayor Don Lane to reject this offer from a military manufacturer and make Santa Cruz a leading dissenting city in the continuing post-9/11 militaristic transformation of our culture.
Since the Clinton Administration started the Department of Defense Excess Property Program in 1997, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies have participated in ‘storing’ $5.1 billion in surplus military equipment. The DoD authorizes large grants to towns and states to ‘purchase’ military equipment, ostensibly for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations and to enhance officer safety. This petition is not to argue that events requiring the use of such equipment will never occur but rather to oppose the use of increasingly powerful, military-grade weapons into the police’s everyday dealings with United States citizens.
At a time when prisons are overpopulated with minor drug offenders, unnecessary SWAT raids terrorize and injure law-abiding citizens, and peaceful protests turn violent because of the so-called keepers of peace, the militarization of police forces is a wasteful and overly aggressive way to combat social problems. Instead of transferring tax-wealth to the manufacturers of weaponry, can not our city officials create programs to tackle the root causes of crime, such as poverty and inequality?
Some cities are rejecting the notion that we should introduce battle-intended hardware into our streets. The city of San Jose, CA is returning its BearCat after citizen backlash, and the city council of Keene, New Hampshire is facing concerted opposition in its attempt to participate. We urge the city of Santa Cruz, and local city officials everywhere, to begin turning the tide on fear-based governance by scrutinizing the $19 billion Homeland Security market and rejecting armored vehicles in local law enforcement agencies.
Dear Mayor Lane,
An upcoming Santa Cruz City Council Meeting on January 13th is set to determine whether or not the city will approve a $251,000 homeland security grant to buy a BearCat. I feel that such a militarized vehicle is inappropriate for the city’s police force and will inevitably result in strained citizen-police relations.
I urge you to stem the militarization of our police force. It is this intimidating appearance and aggressive behavior that widens the distrust between police and citizen, deters honest cooperation, and generates antipathy towards the very act of law enforcement. Citizens are increasingly aware of the heavy-handed, overkill methods of local police in the face of trivial infractions.
I understand that this equipment is freely given to thousands of law enforcement agencies nationwide and is starting to become an unavoidable nationwide standard. However, the plebeian outcry is reminiscent of those towards most Patriot Act endeavors and, as always, the power to interrupt such totalitarian policies remains in a small number of hands, yours included.
I urge you to reject this grant and to vocally oppose the use of militarized equipment in domestic law enforcement. United States citizens are not the police’s enemy. Stop treating them like a threat until proven otherwise.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: Kyah117 at Wikimedia Commons